Three sisters who followed the footsteps of their mother, the late Mitzie B. Lindsey of Fulton, by all graduating from the University of Mississippi have created a scholarship paying tribute to her dedication to family and to the special needs children she taught.
Leah L. Thomson of Peachtree City, Ga., Lori L. White of Aberdeen and Laura W. Milling of Meridian have joined to fund the Mitzie B. Lindsey Memorial Scholarship Endowment for Ole Miss students planning to become educators.
"An education scholarship at Ole Miss is a perfect way to honor our mother because of her deeply felt passion for our school and her pure love for the students she lifted and led for 30 years," said White, who earned a degree in accountancy. "Mother taught special needs children for most of her career. Even today, I can recall some of their names and remember her exuberance in describing their daily accomplishments. Giant steps and baby steps were celebrated equally."
Thomson echoed that sentiment, saying, "Anytime I came back to Fulton to see my mom and we were out and around town, parents of her former students and students themselves always came up to say 'hello' and thank her. She also encouraged people in the community to volunteer their time to help with the annual Special Olympics event each year, and from this experience, one volunteer decided to become a teacher and now is a principal."
Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts where the scholarship is established, said it is fitting to recognize the life commitment of an educator with a gift that helps future educators. "We are fortunate to have sisters Leah, Lori and Laura giving back to strengthen the university and the College of Liberal Arts," he said. "Their gift reflects their great love for their mother and the respect they have for her passion for teaching. To honor a dedicated educator by helping pave the way for others to become educators is truly outstanding."
Lindsey was not only an example for her students but also for her daughters. "Steel magnolia" is the phrase that could be used to describe her, Thomson said. "My dad, Dr. Kenneth G. Lindsey, died when we were in our teens, then it was just my mother and sisters. We were all very close. My mother was smart, beautiful and gregarious, and she always had a smile and kind word for everyone. She was an excellent role model and encouraged her daughters to try things, to seize opportunities. She was my mother but also came to be my best friend."
White said, "Mother taught me numerous life lessons. She suffered many hardships throughout her life, and invariably she faced each with kindness and generosity while remaining a strong, independent woman. As a daughter, I couldn't have hoped for a better example. She was a wonderful mother and a cherished grandmother to her eight grandchildren, who called her 'Mimi.'"
Although Dr. Lindsey, their father, graduated from the University of Alabama and then the UA School of Dentistry in Birmingham, the family supported Ole Miss and its activities. "My dad may have been the biggest Ole Miss Rebel among us," Thomson said, laughing. "Ole Miss was a constant topic of our family discussions and we enjoyed attending football games together as a family. The importance of education was stressed in our home. It was always understood that we would all go to college and we would all enroll at Ole Miss."
Lindsey, a 1959 graduate, first visited the Oxford campus as a high school student and "fell in love" with the school. "Our mother's love of Ole Miss has certainly carried on through my sisters and me," White said. "Like most Ole Miss folks, I consider my years there some of the best of my life. My daughter, Lindsey, graduated in 2011, and my son Wes, will graduate this summer."
The scholarship fund will provide scholarship assistance to students in UM's College of Liberal Arts at the sophomore, junior or senior level interested in pursuing teaching or service careers. First preference will go to students who are Mississippians.
"I think my mother would be humbled, honored and excited to know her daughters established this scholarship in her name," Thomson said. "It would be an understatement to say that she would love this scholarship. She would be thrilled because of the encouragement it will provide others to seek a higher level of education."
When asked what she would want future scholarship recipients to know about Mitzie Lindsey, Thomson said, "Being a mother and grandmother was most important to her and being a teacher was next. She valued education and loved Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi."
Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the Mitzie B. Lindsey Memorial Scholarship Endowment can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Nikki Neely, development officer for the College of Liberal Arts, at 662-915-6678 or email@example.com; or visit www.umfoundation.com.