Chancellor Robert Khayat and Russell French

OXFORD, Miss. – Entrepreneur Russell French has pledged $25,000 to seed The 512 Ole Miss First Scholarship at the University of Mississippi.

French, a New Albany native, is an alumnus of UM’s hotel restaurant management program. He owns 208 restaurant in Oxford, which he opened in 2002. He also recently purchased the Oliver-Britt House, one of the city’s first bed-and-breakfast operations, with plans to renovate and reopen it. Once open, the new bed-and-breakfast inn and restaurant will be called The 512.

French said he was motivated to create this scholarship because he wanted to give back to Ole Miss students, who are such a vital part of the Oxford community.

"Investing in students is beneficial to this town," French said. "Ole Miss students make up a large part of Oxford’s population and support our local businesses. As a business owner, I’m grateful for their patronage. I wanted to give something back to them as a thank you."

French also said he would encourage other local business owners to follow his lead. "I’m excited to be one of the first business owners on board with Ole Miss First, and I would love to see other Oxford businesses jump right in and create more scholarships and opportunities," French said.

Chancellor Robert Khayat said he is grateful for French’s gift and for his leadership in the community.

"Russell French is and always has been a strong supporter of the university," Khayat said. "We are profoundly grateful for this generous gift. And as a university, we are fortunate to have such a wonderful and mutually beneficial relationship with our town and its residents."

Khayat began the Ole Miss First initiative as a bold new way to address the university’s most critical need, scholarships. Ole Miss First scholarships are unique in that donors are encouraged to mentor the recipient throughout his or her tenure at the university.

For more information on the Ole Miss First scholarship program, go to http://www.omfirst.olemiss.edu/scholars/.