UNIVERSITY, Miss. — Jim Bennett met Faye Evans at church in the early 1940s. She offered to fix him up with a blind date, but instead, they dated and later married.
Today, she is being remembered with a University of Mississippi scholarship by Bennett, his second wife and two daughters.
"Helping other people is part of the rent we pay on our lives," said Bennett, a Calhoun County native.
Through their $11,250 gift to the Ole Miss First program, the Faye Evans Bennett scholarship is available to help deserving students attend UM. Bennett, who lives in Pearl, said he heard about Ole Miss First through a phone call from a University Foundation student fund-raiser.
"The university has meant a lot to us," he said.
Jim met Faye while he was stationed with the Naval Air Corps in Brunswick, Ga. After he was transferred to a facility near the nation’s capital, they became engaged and then married. When World War II ended, she wanted to live in Georgia, but he wanted to finish his degree, which he had begun at then-East Mississippi Junior College.
They enrolled at Ole Miss, where she earned her bachelor’s and he completed his master’s to become teachers.
His education career took the family from Amory to Pontotoc to Jackson. But in 1961 after 17 years of their marriage, Faye became sick and died, leaving him with two young daughters to rear.
He later met Mary Margaret Coman and the two were married. They both taught and reared their combined family of four daughters, two of whom are UM grads — Beverly Bennett Lee of Dallas, Texas, and Jeanne Bennett Brinson of Brandon.
The tradition continues with granddaughters Martha and Elizabeth Lee, UM graduates, and their sister Rebecca, who is a UM junior.
Beverly and Jeanne have joined Jim and Mary Margaret in establishing the scholarship.
"When Mary Margaret and I started talking about gifts to Ole Miss, we decided we wanted to establish a scholarship," Bennett said. "I appreciate her willingness to be part of it."
Although he officially retired as a public school administrator in 1985, Bennett said he and his wife wanted to do volunteer mission work. They have scores of stories and memories from experiences as dorm parents to missionaries’ children in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and as English educators for local teachers in China and Outer Mongolia.
They know first hand the importance of education and truly believe that the Ole Miss First scholarship campaign will make a difference not only for Ole Miss but for Mississippi as a whole.