A new University of Mississippi residence hall will be named for Sheryl and Roland Burns of Frisco, Texas, April 4 to honor the couple's generosity and service. The 3:30 p.m. public dedication ceremony will also celebrate the couple's recent $2 million gift, which elevates their lifetime giving to more than $5 million.
The couple made a $1.5 million gift to the Patterson School of Accountancy and subsequently gave $1.5 million to the UM Department of Athletics to help fund a new team meeting room for football. They recently pledged $2 million to the university to continue to support both the academic and athletic programs.
"Sheryl and I are honored to be part of the Ole Miss family and wanted to continue to support the University's excellent academic programs as well as help the football program have the facilities they need to be competitive in the powerful Southeastern Conference," said Roland Burns.
UM Chancellor Dan Jones expressed his appreciation to the couple.
"Sheryl and Roland Burns' generous investments, wise counsel and exceptional involvement in the life of our institution are paying great dividends not only for the University of Mississippi that stands before us today but also for the generations of students who will look to Ole Miss for opportunities in the future," said the chancellor. "We are profoundly grateful for their tremendous investments and look forward to seeing the Burns name on this modern facility that serves hundreds of students. This naming is so fitting when considering the countless young people who will be positively impacted by this family's support."
A reception will follow the dedication in the lobby of Burns Hall, which is located on Rebel Drive facing George Hall. The event will mark the second time in a year that a campus building has been named for a Patterson School alumnus. In April 2013, the adjacent residence hall was named for Mary and Lucian Minor of Memphis. Roland Burns earned both undergraduate and master's degrees in accountancy at Ole Miss.
Accountancy Dean Mark Wilder points to the generosity of accountancy alumni as a key factor in the school's success in the national rankings. The Public Accounting Report, the independent newsletter of the accounting profession, recently rated UM's undergraduate accountancy program as No. 4 in the country (behind Texas, Illinois and Brigham Young) and the master's and doctoral programs at Nos. 5 and 8 respectively. The accountancy programs are No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference.
"We deeply appreciate the generous support of Sheryl and Roland Burns," Wilder said. They have established the Burns Chair of Accountancy, helping us significantly with faculty support which is one of our most critical strategic needs. In addition, for a decade now our students have been participating in internships with the financial reporting department of Comstock Resources, an independent energy company, where Roland is president and CFO. This exceptional opportunity gives students valuable insights into the financial workings of a publicly traded company." Wilder noted that "Roland has enjoyed a stellar career and helped the University and School in many ways over the years and we are pleased and honored to induct him into the Patterson School's Hall of Fame on April 24."
Burns, who serves on the boards of the University of Mississippi Foundation and the Patterson School, understands the necessity of quality faculty and mentors to ensure future success at the school and recruitment of top students.
"When I was a student in the accounting program from 1979 to 1982, I had great support from professors including the legendary Gene Peery and Jimmy Davis," said Burns. "My accounting professors took a personal interest in my future career and advised me how to be successful in the business world. I left the university and headed to Dallas, Texas, entering the competitive world of public accounting very well prepared to build a business career. The focus that the nationally ranked Patterson School of Accountancy at Ole Miss places on instruction and student development is what inspires its alumni to support the university."
The Burns have likewise been inspired to support athletics, and when they learned of plans to build a new team meeting room with cutting-edge technology for the Rebel football team, they provided a $1.5 million gift for its construction, calling the football program the "calling card that keeps the alumni connected to university and draws them back to campus." UM named the meeting room for the couple, and Athletics Director Ross Bjork applauds their ongoing commitment to enhance both athletics and academics.
"Sheryl and Roland Burns have been so generous to the University of Mississippi on many levels," he said. "They continue to give of their time and resources to make a strong impact not only on the playing fields for athletics but also in the classroom for academics. Their spirit of giving is showcased by their commitment to have an equal amount of their contributions go toward athletics and the same amount towards academics. That is uncommon leadership, and Roland and Sheryl have displayed the best of the best in their increasing commitment toward excellence across our beautiful campus. We are thankful they are Rebels and appreciate all of their generous support."
President and chief financial officer of Comstock Resources Inc., Roland Burns was instrumental in transforming the enterprise over the past two decades from a small start-up with few resources into a $2 billion NYSE-listed exploration and production company. The Birmingham, Ala., native spent eight years in Dallas with accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP, working primarily in the firm's oil and gas audit practice. He joined Comstock in 1990 as CFO and contributed to the company's growth by overseeing a series of acquisitions, joint ventures and financing transactions. In 2004, he was vital in founding and taking public Bois d'Arc Energy, Inc, a Gulf of Mexico exploration company that Comstock sold for $1.8 billion in 2008.
Debbie Vaughn, senior executive director of development for the university, says she has developed a friendship with the Burns family members over a number of years and is always uplifted by their great passion for education.
"Their calling to provide extraordinary educational opportunities began in Frisco, Texas, where they helped found the Legacy Christian Academy. Although that in itself is a great legacy, Sheryl and Roland then turned their attention to Ole Miss, where their two sons attend. Their belief in and support of our efforts here at Ole Miss is truly inspiring. When people see the name Burns Hall, I hope they will stop and reflect on the remarkable generosity of this wonderful family."
In the Burns' support to establish the Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, they ran the school's initial capital campaigns and Roland oversaw construction of much of its $20 million campus. The school has grown to serve over 750 students on its 30-acre campus.
They have three children: Stephanie, a graduate of Southern Methodist University; Derek, an Ole Miss graduate student in accountancy who earned a bachelor's degree here in 2013; and Tyler, an Ole Miss freshman majoring in biology.
Those individuals and organizations interested in joining this family in providing academic support to Ole Miss, can contact Debbie Vaughn at email@example.com or 662-915-3937. To learn more about providing support to athletics programs, contact Keith Carter, executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-7159.