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Eli, Cooper, Olivia, Peyton, and Archie Manning

(OXFORD, Miss.) – Olivia Williams Manning of New Orleans – the heart and soul of America’s first family of football – will be at the University of Mississippi April 16 to accept the Legacy Award from the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

The Legacy Award recognizes the contributions of a person who epitomizes the council’s goals of philanthropy, leadership and mentorship. Manning will appear at a 10 a.m. public ceremony in the Overby Center Auditorium, followed by a question-and-answer session. Registration is required.

A $100-per-person brunch will follow at 11:30 a.m. at The Inn at Ole Miss, with proceeds benefiting scholarships and the leadership-mentorship program of the Women’s Council. Both events are presented by Cellular South. Providing additional support for the events are BankPlus and University of Mississippi Health Care.

Manning and husband Archie – a former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback – are the parents of sons Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning. The family of professional athletes, sports analysts and business professionals is widely recognized for its commitment to causes and organizations that strengthen communities, educational systems and healthcare services. Peyton and Eli Manning are NFL quarterbacks who were named Most Valuable Player of the 2007 and 2008 Super Bowls respectively. Cooper Manning is a partner with Howard Weil, an energy investment firm in New Orleans.
“Olivia Williams Manning has demonstrated a special form of mentorship,” said Katie Hester of Jackson, chair of the OMWC. “She has nurtured three young men to become passionate, successful leaders who generously give back to their universities and communities. If we as a council can help develop young people as she has, then we will have exceeded our own lofty expectations.

“Olivia represents our university with grace and charm. It is an honor for the Women’s Council to help the university celebrate her dedication to the Ole Miss family, her own family and her community,” she said.

Olivia Manning said she was “humbled and flattered” to receive the Legacy Award from the OMWC and applauds its goals, which are similar to those of her own family.

“Archie and I have always been involved in activities and causes that strengthen our home state of Mississippi and our adopted New Orleans. We have encouraged our sons to do the same. Cooper and his wife are helping with a capital campaign for their daughter’s school in New Orleans. Peyton and Eli have many opportunities through the NFL to give back, and they both, with their wives, are involved in supporting hospitals and healthcare for children. We all get back more from these efforts than we give.”

When asked how she has helped her high-achieving family stay grounded, the Philadelphia, Miss., native quoted a favorite saying that Archie Manning learned from his late father. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” she said. “With Archie at the helm of our family, he serves as a catalyst for everyone being caring and humble.” 

Olivia and Archie Manning have been involved in projects to rebuild and revitalize New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina’s destruction in 2005. She is a member of Women of the Storm, a group that traveled to Washington, D.C., to gain awareness for the needs of hurricane-damaged communities. The organization now has included in its efforts recovery from damage caused by the BP oil spill. She is a longtime board member of the American Red Cross as well as of Longue Vue House & Gardens, an internationally recognized historic landmark and education/community outreach center in New Orleans. The Mannings also are active in St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Although Olivia and Archie Manning are indelibly linked as college sweethearts – the quarterback and homecoming queen of their alma mater – she said her affection for the university was developed earlier in her life.

“My love for Ole Miss began with my father, the late Cooper Williams, who attended classes on the Oxford campus in the late 1930s and early 1940s, along with three of his six sisters,” she said. “We were an Ole Miss family long before I ever enrolled as a student. Archie and I met at the end of our freshman year, so we were able to share all the national attention he received as quarterback.

“The friends we made as college students are still our dear friends,” Manning continued. “When our sons, Cooper and Eli, attended Ole Miss, it felt as though Archie and I were reliving all our good times. We will be strongly attached to Ole Miss all our lives.”

The Mannings have come full circle, now attending school events at Isidore Newman School and the Academy of the Sacred Heart for grandchildren May, 8; Arch, 7; and Heid, 5 – children of Ellen and Cooper Manning. Abby and Eli Manning are expecting their first child this spring.

The Legacy Award is an initiative of the 11-year-old OMWC, the force behind an innovative program that attracts private funds for scholarships, pairs recipients with mentors who help them achieve success at the university and in life, and provides leadership training. Scholarship recipients – who are both young women and men – pledge to “give back” through community service.

OMWC has built an endowment of more than $8 million and supports 60 scholarships. New scholarships are recognized with the ceremonial planting of a rosebush in a special garden on campus. Those interested in helping students and using the naming opportunity to honor a special woman may establish a scholarship. A contribution of $110,000 from an individual or $125,000 from a corporation or foundation can be paid in a lump sum or annually over several years. Contributions at any level are appreciated and further OMWC goals.

To register for the ceremony honoring Manning or to purchase a brunch ticket, visit under “upcoming events” or call Theresa Knight at 662-915-1586. For more information about creating a scholarship or learning more about the Ole Miss Women’s Council, contact the University of Mississippi Foundation at 800-340-9542 or Sarah Hollis at 662-915-1584, or visit

Tina Hahn


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