The late Stephen Moore, of Meridian, was the epitome of a lifelong learner, always with a book in his hand. That, and his deep commitment to education, are reasons the Phil Hardin Foundation is honoring its board member and treasurer with a gift in his memory to the University of Mississippi School of Law.
The Hardin Foundation's gift of $250,000 will support the Business Law Institute at the school, where Moore earned a Juris Doctor in 1971 and was active on the Mississippi Law Journal staff. That's after receiving an undergraduate degree from Millsaps College and earning a fellowship with Duke University Graduate School.
The businessman's name will always be linked with education.
"The reason Steve was elected to the Hardin Foundation board was because of his care and concern for education," said Robert Ward, board chair of the foundation, also of Meridian. "This gift was made to order for his interests – perfect for what we wanted to achieve in his memory."
The university applauds the foundation's decision to honor Moore through higher education, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.
"The University of Mississippi values our extensive philanthropic partnership with the Hardin Foundation," Vitter said. "We deeply appreciate the foundation's many significant investments in a number of areas on our campus.
"This new gift to honor Stephen Moore's life is particularly moving, as this alumnus was truly a champion for education, placing great energies and service toward enriching initiatives. His legacy will be expanded through students and faculty in our Business Law Institute."
Dedicated to improving educational opportunities for Mississippians, the Hardin Foundation's goal for the gift is to pay tribute to Moore's almost 30-year service. This plan was put in motion weeks before his death in August 2016, when Moore was briefed on the foundation's intentions and asked where he would want the gift directed, said Ward, who described his longtime friend as a man of "quiet dignity" who was respected by many.
"Steve and his wife, Joan, had a very meaningful experience while on the Oxford campus for Steve's law school years, and they came to love Ole Miss more and more through the lives of their daughters and sons-in-laws who all graduated from there," Ward said. "The Moores became immersed in the university community and their enjoyment of the culture increased with each passing year."
Moore, a community leader, also was a former board member for the Meridian Public Schools, where he and Ward co-chaired a bond issue campaign in the early 1980s that resulted in $4 million for repairs and renovations for the schools.
"Steve would have been very pleased," said his widow, Joan Moore, of the foundation's gift to the law school. "He never planned to practice law but used his legal knowledge as a trust officer in the banking field and later as a financial planner. Steve always said that law school teaches people how to be critical thinkers."
The foundation's support will strengthen the Business Law Institute, an innovative program that places the faculty's top business law experts in office space shared with students. The close proximity of faculty and students facilitates continuous access, collaboration and engagement, an educational model that maximizes active learning.
The institute also houses organizations in the student-run experiential programs: the Negotiation Board, Business Law Network and Tax Clinic. These offer negotiation competitions, professional outreach and real-world practice opportunities to develop students' business law skills through hands-on activities and practice.
"The Hardin Foundation is interested first in improving educational opportunities at every level for Mississippians," said Lloyd Gray, executive director of the foundation. "While we are committed to helping build programs, we also like to recognize and reward established programs that are effective.
"In this case, we feel this gift will help accelerate an initiative that has already proven its capacity to equip law students with exceptional preparation and hands-on experiences."
Gray explained that the Hardin Foundation's seven board members make long-term commitments – such as the service of Moore – and when members retire or pass away, the foundation has historically honored them in a way that is appropriate to their life and contributions. Several endowments have been created at Ole Miss for Hardin board members.
"Steve enjoyed his work on the Hardin Foundation board and was always pleased to see how the resources impacted educational opportunities," said Joan Moore, a former speech and language therapist. "He particularly enjoyed traveling around the state to see the Hardin Foundation's gifts in action."
Among those gifts were the Hardin Foundation's generous support of Ole Miss' and Millsaps College's faculty members when they sought to shelter chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organizations.
"Steve and I attended the ceremonies when Ole Miss and Millsaps College received their Phi Beta Kappa charters," Moore said. "He was so proud that both institutions were able to recognize their students with this academic distinction.
"Steve was an advocate for learning – a true intellectual – and he read all the time. He majored in history and was so well-versed in history. He also loved the University of Mississippi."
The circle of Stephen Moore's impact on his community widened with his service on the boards of the Meridian Community College Foundation, Kings Daughter's Nursing Home, Care Lodge and Boy Scouts of America. He was an active member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, serving in numerous roles, as well as a trustee of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi.
Professionally, he was the trust officer for First National Bank of Jackson and then senior vice president and trust officer for Merchant and Farmers Bank and the Bank of Meridian. He retired as a financial planner at Revels Securities and Smith Barney.
"Steve was a very humble and quiet man," his wife said. "When he said something, people listened. He loved our family and was my best friend."
The Moores' family includes two daughters and sons-in-law: Alison Moore Abney and husband, Luke, of Madison, and Melissa Moore Blackburn and husband, Jeb, of Vicksburg; and five grandchildren, Simms and Owen Abney and Caton, Ali and Emerson Blackburn.
The Hardin Foundation was created by Phil B. Hardin, an entrepreneur who built the highly successful Hardin Bakeries Corp. from a bankrupt business he purchased in the 1930s. In 1964, he founded the Phil Hardin Foundation, which is dedicated to improving education for Mississippians. It is one of the three largest foundations in the state and has provided Ole Miss with more than $3.4 million in support of the schools of Business Administration and Education, College of Liberal Arts and more.
The Stephen Moore Endowment for Business Law is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. A check with the fund's name in the memo line can be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, or made online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. For more information, contact Suzette Matthews, development officer for the School of Law, at email@example.com or 662-915-1122.
By Tina Hahn