Just as the University of Mississippi Department of Intercollegiate Athletics works to ensure its student-athletes are well equipped to handle the challenges of playing fields and academic classrooms, Regions Bank – the official banking institution of the Southeastern Conference – wants to equip them to face the financial demands of life.
"We are working to support or implement programs that provide financial education to students," said Jimmy Brown of Grenada, area president for Regions North Mississippi. "Ole Miss and the SEC place a special focus on leadership, teamwork and excellence. Those are qualities that we highly value at Regions as well. Our support of Ole Miss is really a good fit for us, and I believe you'll see our support and sponsorship continue well into the future."
Regions Bank recently committed $500,000 in multiyear support to Ole Miss to develop a first-of-its-kind financial education program for student-athletes.
"We have a long-term relationship with Ole Miss, and this is a natural extension of our support for the university and its students," Brown said.
The bank's gift is part of the Vaught Society/Forward Together campaign, which was launched in 2011 to strengthen Ole Miss Athletics in its continuous commitment to excellence. Campaign contributions have surpassed the $130 million mark.
Funds from the Regions Bank gift will support the university wide Ole Miss Opportunity scholarship program and the student-athlete development initiatives Rebel Life Skills and the Rising to Excellence and Building Success, or R.E.B.S., Summer Program.
"It's a great fit," said Keith Carter, the university's senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. "These two programs and the financial education program being developed by Regions will work hand-in-hand to help prepare our student-athletes for life beyond athletics. We greatly appreciate such a generous donation."
The Ole Miss Opportunity program guarantees that eligible Mississippi residents from lower-income families will receive financial aid to cover the average cost of tuition, residence hall housing and an allowance for meals after all federal, state, institutional and private scholarships and grants awarded to students have been considered.
Likewise, the Rebel Life Skills and R.E.B.S. Summer Program provide student-athletes with helpful resources to be successful on and off the playing field, such as career development, continuing education, community outreach, financial education and career transition.
"The more that we are able to reach young people and guide them toward smart money management decisions early in their adulthood, the more positive impact we are going to have," said Brown, who is a past national president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association and a former board member of the University of Mississippi Foundation and the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee.
The new program promises to provide a lifetime of benefits for student-athletes, said Derek Cowherd, UM senior associate athletics director for academic support.
"We want to thank Mr. Jimmy Brown for his leadership and support of our programs," Cowherd said. "We could not be more thrilled to incorporate a financial literacy curriculum in our R.E.B.S. Summer and Rebel Life Skills programs. Regions will provide each student with the real world practice of managing their finances, introduce valuable strategies in how to save, build a positive credit history, accumulate and someday grow their own wealth. It is definitely a skill that all students need as they enter the workforce or professional sports industry."
Regions Bank's campaign gift to Ole Miss is a small part of its overall partnership. Besides its multiyear sponsorship of Ole Miss Athletics, Regions Bank offers an Ole Miss-branded debit card, and the banking system supports the Ole Miss Alumni Association by being a corporate member.
Three Regions associates, all School of Business Administration graduates, serve on the Alumni Association Board: Matt Lusco of Birmingham, Alabama, the senior executive vice president and chief risk officer of Regions Financial Corp.; Candie Simmons of Ridgeland, regional marketing director; and Brown. Lusco also provides leadership as a member of the UM Foundation Board.
Regions Bank's financial education program for student-athletes at Ole Miss has been designed from the ground up. While it's unique to Ole Miss, Brown believes the bank can use the program as a model to develop similar programs across the SEC.
"Education is at the heart of Regions' commitment to our communities," he said. "It's our goal to support both financial education and additional life skills that will serve students well as they begin their careers and plan for the future."