Gift Honors UM Professor, Benefits Students

Michels create scholarship celebrating faculty mentor, real estate program

Beth and J. Walter Michel have created the J. Walter Michel and Dennis S. Tosh Real Estate Scholarship of Excellence Fund at UM to pay tribute to their favorite professor and long-time friend. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Beth and J. Walter Michel’s gift to the University of Mississippi benefits students and recognizes two key factors responsible for J. Walter Michel’s successful career: the School of Business Administration’s real estate program and its founding professor, Dennis Tosh.

The Michels, of Ridgeland, created the J. Walter Michel and Dennis S. Tosh Real Estate Scholarship of Excellence Fund at Ole Miss to pay tribute to their favorite professor and friend for 40 years.

Each year, the $100,000 fund will provide $5,000 to two full-time rising seniors majoring in real estate who are Mississippi high school graduates and residents.

“Beth and I set up this scholarship as a way to show our appreciation to Ole Miss for providing me with an exceptional education and preparing me so well for the real estate profession,” Michel said.

“This is also a way for us to thank my former real estate professor, Dennis Tosh, for all he taught me when I was a student and to let Dr. Tosh and his wife, Beth, who live in Oxford, know how much we have appreciated their friendship for so many years.”

 “I can think of no better honor for professors than to have a former student think enough of them to create a scholarship in their name,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration.

“In many conversations I have had with Walter over the years, he talked about the impact that Dr. Tosh had on him. Dr. Tosh was instrumental in starting the real estate program here at the university and he impacted many students during his time at Ole Miss.”

The Michels’ decision to honor Tosh and his wife with a scholarship was unexpected and humbling, said Tosh, who added that the couple’s gift reflects the Michels’ philanthropic nature and their support for Ole Miss and its real estate program.

“Walter absolutely loves the University of Mississippi, and this is a very kind gesture from a very kind, good and generous couple,” Tosh said.

He noted that establishing a scholarship to assist students financially and promote a vibrant real estate program at the university illustrates the admirable character of his former student.

Dennis Tosh

“I met Walter shortly after I arrived at Ole Miss in 1980 to start a real estate program here,” Tosh said. “I remember that the school had just made the announcement when he walked into my office, introduced himself and told me he wanted to major in real estate. So he was my first student.”

The two stayed in touch after Michel graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in real estate. They continue to attend sporting events on campus and get together for lunch or dinner during the Michels’ frequent visits to Oxford.

While three generations of the Michel family have worked in the real estate business in Mississippi, Walter Michel and his brother, Henry, continue the tradition with the J. Walter Michel Agency in Jackson.

Michel, also a longtime state senator, has supported the School of Business Administration’s real estate program by serving on its Real Estate Advisory Board for many years.

Ole Miss offers an undergraduate degree in real estate, which is named in the nation’s top 25 programs by College Choice. Students in the program become proficient with ARGUS, a software solution used by many commercial real estate companies.

Graduates are prepared to pursue careers throughout the industry, including property development, leasing and investment sales, property and asset management, mortgage lending, retail site selection and construction.

Michel said he wants to see a new generation consider the many professional opportunities the industry segment has to offer and enjoy rewarding careers like his.

“Hopefully, this scholarship will make a difference in the lives of some UM students by assisting them financially and, perhaps, encouraging them to pursue a major in real estate, which is a very versatile major that can prepare you for a career in a variety of fields,” Michel said.

This gift serves as a boost to the school and an endorsement of its real estate program, Cyree said.

“We are pleased and grateful for Walter’s support, and it is through committed and dedicated donors like Walter and Beth Michel that we are able to continue and expand the success we have enjoyed in the real estate program,” he said.

The J. Walter Michel and Dennis S. Tosh Real Estate Scholarship of Excellence Fund is open to gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check, with the fund’s name noted in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or by visiting

For more information on supporting the School of Business Administration, contact Angela Brown, senior director of development, at or 662-915-3181.