Chancellor Robert Khayat with Joc and Leigh Anne Carpenter

OXFORD, Miss. – For James “Joc” Carpenter, helping make possible the $1.5 million gift to the University of Mississippi was a little bit like playing Santa Claus.                           

Carpenter, an Ole Miss alumnus who lives in Port Gibson, is one of a handful of members serving on the board of the Madison Charitable Foundation, a private organization created and funded by his long-time friend Wiley Hatcher of Houston, Tex.                                

Hatcher’s motivation for giving the money away?                                                                            

“He said he wanted to help people in need,” Carpenter said. “That was the instruction. It was that simple.”                                                                                                                                   

And so it will. Of the total gift from the Madison Foundation, $1 million will help support the renovation of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Mississippi’s only children’s hospital, the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson. In addition to the gift to the Children’s Hospital, the remaining $500,000 will create the Madison Foundation Ole Miss First Endowment.

“It is clear that the Madison Foundation has a sincere desire to help people in need,” said UM Chancellor Robert Khayat. “We are profoundly grateful for this gift and for the dedication and support of all those involved with the organization, especially Joc Carpenter. This gift will help us improve trauma care for children and provide scholarships for deserving students.”

Dan Jones, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, said, “We are grateful to the Madison Foundation for their support of the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. We appreciate the thoughtful consideration of the trustees, especially Joc Carpenter.  This gift provides the margin of excellence we need to meet the needs of Mississippi’s children.”

Carpenter feels it’s personally rewarding to be involved with the Madison Foundation, especially after touring the Blair E. Batson hospital. “It makes you realize how many giving people there are in this world,” he said.

“We are supporting several organizations in Mississippi,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun. We’re not looking for publicity or recognition. We just want to help.”     

Suzan Thames, Chairman of the Board of Friends of Children’s Hospital, greatly appreciates that help. “I had the opportunity to meet with Joc and Leigh Anne for a tour of the Blair E. Baton Hospital for Children,” she said. “Both their personal dedication and financial commitment to improving the quality of life of children in Mississippi was most evident in their caring and sharing of information and ideas. I felt an immediate kindred spirit with these special friends. The Madison Foundation’s generous donation to our children’s hospital will greatly enhance the quality of medical care of the sick and injured children of our state.”

The Madison Foundation Ole Miss First Endowment will provide two Ole Miss First Scholarships that will be awarded in perpetuity. Ole Miss First is a unique scholarship program that includes a mentorship component. The initiative was started by Chancellor Robert Khayat to address the university’s need for scholarships. Madison Foundation scholars will be chosen on the basis of merit and need and will be full-time freshmen who are Mississippi residents.                    

Hatcher, the man behind the Madison Foundation, is a Mississippi native who lived in Port Gibson for more than 25 years before relocating to Houston. It was there that he developed a pipeline engineering company, which he recently sold. The proceeds from the sale are funding his charitable foundation.                                        

“He wanted the money to be put to work now,” Carpenter said. “He wanted to be able to see it help people right away.”

Perhaps inspired by Hatcher, Carpenter and his wife, Leigh Anne, also an Ole Miss graduate, recently seeded the John Edward Ainsworth Ole Miss First Scholarship with a personal gift of $25,000. The scholarship honors Carpenter’s cousin, who graduated from the university in 1959 and died in 1998.                                                                                                              

“He was a devoted Ole Miss fan and loved Ole Miss,” Carpenter said. “He’d be tickled about it. It would make him smile.”

Besides the John Edward Ainsworth Ole Miss First Scholarship, the Carpenters who are long time Ole Miss supporters, also recently made a personal gift to support the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

The gifts are part of the university’s MomentUM campaign, a four-year initiative to raise $200 million. Funds raised through the campaign, which ends in December 2008, will support scholarships, graduate fellowships, faculty support, a basketball practice facility, residential colleges and a new law school on the Oxford campus. Also in the plans are a cancer center at the UM Medical Center and a new building to house the School of Pharmacy, both in Jackson.

For more information on making a gift to the University of Mississippi, visit http://www.umf.olemiss.edu/makeagift.

By Sonia Thompson