OXFORD, Miss. – When University of Mississippi alumnus Larry Johnson created a new scholarship to honor his parents, he had no idea it would also reconnect him with a childhood friend. But that’s just what the Landmark Foundation Ole Miss First Scholarship in Memory of Swede and Alleene Johnson has done.
A 1960 graduate of UM’s business school and a 1962 graduate of the law school, Johnson said that Jahmai Hodges, the recipient of the four-year, full-tuition scholarship “turned out, to my surprise, to be the grandson of a childhood playmate, Prentiss “Sonny” Robins, whom I’ve not seen in over 50 years.
“Sonny lived behind me and we would have basketball scrimmages in the backyard,” Johnson said. “I’m really pleased this scholarship is going to his grandson, and I hope to get to Baldwyn soon to see Sonny again.”
Hodges, who will major in biology at UM, in hopes of attending dental school, was selected to receive the Landmark Ole Miss First scholarship by the university’s scholarship selection committee. Selection was based on Hodge’s strong record of scholarship and leadership while at Baldwyn High School, from which Johnson graduated in 1956.
“I was extremely excited to hear I’d gotten the scholarship,” Hodges said. “It definitely made a difference in my deciding to go to Ole Miss.”
Hodges is the fourth BHS graduate to benefit from Johnson’s generosity in the past four years. In addition to funding Ole Miss First scholarships through the UM Foundation during that time, Johnson has aided a Baldwyn High graduate directly through his private foundation, the Landmark Foundation.
“I hope to be able to give a scholarship every year,” said Johnson, who now lives in Madison and owns the Landmark Companies, one of the largest real-estate construction firms in Mississippi.
Denson Hollis, Associate Director of Development for Ole Miss First, praised Johnson’s commitment to UM and to deserving students.
“We’re very fortunate to have alumni like Mr. Johnson who are dedicated to ensuring Ole Miss continues to attract the best and brightest students,” Hollis said.
Johnson, a longtime supporter of UM, said that while his mother, Alleeene, was forced to withdraw from UM as a result of the Great Depression, he and his brother, Robert Johnson, were fortunate enough to receive an education at UM.
“I wanted to give something back, both to Baldwyn and to Ole Miss, and I wanted to honor my parents,” Johnson said. “Our parents were essential in helping my brother and me see the importance of helping to provide a solid education for a student who has outstanding academic and leadership qualities.”
Hodges certainly meets those criteria. In addition to maintaining a perfect grade-point average at BHS and being involved with several academic clubs and honor societies, Hodges was also active with Interact, a service organization associated with Rotary International, and recently received the BHS Good Citizenship Award.
For more information about the Ole Miss First scholarship program, please visit www.omfirst.olemiss.edu