As a young boy, Harry Sneed of Oxford sat on a stool selling popcorn outside his father's hardware store on the northwest corner of the Courthouse Square. Vicki Sneed started working at part-time jobs as soon as she was "tall enough to see over the counter."
The Sneeds—fifth-generation Lafayette countians—believe in individuals developing strong work ethics, and they are equally passionate about people having exceptional educational opportunities. In their latest private gift to the University of Mississippi, the two have committed $100,000 to create an Ole Miss Women's Council for Philanthropy (OMWC) scholarship endowment.
The Sneeds call growing up in Oxford, the home of their alma mater, a "phenomenal experience," leading to their longtime commitment and support. Harry Sneed is owner of Sneed's Ace Hardware, while Vicki Sneed is city president of Regions Bank in its three Oxford offices. She ends many of her email correspondences with this sentiment: "It's a great day in Oxford and at Ole Miss. Wish you were here."
"Vicki and I have watched the complexion of Ole Miss and Oxford change, and we feel that it has all been positive. The growth and progress have expanded excellent opportunities for students and residents," said Harry Sneed, who with his wife has also established a scholarship in the School of Business Administration reserved for graduates of local high schools. The Sneeds also hold membership in the Chancellor's Trust, thereby providing unrestricted funds to the university.
"However, through our business interactions, we have gained insights as to how families often struggle with the costs of college," he said. "Our goal is to try to help students benefit from the unique foundation gained from an Ole Miss education."
Vicki Sneed said she credits her husband with inspiring a desire to give back. "We feel it is a habit that should be exercised throughout our lives. Just as giving to our church, Oxford-University United Methodist, is important, so it is with helping young people gain education. Both initiatives have religious aspects."
Mary Ann Frugé, the OMWC chair, has witnessed the contributions of the Sneeds for many years. "The values of Vicki and Harry are exemplified through this scholarship, especially the values of education, leadership and mentorship. Both have spent their lives promoting education and being lifelong learners. They are recognized as respected, altruistic leaders in the Oxford, Lafayette County and university communities.
"Furthermore, the Sneeds have reached out with caring support to others as personal mentors throughout their entire lives," Frugé continued. "Now, with the Vicki L. and Harry A. Sneed Council Scholarship, their values and life commitments will continue forever in concrete ways as OMWC scholars experience all aspects of our program. We thank Vicki and Harry for this scholarship, for their personal involvement with the OMWC as well as generously living their values."
Vicki Sneed joined with other women to endow the OMWC Oxford Business Women's Initiative Scholarship while she was serving as major gifts officer for the School of Business Administration. She is now a member of the Women's Council and its Executive Committee, chairs its Leadership Committee, mentors students and recruits others to join the council's Rose Society.
"I have been involved in the Ole Miss Women's Council since its inception and believe strongly in its mentorship and leadership training aspects. Until you interact with these students, you don't have a full understanding of their needs. It's a worthwhile effort to give of your time to these energetic students who hold the future of our university, state and nation in their hands. We try to be mentors—trusted friends who give feedback and encouragement.
"Harry and I also like the fact that Women's Council scholarship recipients are challenged to 'give back' when they become established in their own careers," she said.
Both Sneeds are past presidents of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce, and Vicki was the first female to hold that position. Harry is the past chair of the Economic Development Foundation, and she is currently seated on the foundation board. Both are past presidents of the Rotary Club of Oxford. Vicki is seated on the board of the Oxford Medical Ministries, was recognized as one of Mississippi's Leading Business Women by Mississippi Business Journal and was named Woman of Distinction 2011 by Girl Scouts Heart of the South and now serves of its board. Both have served tirelessly in their church. They are the parents of two daughters and a son and grandparents to 10.
The Vicki L. and Harry A. Sneed Council Scholarship Endowment is open to accept gifts from individuals or organizations. To contribute, send a check with the fund noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Sarah Hollis, associate director of development at 662-915-1584 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.