(OXFORD, Miss.) – Business executive William N. Fry IV of New York and Nashville is passionate about University of Mississippi alumni providing career mentoring to students and new graduates. He and wife Lee Anne also believe in providing resources and have committed a $100,000 planned gift to his alma mater.
“Ole Miss produces well-rounded graduates who are not just smart but also adept at the most valuable business capability, which is people skills,” said Fry, an urban administration major who went on to earn a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. “College degrees should lead individuals to rewarding careers, not just jobs. There is a difference between graduates who just find a paycheck and those who get started on a path toward skill building and career progression. One of the most valuable actions alumni can take is to make introductions, provide advice and help new graduates get started in their careers. These young leaders will one day sustain and grow this university.”
The Frys also believe in alumni and friends making financial contributions to UM. Their planned gift is unrestricted, meaning the university can determine where the resources would make the greatest impact.
“Those fortunate enough to have done well in their careers need to be leaders in giving back,” said Fry, who is also a longtime supporter of Ole Miss Athletics. “The university is increasingly responsible for its own financial well-being with decreasing state support. My family and I want to help and believe university leaders know best where funds should be directed.”
In addition to financial support, Fry volunteers his time as former president and current member of the UM School of Business Administration’s advisory board.
“Bill Fry continues to be a wonderful contributor to the business school,” said Ken Cyree, dean of business administration. “He speaks to classes of MBA students and undergraduates and is a model of how to get involved to make a difference in the lives of students.
“We greatly appreciate Bill’s commitment to the School of Business Administration and his help to create programs and systems to allow our students to be successful in their studies, job searches and careers. His tireless devotion is truly an inspiration, and we are thankful for his dedication. We appreciate his insight, friendship and efforts to leave a legacy at the business school.”
Fry, a native of Memphis, came to Ole Miss on a Navy ROTC scholarship. After graduation, he served eight years in the U.S. Navy, completing his career as a lieutenant in the Nuclear Propulsion Program. The businessman formerly served as president of the Dixie Group, chief executive officer of Bell Sports and then Bell Riddell Sports, and CEO of Oreck Corporation. Currently, he is a managing director with American Securities, a private equity firm in New York that owns 24 companies and manages approximately $6 billion in assets.
His positive experiences as a student and an alumnus have inspired his continued involvement.
“Ole Miss is big enough for students to enjoy major arts, entertainment and athletics offerings but small enough to feel like a community,” Fry said. “People there are exceptional about making students feel welcome and a part of the university family. I have a passion for the university and can think of no better way to give back than to see our graduates do well in their careers. Plus, they can benefit from my mistakes.”
The mentor who first helped Fry as an Ole Miss student was Vaughn Grisham, now professor emeritus of sociology and director emeritus of UM’s George McLean Center for Community Development. The two have maintained a friendship across the years.
“Bill Fry is one of the brightest people who studied under me, and he is one of the best business leaders that I have met,” said Grisham. “He has successfully mentored many top executives and assisted me in conducting national leadership workshops. Bill is the model that I hope all of the participants should be. He represents the very best of Ole Miss graduates – intelligent, caring and giving. He and Lee Anne are both generous with their time and resources. They are good parents and involved citizens.”
Lee Anne and Bill Fry are the parents of two: Their son, Will, is a sophomore at the University of Denver, and their daughter, Katie, is a senior at Ensworth School in Nashville.
With this gift, the Frys become members of UM’s 1848 Society, which recognizes alumni and friends who fund or plan a deferred gift in support of the university. Advance knowledge of bequest plans enables the university to fully understand and follow donors’ wishes, in addition to allowing the university to thank and recognize donors for their generosity.
For more information on the 1848 Society, call the UM Foundation at 800-340-9542 or visit www.umfoundation.com and click on “planning a gift.”