Successful business professionals Faye and Walter D. "Denny" King Sr. of Madison, Miss., have collected countless memories surrounding University of Mississippi experiences, and now they stand focused on helping others benefit from opportunities offered at their alma mater.
Their latest gifts total $325,000 for academic scholarships and athletics support. "I think every child in Mississippi who wants an education should be able to get one," Denny King said.
The longtime UM benefactor and Batesville native worked his way through college with a job at Rebel Chevrolet and also by delivering newspapers because he didn't want his parents to pay for his education "in case I didn't make it through," he said, smiling. "I owe the University of Mississippi something for what it has done for my wife, my children and me. Ole Miss helped me to become focused; it gave me a direction. I feel an obligation to help other individuals earn college degrees."
Throughout his life, Denny King has been friends with Ole Miss alumnus Robert Dunlap of Batesville, whose father owned that car dealership. King and Dunlap have been longtime business partners, with King as president of Hesselbein Tire Company of Jackson.
The Denny and Faye King Scholarship Endowment, with priority given to Mississippians, has been created in the School of Business Administration with an initial $75,000. The couple expressed their plans to continue building the fund.
Business supports our society – it keeps our economy going. We feel that Ole Miss is the place to learn business," said Faye King, an entrepreneur who founded several businesses before retirement, including a cellular phone company and another that exported and imported tires and other products. She traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Israel, Malaysia, Yugoslavia and other countries to pursue business opportunities. "These places are so different from our country, but I loved traveling and meeting people."
Hesselbein Tire Company continues to export and service customers in the Middle East.
King said she hopes the couple's scholarship will help young people in general as well as influence females to pursue business degrees.
"Families on average incomes used to be able to send their children to college, but the costs of college have risen each year," she said, reflecting on the couple's reasoning behind creating the scholarship fund. "We also hope to encourage both young men and women to become entrepreneurs. The opportunities are endless. We would also say to young people: Build a strong family and that will help you build a strong company – that family foundation gives you strength."
Dean of Business Ken Cyree applauded the Kings for their interest in Ole Miss students.
"It's a powerful statement when Ole Miss graduates in the business world give back to help current and future students. The Kings are saying, in effect, ‘Business is a truly rewarding field. We're enjoying exceptional careers and want to help you do the same.' The Kings are investing in the future of our state and nation through these young people."
The memories start flowing when the Kings reflect on their experiences on the Oxford campus, where the two first met. Faye King started her college studies at Millsaps College and transferred. "I fell in love with the university," she said. "The friends we made as students have been lifetime friends."
Only approximately 5,000 students were enrolled when the Kings were students. Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and the late actor Anthony Herrara were houseboys at King's sorority house, and the popular Peter, Paul and Mary band gave a concert on campus.
Both a college student and a National Guardsman, Denny King was activated to help with the unrest some 50 years ago when UM enrolled James Meredith, the first African-American student. However, it's the university standing before him today that has inspired his wife and him to provide their alma mater private support and remain involved in campus activities.
"I love the University of Mississippi," he said. "I think the university makes wise use of private gifts. Faye and I want young people to earn college degrees and become good citizens."
Debbie Vaughn, senior executive director of university development, said the Kings have a great appreciation for the fact that private gifts are needed to sustain excellence in UM programs.
"Denny and Faye King are two of the most generous and gracious people I know. They truly are outstanding alumni, who have chosen to make many investments in Ole Miss. They are talented, thoughtful individuals who always have our university's best interests and future uppermost in their hearts and minds. Their actions reflect their commitment not only to supporting the university but also to helping assure young people have great opportunities. We are deeply grateful for their wonderful investments."
The Kings have directed a $250,000 contribution to the Forward Together Campaign, the most comprehensive fund-raising campaign in Ole Miss Athletics history. Keith Carter, executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation and associate athletics director for development, praised the Kings for their support of students and student-athletes.
"Denny and Faye King have always been interested in helping young people. They recognize how much these students have to give intellectually, athletically and also personally through service. We appreciate their longtime support as well as this new investment in the lives of student-athletes and in our athletics facilities," Carter said.
"The Kings understand the challenges we face from the standpoint of competing in what is arguably the nation's toughest conference. For Ole Miss to generate the revenue necessary to maintain success and keep our facilities in line with other universities, private support is absolutely critical. We thank Denny and Faye for their vision and generosity."
In addition to the School of Business Administration and Ole Miss Athletics, the Kings' longtime contributions to Ole Miss include support for the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Ole Miss Fund, Ole Miss Associates and the Holman Hall renovation project.
The Kings are the parents of two sons, Dennis and Wes, and five grandchildren: Ryan, Sean, Dennis, Katie, and Weston. Dennis King of Batesville is an Ole Miss engineering graduate, and his wife Lisa is a registered nurse. Wes King and his wife Linda of Madison are both Ole Miss business graduates.
For more information on supporting the university's School of Business Administration, contact Adam Lee at 601-408-2240, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tim Noss at 662-701-7978, email@example.com. To learn more about making contributions to support Ole Miss Athletics, contact Keith Carter at 662-915-7159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.