Like many University of Mississippi freshmen, Stephanie Henson entered college not knowing exactly what career she wanted to pursue. Just five years later, the Jackson, Miss., native earned a master's degree in accounting and a job with KPMG, one of the largest professional services companies in the world.
Now living in New York City and working in business development for KPMG's marketing group, Henson is one of many successful graduates of UM's Patterson School of Accountancy. She credits the James W. "Jimmy" Davis Scholarship for helping to establish her career path.
"I knew the accounting school would provide an overall business background that would serve as a solid foundation in any business-related career going forward and that has proved correct," said Henson, who received the Davis Scholarship her freshman year and completed her degrees in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
The James W. "Jimmy" Davis Scholarship Endowment is one of the accountancy school's premier scholarships. Primarily for incoming freshmen, the scholarship awards outstanding students $3,000 per year for up to four years. Recently, the endowment received a gift of more than $150,000 from the estate of Elizabeth G. Hope, mother of accountancy alumnus William M. "Bill" Hope of Memphis, bringing its balance to $850,000.
University of Mississippi Foundation President and CEO Wendell Weakley would like to see the endowment become a true testament to the man for whom it was named.
"I hope our donors who have been influenced by Jimmy will join me as we push this endowment over the one million-dollar mark as one way we can say thank you for all he has done and continues to do for the Patterson School of Accountancy," Weakley said. "It is clearly because of faculty like Jimmy that our school is in the top ten in the country."
Henson said she feels fortunate to have been taught by Davis.
"He was one of the few teachers who kept you on the edge of your seat, and I ensured I never skipped his class," she said. "He is an incredible teacher, mentor and friend."
Students like Henson apply for the Davis Scholarship and are chosen for the award based on merit, grade-point average and standardized test scores.
"In short, the Davis Scholarship helps us recruit blue-chip and five-star students to the Patterson School of Accountancy," explained Accountancy Dean Mark Wilder.
Two such students are Tanner Phillips, a senior from Pearl, Miss., and Rachel Shaw, a junior from Memphis, who now is studying abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay. Due to his academic acumen, Phillips came to Ole Miss with a full ride and received the Davis Scholarship just prior to his sophomore year. Equally driven, Shaw will graduate with a dual degree in accountancy and international studies.
"I chose Ole Miss for several reasons. At the top of that list is the success of both the School of Accountancy and the Croft Institute for International Studies. Those two programs, and their willingness to create a joint degree program, allow me to study in both of my areas of interest at the same time," Shaw said. "Receiving the Davis Scholarship means a great deal to me. It is a constant reminder that all the hard work we as students put in is recognized by the School of Accountancy."
Phillips said receiving the Davis Scholarship helped affirm his career choice.
"It means that the faculty and staff, Dr. Davis especially, have seen enough promise in me to make an investment in my education. It has given me a huge boost of confidence to know that multiple people at Ole Miss believe in me and trust me to get the most out of my education in the School of Accountancy," Phillips said. "I am very grateful to be a recipient of this scholarship, and I hope that next May, Dean Wilder and the rest of the faculty can know they made the right choice when choosing me."
The James W. Davis Scholarship Endowment in Accountancy was created in 2002 by faculty, alumni and friends to honor the professor for his service to the school.
"The Davis Scholarship has helped tremendously in our efforts to recruit outstanding students to come to Ole Miss and major in accountancy. The scholarship offer can very well be the difference in them choosing Ole Miss over another university and in choosing accounting versus another course of study," Wilder said. "Jimmy Davis has provided a lifelong commitment to the pursuit of excellence in the Ole Miss School of Accountancy. He is clearly a key reason that the school is enjoying many successes these days, including having its undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs all ranked in the top 10 in the nation."
A member of the faculty since 1965, Davis holds the distinguished H. Eugene Peery Chair in Accountancy. He was awarded the university-wide Outstanding Teacher Award in 1985 and received the Patterson School's outstanding teacher award in 1983, 1988, 1993, 2004 and 2008. He was honored with the Mississippi Society's Outstanding Educator Award in 1993. Davis has directed his own retirement fund to the scholarship endowment to help Ole Miss continue competing for the brightest accountancy students.
"Jimmy Davis has devoted his life to helping Ole Miss accountancy students excel in their professional careers. He has that rare ability to identify students with potential and then help maximize such potential," Weakley said. "I know he is humbled by the support so many have shown in contributing to the endowment that bears his name. This remarkable endowment will support the students he cares so much about for generations to come."
The James W. "Jimmy" Davis Scholarship Endowment is open to receive other gifts. Individuals and organizations that would like to contribute 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 Jenifer McMillan at email@example.com, 662-915-1993; or visit online at www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.