Growing up in Oxford, Miss., often means the University of Mississippi becomes part of the fabric of your life. At least that's how it has been for businessman Louis Brandt of Houston, Texas, who is helping assure the well-rounded experiences he enjoyed as a resident and later as an Ole Miss student continue through a $1 million planned gift.
Brandt and his wife, Lucia, are directing half of the gift to a faculty support endowment, and another part will create one of the only unrestricted endowments for Ole Miss Athletics. The third portion will expand the existing Louis K. Brandt Memory House Endowment, which was created in 1998 for preservation of Brandt Memory House, home to the University of Mississippi Foundation.
"Lucia is very supportive of the love I have for Ole Miss," said Brandt, who has provided critical support for various academic and athletics programs more than 30 years. "The University of Mississippi is my number one charity. I've watched others make major commitments to Ole Miss, and I've reached a point in my life to likewise dedicate these funds."
When planning his gift, Brandt said he relied on university and foundation representatives to tell him about campus needs and learned of UM's significant initiative to add $100 million to endowed funds for faculty members. With decreasing state funding for higher education and the nation's universities vying for top professors, the availability of private funds assure Ole Miss students are taught by outstanding professors who are leading scholars in their fields, UM officials said.
"I want Ole Miss to be successful; that's why I asked for input," Brandt said. "I feel very comfortable with our foundation and university representatives who direct and manage private gifts with the greatest concern as they would for their own families."
Investing in faculty support is a goal Brandt understood and embraced, thinking specifically of his favorite professor at Ole Miss — his own father, Louis Brandt, who taught economics. Brandt never was able to enroll in one of his father's classes because they were usually always full, said the alumnus who earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics.
Chancellor Jones said he appreciated Brandt's endorsement of the university's commitment to increase faculty support.
"Louis Brandt is a successful business professional who has been motivated to give back by his longstanding ties to Oxford and Ole Miss. He stays abreast of our priorities through his dedicated service on the board of the University Foundation. Through this latest gift, he has affirmed the importance of quality teaching and has committed to help this university attract top educators so that students for many generations are taught and mentored by exceptional faculty members. Louis and Lucia are gracious and generous individuals who continually seek ways to strengthen Ole Miss, and we are grateful for their involvement and vision."
Brandt also directed support to an athletics endowment. "Athletics has always been part of my life," said the former member of the Ole Miss tennis team. "Through college athletics, people are brought back to campus and are able to stay connected. That's extremely important to a university."
Keith Carter, executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation said, "Louis Brandt has always been a fervent supporter of the continued success of Ole Miss student-athletes, coaches and our programs. Because of his gift – one of only two unrestricted endowments for athletics – we will be able to expand opportunities for student-athletes. We are deeply grateful for the trust Mr. Brandt has placed in us to decide how this endowment's annual income will be directed, giving us the opportunity to address pressing or unexpected needs.
"As the cost of operating a top athletics program in the SEC and the nation continues to escalate, private gifts have taken on such critical importance," Carter said. "Louis and Lucia Brandt remain steadfast in their support, helping assure the long-term successes of our student-athletes on the playing field, in the classroom, in their communities and in future careers."
Brandt's commitment to his alma mater has permeated many areas. He played a pivotal role in the current UM Foundation's facilities when he provided the funds to purchase the Memory House from the John Falkner family in 1992. After the home underwent extensive renovations, it was renamed Brandt Memory House in his honor in 1995. The facilities are utilized daily for UM Foundation business, university meetings, donor events and university-wide activities, becoming an "indispensible part of the life of Ole Miss," said Sandra Guest, vice president of the UM Foundation.
"It's difficult to adequately describe the long-range impact of Louis Brandt's generosity toward the university and our foundation," said Guest. "To foster a strong university, we must have strong alumni and friends who will stand with us, give of their service and invest in the future for those who will follow in our footsteps. Louis is one of those astute business professionals and deeply dedicated alums who is nurturing the Ole Miss experience for future generations."
Lucia Brandt, a University of Texas (UT) graduate, has adopted her husband's alma mater and has become a member of the Rose Society, which provides programming support for Ole Miss Women's Council Scholars, as well as a vocal ambassador for Oxford, said Louis Brandt.
"All the people I have met on campus and in the community are very open, friendly, kind and wonderful. I was amazed at the campus' beauty and just loved this place immediately. I didn't know a school could be such a warm, loving place. We enjoy hosting our friends here to show off Oxford and the university," said Lucia Brandt, who brought together guests from New York and California for her daughter's wedding that was held in Oxford.
Louis Brandt's business career has been centered in Texas, where he is active with three companies, BMA, Ltd., Brandt Interest Ltd. and Timberwilde, Inc. and has served on an array of boards. He has also invested in two Oxford-based companies and now the new tennis facility Goose Creek Club, and the Brandts have built a second home in Oxford. In addition to a degree from Ole Miss, he holds an electrical engineering degree from UT. He invented a machine to separate solids from liquids during drilling, which was the basis for The Brandt Company, one of his enterprises that he later sold to TRW, Inc. He was inducted into UM's Alumni Hall of Fame in 1993 and is the father to three sons.
Among their array of support, the Brandts have supported the schools of Engineering and Business Administration, Chancellor's Trust, Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Triplett Alumni Center, Paris-Yates Chapel, Residential College, Pride of the South Band, Concert Singers, Friends of the Library, University Museum and Historic Houses, Carrier House and special university events.
Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about making planned or deferred gifts through the University of Mississippi Foundation can contact Sandra M. Guest, vice president of the foundation, at email@example.com or 662-915-5944.