Visionary champions for education Donna and Jim Barksdale of Jackson, Miss., have been selected for the 2014 Legacy Award given by the Ole Miss Women's Council for Philanthropy (OMWC). The Legacy Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions as philanthropists, leaders and mentors and through these contributions have brought about definitive, positive change in the University of Mississippi, the state and nation.
The Barksdales will be honored during April 11 events on the Oxford campus. To begin the festivities, they will address students at noon in the Overby Center, followed by an afternoon reception with faculty members. The award presentation will begin with a 6:30 p.m. reception and 7:30 p.m. dinner at The Inn at Ole Miss.
C-Spire is the Presenting Sponsor for this year's Legacy Award. FedEx Corp. is the Platinum Sponsor, and Gold Sponsors are FNC Inc., Butler Snow, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Yates Construction. Newk's, Sigma Chi Fraternity and Sanderson Farms are Silver Sponsors.
Donna and Jim Barksdale are being honored because of their extensive and continual efforts to elevate and promote better education in Mississippi. They have both initiated and built programs of scholarship and mentoring that have impacted thousands of students. They continue to create new ideas for educational improvement and provide the funds and personal time to see these programs grow and achieve success.
In reflecting on their investments that are changing the future of many Mississippians, Jim Barksdale explains that while working on public education in California when he was president and CEO of Netscape, he realized his efforts were needed more in Mississippi. He says his home state is a solid investment "because it needs it the most."
"Donna and I are humbled, proud and delighted to be chosen for the Legacy Award," Barksdale said. "Happiness comes from knowing we're doing something worthwhile. We have continued our work because we are inspired by seeing our successes reflected in positive outcomes for thousands of children. We try to make investments in philanthropy efforts where results can be measured."
Jim Barksdale currently heads the Barksdale Management Corp., a philanthropic investment company and Donna Barksdale is president of the Mississippi River Trading Company. Each of them has served in important leadership roles throughout the state. However, their deep desire to improve education in Mississippi has indeed resulted in effective programs in which they stay closely involved. They both define visionary leadership in education, according to the OMWC.
Donna Barksdale initiated and helped establish the Youth Employment Program (YEP) at Lanier High School in Jackson. This program mentors high school juniors and seniors, placing them in productive summer jobs that help to prepare them for college and/or professional education. Her experiences in helping found and serving as chair of Leadership Jackson, serving as president of the Jackson Junior League and devoting her time to board service such as that for Habitat for Humanity have given her insights into educational needs.
Jim Barksdale led in establishing the Barksdale Reading Institute which devotes programs, time and energy into discerning ways for all children to read – the basis for success. This program continues to research ways to improve resources and teaching methods that will result in better reading skills for Mississippi's children. He is also involved with Teach for America and UM's Principal Corps program which also positively affects thousands of lives.
The Barksdales continue to support the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, which was key to sheltering a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Ole Miss and is considered among the nation's top three honors colleges at public universities. They have established an extensive scholarship program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, especially focusing on minority students. They both serve on the board of America's Promise Alliance, founded by Colin and Alma Powell, and are also involved in other state and national programs that benefit young people,
Mary Ann Frugé of Oxford, chair of the OMWC, describes the Barksdales as among the most philanthropic couples in the state and nation. "While there are extremely generous individuals and couples throughout our society, I don't believe any surpass Donna and Jim Barksdale. Their deep-rooted and sincere personal outreach has made and continues to make powerful impacts in many areas," she said. "Donna and Jim have used their personal business and life successes to create programs that allow others to flourish. Their separate and individual endeavors and accomplishments epitomize what the Ole Miss Women's Council tries to teach and support. It is a joy for the OMWC to honor these two outstanding individuals."
Jan Farrington, a founding member and past chair of the OMWC, agreed, saying, "Donna and Jim Barksdale are being honored with the Legacy Award because, individually and collectively, they have focused their lives and their resources on making life better for other people. They challenge themselves and others to find ways to make a difference in Mississippi. Both of them have been and continue to be true visionaries as philanthropists, leaders and mentors. Their work in these three areas touches lives in quiet, personal ways but also brings about monumental change that makes our state a better home for everyone."
The Legacy Award is a focus of the 14-year-old OMWC, an organization which recognizes that meaningful lives and careers in and beyond college rely on strong relationships and nurturing support. Mentorship, therefore, is the cornerstone of OMWC scholarships, and almost 100 students have blossomed under this program. Because of the mentoring and leadership training, OMWC scholars not only thrive academically but also become servant-leaders who understand the importance of giving back through service and resources. Past Legacy Award recipients have been Leigh Ann Tuohy, Olivia Manning, and Gov. William and Elise Winter.
OMWC's endowments total $10.9 million, and each new scholarship is recognized in the Rose Garden adjacent to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on UM's Oxford campus.
To purchase an award banquet ticket ($125 per person), visit www.olemissalumni.com/events or call 662-915-2384. All proceeds from this event will benefit OMWC mentoring programs and leadership training. To learn more about establishing an OMWC scholarship, contact Sarah Hollis, associate director of University Development, at 662-915-1584 or email@example.com, or visit www.umfoundation.com/omwc.