OXFORD , Miss. – When University of Mississippi alumna Donna Ruth Roberts moved back to Oxford eight years ago, she knew she was home to stay. Roberts, who graduated from Ole Miss in 1965, grew up in Yazoo City and lived much of her life in Memphis, Tenn. But no matter her whereabouts, her love for Ole Miss was always with her. That’s why Roberts created the Donna Ruth Roberts Business Women’s Excellence Endowment with a gift of $250,000 to support UM’s School of Business Administration.
“I truly love Ole Miss,” Roberts said. “It’s great to get involved with the university. It’s something that keeps you going.”
Roberts stays involved with the Business School by serving on its board, mentoring students, judging competitions and funding scholarships. In 2001 she created the Donna Ruth Else Roberts Council Scholarship Endowment for UM students pursuing a degree in business.
“We are so grateful to Donna Ruth Roberts for donating not only her financial resources to the Business School, but also for being so giving of her time,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the business school. “Her involvement with our students, the Business Advisory Board, and the faculty has been amazing and inspiring, and this generous gift reflects the dedication and commitment of Donna Ruth to the School of Business Administration.”
Roberts feels it’s important for all students to have a solid understanding of basic business principals.
“I think it’s important to know the basics about economics and finances,” she said. “It helps you understand more of what’s going on in the world today. Women, as well as men, need to know about accounting and banking and insurance. It’s so important.”
Roberts and her family have long history of philanthropy. Her father, Charles Else, was also a strong believer in providing opportunities for students.
“My dad got me interested in giving,” Roberts said. “He didn’t have the chance to get an education and so he felt like everyone that wanted to should have the opportunity to do so.”
The Charles Else School of Management at Millsaps College in Jackson is named for him.
“I would go with him to events at Millsaps and I saw how much his money helped the school and helped the students,” Roberts said. “And so when I had the opportunity to do the same for Ole Miss, I was following my dad’s role model.”
It’s a model Roberts hopes others will follow.
“I really hope this gift inspires others to give back as well,” Roberts said. “Alumni that come back get to enjoy the school are able to enjoy the football games, all of the wonderful political debates and all of the things Ole Miss makes possible for us to participate in, that I think we should give back to the university. We get a lot from it and we should give back to it.”
In addition to her involvement with Ole Miss, Roberts is also active in supporting the Oxford Film Festival and serves on the executive board for the Republican Party. Last year she served as Governor Haley Barbour’s local campaign chair and is currently serving as Senator Thad Cochran’s local campaign chair.
The gift is 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