Mississippi has always owned a piece of Margaret Pryor Barker’s heart, inspiring her to give back to a place and a university that have given her so much.
Barker, of Nashville, Tennessee — a 1990 graduate of the University of Mississippi’s School of Business Administration — has made a generous gift to establish an Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC) scholarship in her name in hopes of giving students the support needed to help them realize their career goals.
“It is so much more than just a university to me. It is family, friends, traditions, fond memories and love,” said Barker, a native of Tupelo, Mississippi.
Now in its 18th year, the OMWC has built a scholarship endowment totaling almost $14.5 million. The $40,000 named OMWC scholarships, which are among the largest on campus, are awarded each year to both female and male students who are incoming freshmen. Thus far, 145 OMWC scholars, in addition to a cohort of eight freshmen during the 2018-2019 academic year, are the beneficiaries of the program, which provides scholarships, mentoring, leadership development, travel and other cultural opportunities.
During Barker’s time at Ole Miss, she was engaged in many campus organizations, and she continued her involvement with her alma mater after moving to Nashville with her husband, John Barker, also a 1990 School of Business Administration graduate, whom she met during their freshman year.
“John and I decided we both wanted to give back to a school that gave so much to us. I am honored and humbled to have joined the Ole Miss Women’s Council this year and look forward to being part of such a strong and wonderful group of women who make a positive impact on the Ole Miss community and its students.”
Barker said she is excited to see who will benefit from the new scholarship endowment and stands ready to be an influential mentor in those recipients’ lives during their undergraduate years.
“Because of our love, passion and gratitude to Ole Miss, John and I wanted to give young people an opportunity to fulfill their hopes and dreams at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “Ole Miss gave me so many wonderful opportunities and experiences that helped guide me and shape me into who I am today.”
Ole Miss has played a large role throughout the Barker family, and their tradition continues as their son Matthew and daughter Anna Caroline are currently attending the university.
The Barkers own and operate Two Rivers Ford dealership in Nashville. In addition, Margaret Barker contributed her time and talents to formerly serve on a variety of community organizations, such as the board of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as well as chair of the Harding Academy Auxiliary Board.
“I am very proud that Margaret chose to pursue this opportunity to give back to her roots,” said John Barker. “After moving to Nashville around 26 years ago, she has been wanting to find a way to give back to the university, especially since she is a Mississippi native. I am looking forward to seeing how her endeavor will make an impact on students pursuing their dreams.”
In addition to funding a scholarship, Margaret Barker is one of three new members invited to join the OMWC. Council members devote many hours to mentoring students who are scholarship recipients and to attracting funding to establish new scholarships. Through an array of programming activities, council members also encourage scholars to become servant leaders in their communities and at Ole Miss.
“Both John and Margaret are not only Ole Miss graduates, they are also longtime supporters of the university,” said Karen Moore of Nashville, an Ole Miss alumna and former OMWC chair. “Knowing the philanthropic spirit they have for Ole Miss, the time they spend in Oxford and the leadership they have shown over the years, it was a perfect fit for Margaret to become an OMWC member.”
For more information on the OMWC, visit www.omwc.olemiss.edu. To learn how to establish a new Women’s Council Scholarship, support the OMWC Global Leadership Circle, or to join the OMWC Rose Society, contact Suzanne Helveston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-7273.
By Kirsten Faulkner