OXFORD, Miss – University of Mississippi alumnus Roland Burns is a man dedicated to education. In 1999, with what started as an interest in his own children’s school, Burns, along with his wife, Sheryl, took on the responsibility for helping open what is now Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, Texas. The school now has 725 students on its 30 acre campus.
More recently Burns, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accountancy in 1982, made a gift of $1.5 million to seed the Roland and Sheryl Burns Chair of Accountancy in UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy.
“The generosity and commitment of the Burns family will create new educational opportunities for our accounting students,” said UM Chancellor Robert Khayat. “We are grateful for and inspired by their support.”
The chair will help the Patterson School recruit and retain the best possible faculty to insure quality teaching, research and service will be available for current and future generations of Ole Miss students.
“The School of Accountancy is an outstanding program,” Burns said. “We thought this would be a good way to give something back and attract some world class talent to the school. Faculty support is a great need and is something I feel strongly about supporting.”
Citing his positive experience as a student as his motivation for the gift, Burns said he had had many professors who helped him become who he is today. Under the tutelage of accountancy professors Gene Peery, James Davis and Diane Pearson, Burns excelled in his coursework.
“When I was a student the support that I got from the professors there was tremendous,” he said. “It helped me get off to a good start in my career. When I look back at Ole Miss, the key part that contributed to my success was the quality of the professors. Their whole lives revolved around the students and you knew that the moment you got there. They really took an interest in their students’ careers and personal development.”
The Burns Chair is the third endowed chair in the Patterson School of Accountancy.
“We have been fortunate to have a tradition in the Patterson School of distinguished, dedicated, student-oriented faculty who truly set the program apart from the competition,” said Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School. “This generous gift from the Burns family demonstrates their commitment to quality accounting education and we are so grateful for their support. Roland has had an outstanding career and is such a tremendous success story. We are very proud of him.”
After earning his degrees from Ole Miss, Burns spent eight years with accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP in Dallas. He then went on to join Comstock Resources, a publically held oil and natural gas company, where he has served as senior vice president, CFO and treasurer. Since then, he’s watched his career flourish in tandem with Comstock’s growth – from a market capitalization of $35 million in 1990 to more than $2.3 billion today. In 2004, Burns was critical in establishing and taking public Bois d’Arc Energy, a Gulf of Mexico exploration company that Comstock sold in 2008 for $1.8 billion.
“I’ve gotten to know Roland and Sheryl personally and they are such warm, giving people,” said assistant vice chancellor for university relations Debbie Vaughn, who worked with the Burns on the gift. “As evidenced by their work with Legacy Christian Academy and now this wonderful gift to the School of Accountancy, it is clear that they are committed to supporting education.”
Burns’ ties with Ole Miss are strong. He stays involved with the university and serves on the Patterson School’s advisory board. For the last five years, he has made sure that Ole Miss students have the opportunity to work as interns at Comstock. He tries to make it back for at least one football game each season and both sons have become big Ole Miss fans. Following in his footsteps, Burns’ eldest son, Derek, a high school senior, is planning to come to Ole Miss next year as an accounting major.
“I think if you have been successful then you have an obligation to give back,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to give, especially to Ole Miss, and it means a lot to me personally. It means a lot to be able to contribute back to those who have invested in you.”
For more information on making a gift to the University of Mississippi, visit http://www.umf.olemiss.edu/makeagift.
Story by Sonia Thompson