When Neal and Elizabeth “Lib” Quirk began saving for their four children’s college education, they dreamed of having the chance to give other young people the same opportunity.
“Education is so important, and it can change your life more than anything you’ve ever experienced,” said Lib Quirk, a 1982 graduate of the University of Mississippi.
The Atlanta couple chose to endow scholarship funds at her alma mater as well as his, the University of Georgia.
At UM, the Elizabeth Wight Quirk Scholarship Endowment for students in the School of Business Administration was established in 2003. With a recent gift of $25,000, the endowment for the scholarship now exceeds $100,000.
For the Quirks, watching the endowment grow and provide scholarship funds for students affirms their initial hopes.
“It’s easy to think, if we can’t do something on a grand scale, then whatever we can do doesn’t matter,” Lib Quirk said. “But we believe if it matters to one student — if it helps one student get to have an education — then it truly is making a great difference.”
Home away from home
Raised in a small town in southern Georgia, Lib Quirk knew no one on the Ole Miss campus when she arrived as a freshman in the fall of 1978.
She embraced student life, joining a sorority and becoming a passionate fan of Rebel athletics. Her senior year, she was elected homecoming queen.
“I had a great experience,” she said. “The friendships and the memories made it so special.”
She and her family built a life in Atlanta, where Neal is an attorney. But Lib stayed connected to Ole Miss as an active member of the Atlanta Ole Miss Club, taking part in social events and the annual Summer Sendoff for Atlanta-area families sending new students to Ole Miss.
The Quirk family often made the trip to Oxford for football, baseball and basketball games, as well as for the children to take part in golf camp and tennis camp at Ole Miss. For several years, Lib served as a member of the Board of Directors for the UM Foundation.
It was especially rewarding for her when two of her four children chose to follow her path to Ole Miss. Their eldest son, Neal Jr., graduated from UM in December 2013. Third son Joe is currently a sophomore.
The Quirks joined the Ole Miss Family Leadership Council during in its inaugural year in 2012 and have been active supporters of the parents’ program.
“Ole Miss is part of our family’s past, present and future,” Lib Quirk said. “We just hope that maybe in some small way we can give other students the chance to have the Ole Miss experience and get their education.”
A strategic gift
Ken Cyree, Dean and Frank R. Day/Mississippi Bankers Association Chair of Banking at the UM School of Business Administration, said the Quirks’ support for scholarships is impacting the lives of deserving students in the business school.
“The Quirks are wonderful people and have a passion for Ole Miss and our students, and they have given back to support our students and prepare them for success,” he said. “The Quirks have had an important role in providing for the future of our students through their gifts, and we appreciate their commitment to the success of our graduates.”
Lib Quirk studied in the School of Business Administration during her time on campus, earning a bachelor’s degree in advertising. Still, her decision to designate funds for the business school was as much strategic as sentimental.
“Business is really what it’s going to take to fund the state in an ongoing way,” Lib Quirk said. “Neal and I thought it would be best to support someone who could get an education and become successful in the business world, putting them in a position to contribute to the overall success of Mississippi.”
Their most recent gift also designates funds for Ole Miss athletic programs, which the Quirks have supported with other gifts through the years.
“We understand that a strong athletic program helps recruit good students and build excitement for Ole Miss as a whole,” she said.
While those who live closer to the Oxford campus enjoy the opportunity to stay involved in different ways, the chance to build a scholarship endowment has offered a meaningful way for the Quirks to express both their personal values and their fondness for the institution.
“Everybody who goes to Ole Miss just treasures that time, and I feel like everyone tries to repay that experience in whatever way they can,” Lib Quirk said. “This was something we could do from Atlanta and something we hoped would be around long after we’re gone.”
Individuals and organizations interested in giving to scholarships in the School of Business Administration can send a check with the academic area noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Tim Noss at 662-915-5932 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.