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A Growing Family

UM Announces Growth of Family Leadership Council
Willie Cantu, Marnie and Mike Goldberg, and Bill and Mary Parsons, all San Antonio parents,<br> enjoy gathering at the UM Foundation.
Willie Cantu, Marnie and Mike Goldberg, and Bill and Mary Parsons, all San Antonio parents,
enjoy gathering at the UM Foundation.

The University of Mississippi announced Wednesday that its Family Leadership Council, in its four years of existence, has grown from 19 members to more than 50 families from 19 different states.

The Family Leadership Council is composed of parents who want to be actively involved in shaping the student experience while their children are in college. Throughout the year, council members attend periodic meetings during which they are briefed by key university administrators and are given the opportunity to provide advice and guidance to the Division of Student Affairs and University Development.

At the council’s fall semester meeting, for example, Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics and director of athletics, provided the keynote address. Additional speakers included Ian Banner, director of facilities planning and university architect; Jennifer Ford, head of archives and special collections; and Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“It has been exciting to watch the Family Leadership Council grow and mature since the 2014-2015 academic year. Many parents are even learning about this group prior to their students arriving at freshmen orientation,” said Brett Barefoot, development director for parents and family leadership. “The families want to be part of this organization because they understand the amazing impact they can make on the Ole Miss student body.”

To join the council, parents of Ole Miss students agree to participate in fall and spring meetings while supporting the university with a $2,500 annual gift. Members’ gifts are combined and then applied, at the council’s direction, to projects that benefit students. So far, the council has chosen to support student safety, health and wellness and student leadership opportunities.

“These families are excellent advocates for Ole Miss,” LaBanc said. “They understand the importance of philanthropy and the need for parent leadership at the collegiate level. The university community is grateful for this wonderful support, input and involvement.”

Council members Bill and Sally Coker of Spartanburg, South Carolina, say their involvement has kept them connected to their children — their daughter Margaret, a 2017 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders, and their son William, a junior business major.

“Sally and I were thrilled to join the Family Leadership Council,” Bill Coker said. “Both of our children are Rebels, and we have seen firsthand the superior academic opportunities and overall college experience that Ole Miss offers.

“At the same time, we know that as public funding for state institutions decreases, tuition dollars alone can’t keep pace with the rising cost of operating a top-tier university in the competitive higher education landscape,” he continued. “We hope that through the power of collective vision and combined resources the Family Leadership Council will continue to fund many needed projects and programs that might otherwise not receive funding.”

The Family Leadership Council’s spring meeting is set for April 27, 2018. To learn more or to become a council member, contact Brett Barefoot at or 662-915-2711.

UM Staff Reports