Alice Henderson of Jackson, Miss., and her late husband, John, were deeply devoted to each other as well as to helping young people through educational opportunities at their respective alma maters. She is expanding that legacy with a new scholarship at the University of Mississippi, continuing a long commitment to making a difference in students' lives.
The John P. and Wanda Alice Henderson Council Scholarship has been established with a planned gift of $110,000. It is part of the Ole Miss Women's Council for Philanthropy (OMWC) and will help assure recipients receive financial assistance, mentoring and leadership training.
"I'm really pleased to create this scholarship in our names, and more importantly, I know John would be pleased that we will continue to help young people earn college degrees," said Henderson, who earned a degree in education while on the Oxford campus. "Nowadays young people have to have such strong educational foundations to do well in the world, and you can't receive a more wonderful foundation than at Ole Miss and then have the benefit of great alumni networking."
The 12-year-old OMWC has built an endowment of approximately $8 million that supports more than 60 scholarships. New scholarships — like the one created by Henderson — are recognized with a special dedication service in the council's Rose Garden located by the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on University Avenue. Students are represented by the roses in the garden, which features "The Mentor," a sculpture depicting the program's nurturing energy.
"Alice Henderson is one of those sweet, bright spirits who exudes positive, good feelings all the time," said Jan Farrington of Jackson, a longtime friend of the couple and a founding member and past chair of the OMWC. "When Alice and John established an Ole Miss First Scholarship and provided other support, it was typical of their ever-present willingness to help others.
"After John's death, Alice has continued to have the desire to give and provide for Ole Miss students. We are so grateful for all the Hendersons' philanthropy, but we especially want to thank Alice for continuing to give. Her generosity will allow future deserving students the opportunity to attend this university and be part of our Women's Council program," she said.
The Hendersons have been loyal UM benefactors, including making history as the first individuals to establish an endowment to provide unrestricted resources to help address Ole Miss' greatest needs in the future. Their other gifts have been directed to the creation of an Ole Miss First Scholarship, membership in the Chancellor's Trust (also an unrestricted fund), and support for the Ole Miss Associates, School of Education, Alumni House renovation and the University Museum.
"It has been a privilege to have a longtime, close relationship with the Hendersons," said Sandra Guest, vice president of the University of Mississippi Foundation. "They have always inspired me through the extraordinary kindness they showed one another as well as to others – a beautiful quality that has really defined their lives. Mr. Henderson was such a thoughtful spouse and put such great effort into planning how to take care of his wife and the valued institutions in their lives. We are grateful for the gifts they have entrusted to us and for the exceptional way they've lived their lives."
A Mississippi native, Alice Henderson attended Millsaps College and then graduated from Ole Miss, where she was active in the Chi Omega sorority. Her late husband, a Texas native, earned his college degree at Trinity University. His alma mater is to be a beneficiary of their planned giving as well as First Baptist Church of Jackson and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
"John did not jump into anything," Henderson said of her husband, who passed away in 2011. "He gave a great deal of thought to everything he did, and he felt our gifts should help his alma mater, my alma mater, and the church. Naturally, I am really thrilled and pleased that he thought so much of my alma mater. After we established the Ole Miss First Scholarship, we enjoyed hearing from all the students who received assistance."
John Henderson was an executive with Exxon Mobil Corp. for some 44 years in Texas and Louisiana, providing expertise in the areas of refinery, exploration and production. Exxon Mobil has a matching gifts program, so the Hendersons' contributions to Ole Miss were enhanced by that initiative. Henderson also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II after being commissioned at the same time as the late UM Chancellor Porter Fortune.
Alice Henderson taught third grade for one year before moving to New Orleans to work for Chevron. She met her husband there, married in 1967 and retired in 1981 to her hometown of Jackson. For three decades, they supported many civic and charitable organizations in Jackson. The couple's closer involvement with Ole Miss came when John Henderson served as executor of the estate of their friend, Emma Katherine Faser Birchett, whose father served as UM's first pharmacy dean. The couple worked closely with university leaders, as Birchett left the bulk of her estate to the School of Pharmacy.
The new scholarship endowment bearing their names is expected to have a far-reaching impact, Guest said. OMWC Scholarships are awarded to both male and female students based on academic achievement, leadership and a desire to give back to society through community service. Two OMWC staff mentors meet weekly with each scholarship recipient. In addition, scholars are paired with peer mentors during their freshman years and in sophomore years, career and life mentors. Life mentors are OMWC members, and career mentors are selected based on the scholars' majors. These individuals help guide the students in their future careers, help with life skills and network with alumni.
Council scholars participate in a series of leadership symposiums using the philosophy of servant leadership as the core curriculum. Upon graduation, each scholarship recipient is expected to pledge a modest amount of financial support to the OMWC Scholarship Endowment Fund for a minimum of five years in order to "reseed" the program. The OMWC also works to broaden students' overall college experiences by providing such opportunities as travel to cultural locations and monthly dinners.
The John P. and Wanda Alice Henderson Council Scholarship is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; or visiting www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. For more information on establishing an OMWC Scholarship, contact Sarah Hollis, associate director of University Development, at 662-915-1584 or email@example.com.