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UMMC announces record private contribution
John and Sandy Black of Madison, Miss. (seated, center), are joined by their family for the announcement of their $11 million gift to the University of Mississippi Medical Center to impact public health and fitness. The transformative gift is the largest single private gift to UMMC ever received in a single year. Pictured are, seated from left, Elisabeth Culbertson, John Black II, Sandra Miller Black, and John Black III. Standing from left are Kate Culbertson, Kyle Culbertson, Brady Culbertson, John Louis Black IV, Jack Culbertson, Amelie Black, and Madeleine Black.

When Madison residents John and Sandy Black were pondering the best use of their philanthropy to make a difference for Mississippi, they didn’t have to look far.

After supporting a fitness program for UMMC employees for several years, the couple decided to donate the six Courthouse fitness centers to UMMC to continue their commitment to wellness and further UMMC's mission of achieving a healthier Mississippi. In addition, the Blacks contributed an extraordinary cash gift bringing the value of their total gift to $11 million, the largest donation ever received by UMMC in a single year.

“This is transformative for our medical center and for our community,” said UM Chancellor Dan Jones, who on Sept. 15 becomes director of clinical and population sciences research at UMMC’s Mississippi Center for Obesity Research. “John and Sandy Black enable us to fulfill our responsibility to patients and our community to offer opportunities not just for healing when ill, but for wellness. We are grateful that they have entrusted to us the resources developed by them over a lifetime of work.”

“We’re longtime Ole Miss supporters, and it occurred to me that other major institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic and Ochsner Hospital, had affiliations with health clubs,” John Black said.

By converting the facilities using a wellness model that includes exercise, healthy living and better integration to medical services, UMMC will address alarmingly high rates of diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Through talking to longtime friend Dr. James Keeton, former UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, “we saw that was a big void at UMMC,” Black said. “It seemed like a perfect marriage to donate the Courthouses.”

“The centers’ wellness focus is another key step in our journey to a healthier Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“I thank John and Sandy Black for their generous contribution to the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “This will immediately help bolster their wellness presence in and around the capital city.”

“We can treat people once they get sick, but that’s only half the job. We also have to encourage them to be healthy and stay healthy,” Keeton said. “That’s been a gap in what we can offer. We’re grateful to John and Sandy Black for enabling us to do this.”

Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the University of Mississippi Medical Center and its initiatives and programs can contact Travis Bradburn, Interim Executive Director of Development and Alumni Affairs and Interim Chief Development Officer, (601) 984-2107 or or contribute online via


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.