Oxford Family Makes Gift to Endow UM Scholarship for Nutrition and Hospitality Management Department

Vasilyevs support first endowed fund for fast-growing department

The Vasilyev siblings have established the
first endowment for the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality
Management. Pictured are (from left) Wendell Weakley, president of
UM Foundation; Velmer Burton, dean of School of Applied Sciences;
Kathy Knight, interim chair of nutrition and hospitality
management; Bob Vasilyev; Rita Vasilyev; Scott Vasilyev and his
wife, Candace; Renee Sholtis and her husband, Jonny; and Joey
Vasilyev. UM photo by Kevin Bain.

Miss. – Like most parents, Bob and Rita Vasilyev are rarely
surprised by the actions of their three adult children. ;
So the Oxford couple was not stunned when the trio committed
$130,000 to the University of Mississippi’s Department of Nutrition
and Hospitality Management, establishing the department’s first
endowment in their family’s name. ; Instead, Bob Vasilyev,
president of Vasco Properties Inc., nodded in agreement as Scott
Vasilyev (BSFCS ’01), their second-oldest, discussed why he
supports academics at Ole Miss. Rita Vasilyev (BMEd ’71),
co-publisher of the Oxford Eagle, smiled encouragingly when Renee
Sholtis (BA ’97), her oldest and slightly shyer child, joined the
conversation. And the couple shared a laugh when Joey Vasilyev
(BSFCS ’03), the jokester of the family, discussed the beginnings
of the family’s food service business.

“I won’t say I’m not proud of them, because I am,” Rita
Vasilyev said. “And, I won’t say I’m surprised they thought to
establish this endowment, because I’m not. They’ve always been very
generous children, especially to the Lafayette-Oxford-University
community.” ; Bob Vasilyev agreed and added, “They saw a
need and acted on their desire to help future students in the
hospitality management field. Both Scott and Joey are graduates of
the program. I am so proud of their generosity and dedication to
the University of Mississippi.” ; The Vasilyev siblings
created the Vasilyev Family Scholarship Endowment with a $25,000
gift and an additional $5,000 to award the scholarship right away.
The family also has committed to adding $10,000 – $5,000 for the
endowment and $5,000 for immediate awards – every year for up to 10
years. ; The scholarship is intended for junior and senior
nutrition and hospitality management majors, with preference given
to students from Lafayette, Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Panola and Tate
counties, where the family operates its six Taco Bell restaurants.
; Although the scholarship endowment is a first for the
Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, the gift is not
a first for the family. In fact, the Vasilyevs are widely respected
for their philanthropic endeavors, including being lifelong
supporters of Ole Miss athletics. ; “I would love to say
they got their generous hearts from me, but they got that from
their mom, who got it from her mom and dad,” Bob Vasilyev said
; Rita Vasilyev is the daughter of the late J.C. and Nina
Goolsby, co-owners of The Oxford Eagle. Nina Goolsby was editor of
the 6,000-circulation daily from 1961 to 2006. ; Joey
Vasilyev, director of marketing for Vasco Properties Inc., credits
the entire family for making them who they are today. ;
“Our grandparents were longtime supporters of this community and
they taught our mom early on how important it is to give back,” he
said. “But our dad is equally culpable. He’s a strong leader who
believes in investing for immediate impact.” ; From 1968
to 1972, Bob Vasilyev served in the U.S. Air Force. He later worked
as assistant publisher at The Oxford Eagle for 15 years before
leaving to found Vasco Properties in 1987. ; “Investing in
the education of a student has an immediate impact on that
individual, but also it’s a long-term investment,” said Scott
Vasilyev, director of human resources at Vasco Properties. “Some
day that student will be in the position to give back to Ole Miss
and the cycle continues.” ; Scott Vasilyev and his wife,
Candace, a UM pharmacy graduate (BSPh ’01, PharmD ’03), live in
Oxford with their children, Vivian and Alexander. ; Velmer
Burton, dean of the School of Applied Sciences, said the Vasilyev
Family Scholarship Endowment is “indeed a wise investment with
immediate impact.” ; “This type of support directly
impacts the lives of upperclassmen that have proven to be serious
about the field of nutrition and hospitality management,” Burton
said. “The generosity of the Vasilyev siblings will make a lifetime
difference in the lives of these students and improve the quality
of life for all.” ; The Vasilyev brothers said they opted
to establish an endowment for hospitality management because the
field is one of the nation’s fastest growing as well as one of the
fastest growing academic programs at Ole Miss, with more than 400
students pursing degrees. ; “Hospitality management is a
consumer-driven field, and Ole Miss has a great group of dedicated,
student-oriented faculty preparing students to become professionals
in this exciting field,” Scott Vasilyev said. ; Joey
Vasilyev said the Ole Miss program also provides a “competitive
edge.” ; “The faculty is top-notch, and I left with more
than just knowledge,” he said. “I left with real-world experience
in food preparation, service management, marketing and much more.”
; Sholtis, an English and journalism graduate, wholly
supports her brothers’ decision to establish the endowment.
; “Ole Miss obviously prepared Joey and Scott for the
challenges of the food service field,” she said. “That’s the reason
they wanted to give back to the program. They received a great
education and excellent experience, and they simply want to give
back to students in the department that nurtured and prepared them
for success.” ; Sholtis lives in Fairhope, Ala., with her
husband, Jonny, a UM law school graduate (JD ’97), and their two
children, Sophie and Oliver. ; Gifts like these allow the
department to continue providing outstanding opportunities for
students, said Kathy Knight, interim chair of nutrition and
hospitality management. ; “I was flattered and so grateful
when I heard that two of our graduates were establishing an
endowment,” Knight said. “It’s also exciting that the scholarship
is for juniors and seniors because there are very few scholarships
for this group of serious students.” ; For the two proud
parents, the newly established endowment is a legacy that can live
on for many years into the future. ; “It’s a way to always
tie me to my university and my hometown, and that’s worth it for
me,” Rita Vasilyev said. Individuals and organizations interested
in contributing to the Vasilyev Endowment can send checks to the
University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University,
Miss. 38677 with the endowment noted in the memo line. Gifts also
can be made by contacting Gloria Kellum, development consultant to
the School of Applied Sciences, at 662-915-1081 or
gkellum@olemiss.edu, or by visiting http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.