Three reasons inspired Jim and Cindy McGinnis of Meridian, Mississippi, to make a major gift to the University of Mississippi: the desire to support the university that influenced many of their family members, to honor loved ones who served as mentors and to help offset college expenses for graduates of their high school alma mater.
The James M. McGinnis, Jr. and Virginia D. McGinnis Scholarship Endowment is available to full-time students from Lauderdale County, with first preference given to graduates of Meridian High School.
“Designating the endowment to honor my parents was an acknowledgement of the important role they played in my life and that of my two older sisters, and to our extended family,” said Jim McGinnis, a 1980 UM graduate and president of McGinnis Lumber Company in Meridian.
“A secondary, but significant, personal consideration was that my Dad and I worked together for 35 years in our family business, founded by my grandfather in 1922,” he said. “The endowment was a way to honor him, in particular, for his role as not only my father but also my mentor in our business.”
McGinnis said the gift also serves as a tribute to his family’s strong ties to Ole Miss — the many relatives who attended, including his father, mother and sister; his wife’s parents and family members; two nephews and some cousins.
Two McGinnis children, Davis and Caroline, are also part of the UM family. Davis McGinnis graduated in 2014 with an exercise science degree from the School of Applied Sciences; Caroline McGinnis is a senior in the same program. Their oldest child, Menton M. Deweese, PhD, works for MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
All three McGinnis children, as well as Jim and Cindy McGinnis and his parents, also share the distinction of being Meridian High School graduates.
“Cindy and I have been deeply involved in public school issues since the early 1990s. So, it was a natural and logical choice to have this scholarship benefit three generations of our family's high school alma mater,” McGinnis said. “Our hope is that the endowment will benefit students from Meridian High, and ultimately Ole Miss, indefinitely.”
Just as McGinnis did after graduating from Ole Miss, Davis McGinnis has joined his father in the family business, one of the nation’s oldest forest product wholesalers. The company employs 14 people in sales, clerical and management positions and boasts a sales territory that extends into 40 states and four foreign countries.
“Our market focus changed many times over the years as conditions dictated, but our primary function has always been to provide a quality product at a competitive price and to transact business with a high level of integrity and trust,” McGinnis said. “As a result of this philosophy, and many good people implementing it over the years, we enjoy an excellent reputation throughout the industry.”
In their free time, the McGinnises enjoy watching tennis — they hope to one day travel to all four grand slams. Additionally, they are active at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Jim McGinnis enjoys an occasional round of golf.
“With their generous gift, Jim and Cindy honor their family while helping students achieve their goals. It’s truly one of those gifts that will keep on giving,” said Denson Hollis, development director for the UM Office of Development. “We greatly appreciate their ongoing support of the University of Mississippi.”
The James M. McGinnis, Jr. and Virginia D. McGinnis Scholarship Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift; or contact Hollis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-5092.
By Bill Dabney