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Michelle Hyver Oakes.
To help mark 30 years of examining, reflecting upon and celebrating Southern culture, Michelle Hyver Oakes has pledged $30,000 to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Oakes, who recently became chair of the center’s advisory committee, said she feels strong ties to both the center and Ole Miss.
"The center’s work over the past 30 years has been remarkable," she said. "I’m honored to chair its advisory committee and help champion its mission and activities."
She also hopes her gift will inspire others to give.
"It’s important to financially support the organizations we believe in, and I believe in the center," Oakes said. "I hope my commitment will be the first of many new gifts to the center made by its friends and supporters. Our collective donations will enable its continued vitality and growth."
The gift is part of the university’s MomentUM campaign, a four-year initiative to raise $200 million. MomentUM, which ends in December 2008, already has raised more than $160 million for scholarships, graduate fellowships, faculty support, a basketball practice facility, residential colleges and a new law school on the Oxford campus. Also in the plan is a cancer center at the UM Medical Center in Jackson.
Oakes’ gift is designated as unrestricted, which allows CSSC interim director Ted Ownby and others who best understand the center’s needs to decide how and when the money is to be used.
"Friends of the center nurture and sustain it," Ownby said. "We are so grateful to Michelle Hyver Oakes for this generous gift. She has put her support in us and entrusted us with continuing to educate others about Southern culture. Gifts like this help us fund important projects such as The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and other outreach programs, including conferences and publications.
"With these funds, we also aim to improve financial support for graduate students and create of a research fund for center faculty. I’m awed by this gift, and I appreciate the symmetry of the amount to honor the center’s 30th anniversary."
Private gifts have also helped fund scholarships and documentary photography exhibitions, establish the Southern Media Archive and host weekly Brown Bag Lunch and Lecture Series.
A native of New Orleans, Oakes earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from UM and her MBA from Tulane University. She and her husband, Michael Oakes, reside in Charleston, S.C.
The center celebrates its 30th anniversary this week with lectures by Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial page editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Julia Reed, Vogue magazine editor and author of "Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena," and other events.

For more information about giving to the center, contact Ted Smith at or 662-915-5946.


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.