Gift Supports University’s Medical Center, Libraries

Bequest from Coles promises long-lasting impact on health care and education

OXFORD, Miss. – A longtime Jackson physician and his wife left an estate gift of $640,000 to the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to provide library resources, support the training of pediatricians and strengthen allergy-immunology education, patient care and research.

The late Dr. Wilfred Q. Cole Jr. found studying medicine to be intellectually stimulating and the “soft spot in his heart for children” led him to specialize in pediatric allergy. Gwen Cole was a faithful supporter of her husband’s medical career, which was largely spent at the Medical Center.

Of the gift, $10,000 is designated for the R. Faser Triplett Sr., MD Chair of Allergy and Immunology at UMMC, with the balance divided between endowments for the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical Center and the J.D. Williams Library on the Oxford campus.

“Part of the mission of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics is educating the next generation of pediatricians,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics. “This generous gift from Dr. and Mrs. Cole will support the work and medical education of our pediatric residents through opportunities to travel for continuing education.

“With this gift, we will be able to better invest in these trainees and encourage them to become care providers for Mississippi’s children.”

Dr. Wilfred Q. Cole Jr. (left) and his wife, Gwen, have left an estate gift of $640,000 that promises to have a far-reaching impact on the university and its Medical Center, where the physician spent most of his medical career. Submitted photo

The gift to the Triplett Chair will help strengthen the UMMC Division of Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, said Dr. Gailen Marshall, professor of medicine and director of the division.

“I was privileged to know Dr. Triplett personally for some years before coming to UMMC,” he said. “He was involved in my recruitment here.

“Through his generosity and his family’s as well as many other donors, I have been privileged to be the inaugural recipient of the R. Faser Triplett Sr., MD Chair in Allergy and Immunology. This honored position has allowed me the opportunity to continue to build excellence in training, patient care and research in allergy-immunology at UMMC for the ultimate benefit of all Mississippi citizens.”

Cole died in April 2006, followed by his wife in January 2022. They were married 57 years after meeting during their undergraduate days at Ole Miss.

“Both my parents were firm believers in higher education and giving back to their state universities and their alma mater,” said Dr. Wilfred Cole III, an allergist-immunologist in Alpharetta and Marietta, Georgia.

After Wilfred Cole Jr.’s Ole Miss graduation, he earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia. He was a veteran of World War II, serving with the 69th Division of the U.S. Army as a light machine gun squad leader.

Cole began his medical practice in Jackson in 1954 and became active in teaching at UMMC, where he served on the clinical staff until his retirement. He went to Duke University for an allergy fellowship and upon returning to Jackson, co-founded the Pediatric Allergy and Cystic Fibrosis clinics at UMMC.

He was a charter member of the Mississippi Allergy Clinic, where he was a partner with Dr. R. Faser Triplett. He was appointed to the Mississippi State Board of Health for 12 years and served as president.

“They wanted all people to be treated fairly no matter what their background, where they lived or how much money they had,” said Ashley Cole, of Jackson. “Mom and Dad enjoyed people, all kinds of people, and loved to talk, visit and listen to others from all walks of life.”

Cecilia Botero, dean of the University Libraries, also expressed appreciation for the Coles’ gift.

Dr. Wilfred Q. Cole Jr. (left) and Gwen Walker Cole spend time together in 1948 at the Delta Delta Delta sorority house at Ole Miss. The couple have contributed support to the university and its Medical Center through an estate gift.

“We are deeply grateful for this extraordinarily generous gift,” Botero said. “A gift of this size enables us to increase library holdings, including purchasing more e-textbooks, which helps decrease our students’ expenses. In addition, it will allow us to refresh our services with cutting-edge technology.”

Ashley Cole said the library gift was inspired by the important role libraries played in her family’s lives.

“The library was a huge part of our lives growing up,” she said. “My mother read to us every single day, and every week we went to the library to get new books. Early in my dad’s career, when money was tight, the library was an outing, a place to get something new and exciting.

“Before the days of computers, my father researched at the library places to travel, restaurants to try, the latest Broadway plays, city highlights and anything else he thought was important to see or do on an upcoming trip. He loved researching at the library, digging deep into topics, finding answers and solutions and comparing product reviews. My mother used the library continuously as an adult, keeping index cards of the books she read, alphabetized by author. It was quite a stack!”

Additionally, other members of the Cole family chose Ole Miss as their college home, including Wilfred Cole III, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in health-related professions and a medical degree from UMMC; his brother, Dr. Craig Cole, of Brandon, who received a bachelor’s degree in engineering before earning a medical degree from the University of Virginia; and sister, Ashley Cole, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. Two of the Coles’ grandsons, William and Joseph Cole, also are Ole Miss alumni.

“Ole Miss taught me many things, academically and socially, that I used professionally during my 30-year teaching career,” Ashley Cole said. “One highlight was traveling to Europe between my junior and senior years with an Ole Miss professor and several students. This wonderful experience propelled me to investigate teaching in Europe, which I did for six fantastic years in Germany.”

Besides the field of medicine and the library, Dr. Wilfred Cole Jr. was passionate about tennis, serving as an original member of the River Hills Tennis Club and on the board of directors for the Mississippi Tennis Association. In 2001, he was inducted into the Mississippi Tennis Hall of Fame.

The Coles were lifelong members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, where they held leadership roles.

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to either the Wilfred Q. and Gwen W. Cole Library Endowment or the Wilfred Q. and Gwen W. Cole Pediatrics Endowment by mailing a check, with the fund’s name written in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at UM Library or Pediatrics.