Women’s Council celebrates 15th Anniversary

With roses representing students, the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy boasts a garden that is changing the world. Council members, now celebrating the 15th anniversary, first came together to create scholarships that would have a far greater effect on students’ lives than

providing financial assistance alone. The OMWC is producing exceptional citizens by giving students access to mentors, leadership training, life skills and travel opportunities

that prepare them for careers and, hopefully, a lifelong commitment to creating a more caring world.

Realizing the need to celebrate leaders who stand as role models for their scholars and countless others, the OMWC created the Legacy Award in 2010. This year’s recipient, Charles Overby (68, BA 14) of Franklin, Tenn., and formerly of Washing- ton, D.C., is a champion of the First Amendment and free press and former chair of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute. His name graces the façade of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics on the Oxford campus.

Singer-songwriter Rivers Rutherford and fellow artists entertain at a reception honoring Legacy Award sponsors and Rose Society members.

Singer-songwriter Rivers Rutherford and fellow artists entertain at a reception honoring Legacy Award sponsors and Rose Society members.

Best in Show

Karen Moore (BS 82) of Nashville, Tenn., president of Project Redesign and OMWC chair, says there is much to celebrate on the occasion of this anniversary.

“Thanks to the incredible investments from alumni, friends and council members, OMWC scholarships and programming are absolutely transforming students’ lives – and we intend for our work to impact many, many more individuals. To further illuminate our mission, we created the Legacy Award, which has become a coveted honor. It highlights servant leaders among us and focuses attention on our scholars.”

Becky West (BA 78) of Memphis, president of WestRogers Strategic Communications and a founding OMWC member, chaired the 2015 Legacy Award events, which included a mid-April reception and dinner at Brandt Memory House for Legacy Award dinner sponsors and Rose Society members, with entertainment by Nashville singer-songwriter Rivers Rutherford (BA 89) and fellow artists. The dinner was hosted the evening before the memorable awards event at Carrier House, when Overby, always the journalist, interviewed Chancellor Dan Jones (MD 75) about his challenges with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning that ultimately led to the end of his tenure at Ole Miss.


2015 Legacy Award honoree Charles Overby (left) and Chancellor Dan Jones

“As I looked across this sold-out crowd, I felt the positive impact the Ole Miss Women’s Council is having on the university,” West says. “The ‘interview’ between Charles Overby and Dan Jones is something I will never forget.”

Instead of letting his own accomplishments – which compose a compelling list, including a 1983 Pulitzer Prize for The Clarion-Ledger’s coverage of educational reform in Mississippi – headline the evening, Overby focused on Chancellor Jones’ contributions, with the crowd of around 420 exploding with supportive applause for Jones.

Growing Season

Jones also asked questions of Overby, requesting that he define “mentoring” as it is so integral to the OMWC’s work.

“To me it means somebody who takes an interest in you and who is willing to back you, to support you and push you,” Overby said. “I’ve always had an advocate. My biggest advocate in life was (USA Today founder) Al Neuharth … he pushed me. He would often tell me, ‘You did that job better than you know how, Charles.’”

OMWC scholars Jack Fitzpatrick (left), BreAnna Faust and Brea Rich with Bonnie Brown, a mentoring counselor at Ole Miss

OMWC scholars Jack Fitzpatrick (left), BreAnna Faust and Brea Rich with Bonnie Brown, a mentoring counselor at Ole Miss

The presenting sponsor for the event was C Spire, with event proceeds directed to programming for scholars. Build- ing resources is critical, West says, because as Ole Miss’ enroll- ment continues to soar, so do students’ needs for scholarships and mentorship.

“During the awards dinner, I thought of the vision, mission and core values of the university coupled with the mission of the Women’s Council. Phrases such as ‘lead and excel by engaging minds, transforming lives and serving others,’ ‘chal- lenges and inspires a diverse community’ and ‘philosophy of servant leadership’ quickly flooded my mind. However, it was the faces of our scholars that really captured my focus.


Chancellor Dan Jones (left), OMWC board member Katie Hester, first lady Lydia Jones and OMWC chair Karen Moore

“The Women’s Council uniquely guides our scholars into their future careers and helps them develop life skills through leadership-mentorship programs. Funding an Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship is one of the best investments a person can make,” West says.

The scholarships, which have grown to be some of the larg- est and most prestigious on campus at about $32,000 each, are awarded to both young women and men based on academics, leadership and a desire to give back to society after in-depth interviews. After graduating and becoming established in their careers, scholars are encouraged to give back to the program.

Donors who fund scholarships can name them for themselves or for influential people in their lives. Each new scholar- ship is celebrated in a ceremony in the council’s Rose Garden, located outside the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The Rose Society is an annual giving program added in 2010 for individuals who feel passionate about supporting mentorship, leadership training and cultural-enrichment activities. All Rose Society membership dues go directly to programming, which includes two opportunities for each scholar to travel during his or her college career.

Sowing the Seeds

Debra Whitley of Natchez, an integrated marketing com- munications major, is grateful for such investments.

“Being an Ole Miss Women’s Council scholar has been both a rewarding and humbling experience. I have been intro- duced to so many people, places and things that I normally would not have encountered,” the senior says. “It is because of the council’s generosity that I am able to attend the University of Mississippi.

“More importantly, I have witnessed and been inspired by the fact that the Ole Miss Women’s Council keeps philan- thropy at the heart of everything that it does. In the last three years that I have been a scholar, I have been encouraged to adopt a philanthropic spirit. I have volunteered with a variety of community service projects, including sorting through recyclable items after Ole Miss football game days and making snacks for an after-school program. One other cause that is close to my heart is diabetes research. My grandfather, who lived with diabetes most of his life, passed away my sophomore year. Consequently, I hope to honor his memory and continue my philanthropic spirit by working with diabetes research efforts after graduation,” Whitley says.

Serving a two-year term as OMWC chair, Karen Moore first learned about the organization after her husband, Bruce (BBA 82), created a scholarship in her honor.

“Bruce surprised me for Christmas with an OMWC schol- arship – absolutely the best gift ever,” she says. “I was asked to join the council and met the most wonderful, professional, fun-loving group of women who deeply love Ole Miss and students. Their enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring. Since joining in 2007, I have worked on many committees and events side by side with women who can make things happen.

“Some of the most memorable moments with our scholars have been at graduation dinners,” Moore continues. “Students talk about how our programs have impacted their day-to-day college experiences. One said, ‘Without the Ole Miss Women’s Council mentoring program, I seriously doubt if I would have made it through my four years. Miss Bonnie (Brown, a mentor- ship counselor) guided and helped me through all of my hard times and difficult choices.’ Those are our ‘aha’ moments, when we see that these young people have utilized the resources we provide, and those experiences helped catapult them to success. The scholars are our legacy and must carry the torch for future generations. It is our hope that our scholars will be leaders who give back to the world, as they are being taught.”

Companion Planting

Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor emerita for University Rela- tions and a founding OMWC member, says one of the most important OMWC accomplishments has been developing a structure to encourage and facilitate alumni and friends genuinely reaching out to students and becoming involved in strengthening educational experiences outside the classroom.

Past Legacy Award honoree Olivia Manning (left), OMWC members Gloria Kellum and Mary Ann Frugé, and Archie Manning

Past Legacy Award honoree Olivia Manning (left), OMWC members Gloria Kellum and Mary Ann Frugé, and Archie Manning

“Many in the Ole Miss family would like to help students beyond providing financial assistance if given the opportu- nity,” Kellum says. “The council developed an effective model that hopefully will be replicated. I think the Women’s Council also has highlighted the important role of philanthropy in general. Philanthropy comes in different forms and at different levels, and we can all work to build support systems and make a difference in people’s lives.”

OMWC past chairs include Edith Kelly-Green (BBA 73), Rachel McPherson (BAEd 74), Jan Farrington (BAEd 65), Mary Sharp Rayner (BAEd 64), Kathryn “Katie” Hester (BA 65, JD 82) and Mary Ann Frugé (BA 66, MA 70). There are 34 active mem- bers and 17 alliance council members. Beyond being the archi- tect of a significant scholarship program, the council reflects the emerging financial power of women in philanthropic endeavors and their unique abilities as change agents.

Frugé of Oxford – former national officer for 12 years and president for six years of Chi Omega, the largest women’s fraternity with more than 240,000 members – looks ahead.

“With the strong foundation laid for the OMWC scholar- ships and programming, I foresee that in 15 or 25 years this program will expand exponentially,” she says. “As more people learn how the scholarships provide both financial assistance and extensive mentoring from Ole Miss staff, council members and other professionals – plus essential leadership training – I believe increased numbers will want to be part of our program. Scholarships certainly will grow, as people witness the continued impact of the OMWC.

“As a former chair, I can attest to the fact that council mem- bers make significant investments in scholars’ lives and give inordinate amounts of time to fundraising,” Frugé says. “I’ve witnessed members taking time from their personal lives to help scholars when needed and to attend their activities. Rela- tionships develop trust with our scholars. A recently graduated scholar contacted me to help her prepare for a phone interview for a job. I agreed and spent time practicing with her. From that phone interview, she was chosen for a face-to-face interview and landed the job. Believe me, this is only one example of how the program develops confidence in our scholars. Additionally, permanent friendships are forged as our scholars move forward in creating a more caring and ethical society.”

Gathering the Blossoms

The past and future will be spotlighted when the OMWC hosts its anniversary celebration Sept. 25, with Moore promis- ing a memorable evening.

“We will highlight our scholars, alumni scholars and the peo- ple who have supported our efforts through our 15-year tenure, as well as present highly recognized entertainment,” Moore says.

OMWC scholarship naming opportunities are available for a contribution of $125,000 from an individual, corporation or foundation and can be paid in a lump sum or annually over several years. Yearly membership in the Rose Society is $1,000. All sizes of contributions are welcome and used to further OMWC goals. For more information, contact Nora Capwell at ncapwell@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2384, or visit online: omwc.olemiss.edu. Scholarship application directions also are located on this website.

* This story was provided by the Alumni Review