The first Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship endowed by a mother in honor of her daughter also lauds a popular professor and English department chair.
The $100,000 scholarship comes from Columbus, Miss., native Martha Kirkley, a 1967 UM graduate with an English degree, to create the Lindsay McCauley Kirkley Scholarship. In turn, she and daughter Lindsay Kirkley of Columbus, a first-year UM law student who graduated with a degree in English, recognize English chair Joseph Urgo, her mentor and former professor.
“Lindsay was my chief motivation for giving the scholarship: her character, compassion for others, and her contagious zest for life and learning,” says Martha Kirkley. “Since Dr. Urgo had been such an incredible mentor for her, I decided to combine the honor in both their names.”
Daughter Lindsay adds: “Dr. Urgo has a wonderful gift when it comes to bringing students, who have diverging ideas and ideologies, together into a class discussion where students feel equally heard and respected,” she says. “I learned that I am a lot more capable than I thought. Dr. Urgo never doubted my abilities and his confidence in me strengthened my own confidence.”
Since 2001, Women’s Council scholarships of $4,000 to $5,000 per year go to six students attending Ole Miss. Ellen Rolfes, a council founding member and the university’s major gifts officer, says all Women’s Council scholarships go to young men and women who have already exhibited ethical and caring behavior through a deep desire to help others.
Throughout their college careers, the scholarship recipients receive guidance from Women’s Council mentors, meet regularly for small group discussions and attend seminars.
“A great mentor can make all the difference in a student’s college experience,” Lindsay Kirkley says. “Dr. Urgo is an exemplary professor, and he enriched my understanding of the subject matter, as well as provided support and encouragement that went above and beyond his ‘duties’ as a professor.”
Urgo, chair of the English, says he is humbled by the honor.
“Lindsay was a pleasure to teach because she was so receptive to ideas, and these ideas were obviously transforming her in dramatic ways while she studied with me,” Urgo says. “Faith in the transformative power of ideas is what leads a teacher into this profession, and to witness a student discover the world of ideas is the greatest of all possible rewards.”
The Ole Miss Women’s Council, a group of 28 women with Ole Miss connections, promotes philanthropy and sponsors programs to develop leadership qualities in students. Since its founding, the council’s scholarship program has been endowed with $4 million and has assisted 25 scholars.