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Generous Gift Made to UM Performing Arts Center’s Campaign
UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat, far left, talks with some of the guests he hosted in his home recently to promote the Celebrating the Arts campaign to boost the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts endowment. President of the Ford Foundation Cheryle Sims, seated at center, presented a $75,000 check for the endowment during the event.

A new Walk of Fame for supporters of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts provides a path to the successful conclusion of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, funding a $3 million endowment for the University of Mississippi facility.

“The magnificent Ford Center reflects our commitment to the cultural arts and provides a space where the performing arts can inspire, motivate, connect, illuminate and broaden an individual’s life,” said Chancellor Emeritus Robert C. Khayat, who recently hosted a small gathering of Ford Center supporters in his home.

“However, this facility relies upon private contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and businesses to sustain operations and programming,” he said. “By reaching our $3 million endowment goal, we will ensure that our performing arts center will continue to offer the highest quality live shows and artists in the region.”

Cheryle Sims, president of the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation Board, surprised the group at Khayat’s home by presenting a $75,000 gift from the foundation to the endowment.

Details about the Ford Center Walk of Fame, a new fundraising initiative, were also announced by Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director and a UM associate professor of music.

The Walk of Fame will honor generous donors who provide $100,000 to the endowment. Supporters’ names will be inscribed on stars that will be permanently displayed between the columns at the Ford Center entrance, Aubrey said.

“These stars will greet theater-goers for generations and remind us of those whose enormous generosity provided the financial resources to continue hosting large-scale national touring musicals, as well as smaller, family-friendly shows and even the local productions that feature our students and members of the community.”

The campaign now has to raise less than $1 million to reach its goal thanks to the numerous gifts, large and small, that have been made since the Celebrating the Arts initiative was announced last year.

The Ford Foundation’s gift was the latest made by board members who are committed to ensuring the Ford Center remains the focal point for the performing arts at Ole Miss and the region, Sims said.

“This capital campaign is just the beginning,” she said. “Ongoing private support is crucial to the continued success of the Ford Center, and we, as members of the foundation board, encourage everyone who enjoys and appreciates the arts to show their support with a gift of any size.

“The arts are a vital part of our vibrant campus and surrounding area, and your support is essential to ensure that you, your friends, family and neighbors can continue to enjoy all the benefits that come with a thriving creative community.”

In addition to the Walk of Fame, other opportunities to support giving have been created as part of the Celebrating the Arts campaign.

A large, bronze tree sculpture, commissioned from the Sanford Werfel Studio and hand carved by artist Richard Teller, was unveiled earlier this year in the Ford Center lobby. Donor names have been engraved on parts of the tree, with spaces available for future donors.

Those interested in contributing to the campaign can choose from several giving levels. Nestled among the trees are boughs (gifts of $20,000, $25,000 or $30,000) and on the ground ensuring future trees, golden acorns (gifts of $10,000). In the engraver’s brass gold are also leaves (gifts of $1,000). When a gift is made, the Ford Center sends the donor a form with instructions for personalizing the bough, acorn or leaf.

To make a gift to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, send a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Ford Center noted in the check’s memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at

For information on supporting the Ford Center, including through the Walk of Fame, contact Rob Jolly at or 662-915-3085.

By Jonathan Scott


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.