(OXFORD, Miss.) – For her role in the life of the University of Mississippi, former first lady Margaret Denton Khayat is being honored with the creation of an Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship in her name. From 1995 through 2009, Robert C. Khayat led the university, and his wife, Margaret, served by his side, hosting countless events and refurbishing and enhancing the interior and grounds of Carrier House, the chancellor’s home.
“The Ole Miss family is delighted to honor Margaret Khayat through the creation of a scholarship that will assist many future students,” said Chancellor Dan Jones. “When Chancellor Khayat was called to lead this university in 1995, he accepted this great responsibility and challenge knowing that he had the full support of Margaret. This office truly requires a family commitment of service, and the Khayats transformed this university by providing a vision of what Ole Miss could become and built bridges with alumni, friends, students, faculty, staff and students to achieve goals.”
The scholarship was endowed by $110,000 in private gifts from the Robert Khayat Legacy Fund, which was established upon the chancellor’s 2009 retirement. The Margaret Denton Khayat Council Scholarship will be open to entering students of all majors. The remainder of the Legacy Fund is supporting the Barnard Endowment for Faculty Support and the Ole Miss Opportunity scholarship initiative.
Chancellor Emeritus Khayat said he and his family are “profoundly grateful” for the tribute.
“Margaret quietly made significant contributions to assure that progress would be made at Ole Miss and, in particular, that every visiting guest, student, faculty, staff and alumnus would have memorable experiences and feel welcome at Carrier House. I owe a personal debt of gratitude to Margaret for her selflessness. She made many sacrifices to assure that I could devote my full attention to my responsibilities as chancellor.
“It greatly pleases me that Margaret is being recognized with an Ole Miss Women’s Council scholarship,” he said. “I think this scholarship program is one of the most creative and timely private support initiatives at any university in America.”
Margaret Khayat responded, saying, “It was an absolute joy to be the first lady of Ole Miss, and so many alumni and friends were great blessings to me through their friendship and support. “I am really touched and honored to have this scholarship created in my name. I have tremendous admiration for the Women’s Council and for its vision and dedication to providing these extraordinary scholarships.”
Robert Khayat said he hopes scholarship recipients will be inspired to replicate his wife’s “great respect for people, her belief in the important role of the university and her strong spirit of love.”
One of the many ways Margaret Khayat supported the university was through overseeing all events hosted at Carrier House, as well as enhancing its beauty and function. The Khayats worked to have the home formally named to honor the Robert Carrier family, who gave the home and its 14 acres to the university in 1967, as well as funded the Carrier Scholarship program. The Khayats said a wealth of Ole Miss alumni and friends supported the refurbishing of the home and guest house and noted special contributions of Bill and Nancy Yates of Philadelphia, Fred and Margaret Carl of Greenwood and Pat Lamar, the former mayor of Oxford.
The Khayats hosted diverse guests in the home from distinguished academicians and researchers to royalty from other countries, U.S. senators and presidential hopefuls, and Hollywood actors. When creative minds were gathered around the dining room table, many ideas to further the university were born. One such example was the university’s national leadership in commercial uses of remote sensing that led to the Mississippi Space Commerce Initiative.
“Carrier House was always a very busy place,” Margaret Khayat said, “and we had such wonderful experiences. From a Merle Haggard concert on the back lawn to students watching the Super Bowl, to many breakfasts on the back porch – there were many special moments and many opportunities to connect with the Ole Miss family and further the work of the university.”
Mary Sharp Rayner of Oxford, Women’s Council chair and University Foundation board member, said, “Margaret gave Carrier House a personality – one of warmth and beauty. She made everyone feel comfortable because of her hospitable spirit. Margaret has been my friend for many years, and she is a great role model. I admire her deep faith and her delightful sense of humor.”
A native of Memphis, Margaret Denton Khayat was a freshman at Ole Miss when friends introduced her to her future husband, a Rebel football player who had joined the Washington Redskins but was back on campus to complete his senior year. The two were married in 1962, and she suspended her studies to support his career and have a family. She returned to Ole Miss years later to complete an undergraduate degree in sociology.
The Khayats are parents to Margaret Khayat Bratt, who lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, David; and Robert Khayat Jr., who lives in Atlanta with his wife, Susannah. They are grandparents of Molly, Ben and Betsey Khayat.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Women’s Council has worked to attract $7.3 million in private gifts and has awarded 65 scholarships. The financial assistance of the scholarships is enhanced with mentoring, leadership training and other opportunities, and recipients are encouraged to give back to society. To learn more about the council, establish a scholarship or make a gift to an existing scholarship, please visit www.umfoundation.com/omwc.