University of Mississippi student Rush Peace had it all: a well-rounded college experience that combined rich academic experiences with the thrill of playing baseball on scholarship under legendary Coach Tom Swayze. And then it was on to dentistry school and a rewarding career.
Peace and his wife, Judy, of Macon, Georgia, want to support other Ole Miss student-athletes who graduate and choose to continue studies at UM’s schools of Dentistry, Medicine or Law. Their blended gift of $60,000 — an outright gift combined with a planned estate gift — has funded the new Dr. Rush Abbott and Julia Robertson Peace Graduate Scholarship Endowment.
“The Peaces have expressed their deep commitment to expanding educational opportunities for Ole Miss students through this unique scholarship endowment,” said Noel Wilkin, UM interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “We encourage donors to match their passions and interests with needs at our university for a truly meaningful gift experience. Our appreciation goes to Rush and Judy for their thoughtful, generous gift that will ultimately help produce stellar dentists, physicians, lawyers and leaders who make outstanding contributions to society.”
Rush Peace’s mother, the late Dorothea Abbott Peace, was an Ole Miss and Chi Omega alumna, and the Peace family lived in West Point, Mississippi. When it came time for her son to attend college, she pointed out that the dentists and physicians in their family all received their strong foundations at Ole Miss. He agreed.
After going on to earn his dental degree and post-graduate training, he enjoyed a 40-year career in prosthetic and pediatric dentistry. He was a pioneer in the Southeast in complete dentistry performed in hospital operating rooms.
He retired from his prosthetic practice and then devoted the past decade to the treatment of medically complex pediatric and developmentally challenged patients. Upon retirement last year, it was determined he had completed more than 11,000 cases in Georgia hospital operating rooms.
“We are truly thankful for the generosity of Rush and Judy Peace. This support will allow graduating student-athletes to pursue higher levels of education and become pillars in society. The Peaces exemplify what the Ole Miss family is all about — helping others,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation.
Rush and Judy Peace return to the Oxford campus for events several times a year and share the inspiration behind their gift.
“Ole Miss is hallowed ground and very special to my heart,” said Rush Peace. “Judy and I are extremely proud of what’s been accomplished here over the years. We enjoy championing Ole Miss in Georgia and are proud that many young people from Georgia come here for their college home.”
He continued, “Student-athletes should be prepared for life after college sports; not everyone makes it in professional sports. Hopefully this scholarship will encourage some to consider dental, medical or law school as options. I felt as this scholarship grows it may even be used as a recruitment tool for athletes interested in attending professional school.”
Peace’s affection for his alma mater also stems from exceptional experiences playing sports and building friendships. The four-sport “Best Athlete” from West Point High School found himself practicing one on one with Ole Miss’ well-known and respected Coach Swayze. (Today’s Ole Miss baseball players compete on Swayze Field.) With his knees knocking with nerves, Peace found himself being called in for a talk after delivering a so-so performance fielding balls.
“Show me your glove,” Coach Swayze demanded. Peace offered up his well-oiled calfskin that had been part of his playing career since junior high school. “You can’t play with a glove like that!”
Coach Swayze left the field, returned with a shovel and buried the glove behind the pitcher’s mound. Decades later when Peace and his wife attended an M Club event, the then-elderly Coach Swayze asked Peace if he ever dug up his glove. Moved that his coach would remember him, Peace also chuckled at the memory of the pitcher’s mound exchange and reported that he was happy to leave a part of himself with his alma mater.
In addition, Peace recalls the first week of his freshman year, when he met fellow student Lee Hartwell Rogers, who, too, was planning a career in medicine.
“It was an instant friendship that grew and grew,” Peace said of the now late ophthalmologist of Tupelo, Mississippi. “We studied together, tutored student-athletes and both joined Sigma Chi fraternity. We remained close friends until his death and now continue to travel to Ole Miss with his wife, Merrell Rogers.”
Rush and Judy Peace divide their support between their alma maters. Judy Peace graduated from Mercer University, where the couple also have established a scholarship endowment and support athletics. “My mother wasn’t able to attend college during the Depression,” said Judy Peace, explaining her dedication to help provide educational opportunities.
“My mother was well-read but she still felt handicapped because she didn’t have a college education. I have always felt if someone needed extra help to pursue their college dreams, Rush and I should give them that boost.”
The Peace Graduate Scholarship Endowment is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations; mail a check with the name of the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or visit online at www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. To learn more about creating a scholarship fund, individuals can contact Ron Wilson, a development officer for the UM College of Liberal Arts at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-1755.
By Tina Hahn