On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, some things just go together – like oysters and hot sauce and the Sawyer family and real estate. Established in 1901, Sawyer Real Estate is a Gulfport mainstay helmed by Lenny and Earline Sawyer.
“My husband Lenny has always been a great salesman,” said Earline Sawyer of Long Beach, Mississippi, “and real estate runs in the family. Our daughter Sandi, sister-in-law Jane Anne and brother-in-law Andy all work here.”
The Sawyers love of their profession and desire to attract a younger generation to the industry led them to establish the Lenny and Earline Sawyer Real Estate Scholarship Endowment at the University of Mississippi last year. Thanks to their gift of Vanguard Dividend Appreciation shares, the endowment now stands at an estimated $85,000 and will provide support for deserving students in the School of Business Administration.
“We’ve been impressed with not just the business school but also with the university overall,” said Earline Sawyer, also a longtime supporter of Ole Miss Athletics. “We hope the scholarship will help younger people become interested in real estate. We’re losing so many kids to technology, which is important, but real estate is about people and building relationships.
“Our business motto has been quality not quantity, and we make it a point to deal with people as ethically as possible. Most of our business ends up coming through referrals.”
The Sawyer family’s relationship with Ole Miss was established by their son, Lenny III, who attended the university as did his wife, Heather Henry Sawyer.
Real estate is a business in which a person’s reputation and networks are important for career success, said Sergio Garate Alvarez, assistant professor of finance at the UM business school. In addition, he shared that students’ interactions with industry leaders help students develop and expand their connections.
“Our program provides a strong foundational knowledge of real estate that allows students to enter various career paths in this industry. We complement their education with real-world case studies and a student real estate society that connects them with industry leaders.
“We are thankful for the generosity shown by members of our Ole Miss community toward the real estate program. Lenny and Earline Sawyer’s scholarship is a great opportunity for the students, and it will help us attract more of them to the real estate major,” Alvarez said.
The program’s focus on rudimentary learning and relationship building is what makes it so successful, said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration.
“I agree with the Sawyers in that real estate is about relationships, and that means making sure a deal is good for both parties,” Cyree said. “Our program is aimed at creating foundational learning that can be applied in many real estate transactions to add value. Scholarships like this attract high-achieving students to outstanding educational opportunities, thus strengthening our academic reputation.
“We are grateful for the Sawyers’ generous support,” the dean continued. “Their gift will enable deserving students to pursue a career in real estate and will continue the momentum and success we have had in this important program. We are grateful and proud to have this gift and know that it will impact generations to come.”
Lenny and Earline Sawyer’s grandson, Mac Dulaney, is the next generation of the family to attend Ole Miss. The rising sophomore, who is the son of daughter Sandi Sawyer Dulaney, is studying mathematics. He also is a student in the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
“We were so happy when Mac was able to get scholarships to attend after doing so well on the ACT. He’s having such a good experience at Ole Miss,” Earline Sawyer said.
“Our scholarship is a way that we can give back and also promote the industry; real estate has been so good to us through so many generations.”
The Lenny and Earline Sawyer Real Estate Scholarship Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the endowment’s name noted in the memo line, may be mailed to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts also can be made online at https://give.olemiss.edu.
For more information on supporting the School of Business Administration, contact Angela Brown, senior director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-3181.
By Mary Stanton Knight