The accidental overdose of a young University of Mississippi alumnus brought the UM family together in recent years to support an initiative aimed at preventing such tragedies in the future.
On Sept. 6, 2019, the results of this initiative were unveiled when the new William Magee Center for Wellness Education, an alcohol and other drugs education and prevention facility, was officially dedicated. Those attending the 4 p.m. event at the center’s home in the new South Campus Recreation Center, learned about new services available for students and heard about ambitious plans for the facility’s growth.
The new center honors the memory of William Magee, who was 23 when he died in 2013. William was an accomplished, well-rounded UM student who excelled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies, lettered in track and was named to the SEC academic honor roll. After his 2012 graduation, he sought help through rehabilitation programs but relapsed after a concert with friends.
Before his overdose, while trying to beat drug addiction, William had let his family know that once he had succeeded in overcoming his struggle, he hoped to be able to help others who were battling substance abuse. Six years after his passing, the new William Magee Center for Wellness Education is open on the UM campus, enabling William’s goal, said his father, David Magee, of Oxford.
“We are so proud that the center honors our late son, William,” David Magee said. “He told me the week before he died that he wanted to help people one day. Now, he’ll get to help others long into the future.
“As parents, Kent and I miss him so much, but it is rewarding to see the work his life is doing. He’s been with us throughout this journey to make it happen. Mostly though, we are so pleased that the lives of so many students will be positively impacted.
“That’s what matters the most – that other sons and daughters, hopefully well beyond our lifetimes, will benefit from such holistic education and support.”
The Magee family has shared the story of their son’s struggle with addiction and provided the inaugural gift that launched the fundraising campaign to strengthen wellness resources and support to Ole Miss students. In the two years since the campaign began, more than $2.7 million in gifts and pledges of all sizes have been made to the center by a wide variety of donors: from students, Greek organizations and alumni to companies and foundations.
“This was a grassroots effort from the beginning as students, alumni, staff and administrators made this a priority, understanding that education today extends beyond the classroom,” David Magee said.
“I am in awe of how so many people have come together to make this dream become a reality. This center will be doing the type of work that makes a great, caring university that much stronger.”
These investments, UM leaders say, will touch the lives of countless students and drive research efforts to develop and improve best practices related to prevention and intervention. Alcohol and drug misuse is a serious concern on college campuses across the country.
The mission of the Magee Center is to advocate for well-informed, healthful choices and encourage students to strive for wellness in a positive, empowering, open and inclusive environment, said Erin Cromeans, assistant director of wellness education who has oversight of the center’s daily operations.
“I think students are primed and ready and interested to see what the Magee Center is going to be doing, and how they are going to utilize the services,” she said.
Cromeans is excited about the new offerings available to students, such as wellness consultations and a referral process with the Counseling Center and Student Health Center.
“We will have a few different topics for our wellness consultations, including, of course, alcohol and other drugs consultations, as well as physical health, stress management and tobacco cessation,” she said. “The wellness consultations will allow us to develop an individualized plan around the topic the individual is interested in, including collaborative referral processes to campus and community partners.”
Next door to the Magee Center is the Quintin and Ginger Whitwell Family Wellness Classroom, which houses a demonstration kitchen. This classroom will be utilized in an academic capacity from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and programmed through the William Magee Center for Wellness Education in the evening so students can attend a variety of programs to gain an understanding of basic cooking skills, healthy snacks, and healthy and nutritious meal options.
The opening of the Magee Center will provide multiple opportunities and spaces for utilization by the Collegiate Recovery Community, which was founded in 2010 on the Oxford campus and can be key to academic and life achievements of undergraduate and graduate students in recovery.
“Having a space for the Collegiate Recovery Community is something that our students have asked for for years,” Cromeans said. “The Whitwell Classroom and our Mind Body Fitness Studio, as well as the William Magee Center and Will Marsalis Atrium, will be utilized for programming offerings for our CRC, including a CRC member meeting space and new 12 step recovery meetings.”
Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs, expressed appreciation to those who were instrumental in establishing the center.
“I am so excited to finally gather as a campus community with the Magee family, numerous donors and the incredible staff committed to wellness education,” she said. “I look forward to celebrating the journey to this point that has provided for the William Magee Center for Wellness Education, as well as share our vision for continued growth and impact related to reducing and, hopefully, eliminating the misuse and abuse of alcohol and other drugs.”
Efforts continue to seek additional support to sustain and enhance the program, said Brett Barefoot, senior director of development for parent and family leadership.
The William Magee Center for Wellness Education accepts gifts from individuals and organizations. Donors can mail a check, with the center’s name in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at https://give.olemiss.edu/.
For more information, contact Brett Barefoot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2711.
By Jonathan Scott