University of Mississippi alumnus Bill Fry believes great teachers help nurture and develop great students and leaders.
Fry, who earned his bachelor’s degree in public administration from Ole Miss in 1980, and his wife, Lee Anne, designated $1.5 million of their estate as a planned gift that will seed the Bill and Lee Anne Fry Chair in Business Administration Endowment.
The endowment will provide income for the recruitment and/or retention of an outstanding faculty member in the School of Business Administration to ensure that quality teaching, research and service will be available for future generations of Ole Miss students.
“We are grateful for the generosity of the Fry family and how their gift will create new educational opportunities for our business students,” said Chancellor Glenn Boyce. “It’s always inspiring when alumni give back because of how their degree and experiences at this university contributed to their successes. This commitment and support will help us build on the standard of excellence expected of our Business School graduates.”
Income from the endowment will be used to provide salary supplements that would support the appointment of a nationally recognized scholar in the areas of strategy, leadership, operations and marketing or other support deemed appropriate by the dean.
“Lee Anne and I know that one great professor impacts so many lives,” Fry said. “This endowed chair is a way to help generations of students who will learn from the educator named to it. We hope our children will one day read success stories about this chair holder’s students.”
Inducted in 2012 into the Ole Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame, Fry himself is a UM success story. He earned a master’s degree from Harvard Business School in 1990. Between undergraduate and graduate schools, he spent eight years in the U.S. Navy, last serving as a lieutenant in the Nuclear Propulsion Program.
Fry joined American Securities in 2010 as one of the company’s first seven partners. American Securities is a New York-based private equity fund with $30 billion under management. Previously, he was CEO of the Oreck Corp. and has also helmed several entities owned by various private equity firms and public companies, holding positions as president of the Dixie Group, CEO of Bell Sports and Bell Riddell, and president of Easton Bell Sports.
“Lee Anne and I understand from experience the value of great teachers as instructors, mentors and friends,” Fry said. “In our own lives, Dr. Vaughn Grisham has served in that role since I graduated. There are likely thousands of untold stories regarding the tremendous impact great professors have on students.”
Grisham and Fry have kept in touch through the years and are now close friends.
“Bill is simply brilliant. And he’s not just brilliant, but he’s just a fine human being too,” Grisham said. “I make a special effort to try to get to know all of my students well, and there’s no question that Bill was just a special student.”
Fry’s involvement as an active member of the School of Business Administration advisory board for more than 15 years has enabled him to develop close relationships with Dean Ken Cyree and a number of professors.
“In speaking with Ken, we understand that our business school needs chairs to deliver our mission,” Fry said, explaining that UM has 5 chairs in business compared to 17 chairs at LSU, for example. “Endowed chairs will enhance the dean’s ability to recruit great talent in the areas of teaching and research and will help Ole Miss continue to be a leader in business education.”
Cyree commended the Frys for their forethought in including the School of Business Administration in their estate plans.
“This generous gift from Bill and Lee Anne shows their commitment to higher education and the School of Business. Their foresight will allow us to hire and retain outstanding faculty, and we are so grateful for their support,” Cyree said. “Bill has had an outstanding career, thanks in part to the instruction he received at Ole Miss, and we know this gift will create educational opportunities so that our future students will have a similar experience.”
Denson Hollis, executive director of principal gifts, has known the Frys since their chance meeting at the 2010 Cotton Bowl. They have since become great friends.
Hollis said he admires the Frys for their willingness to give so much of their time and resources to Ole Miss.
“I’ve gotten to know Bill and Lee Anne personally, and they are as passionate about Ole Miss as anyone I have met in my career,” he said. “Bill’s years of service on the advisory board and now this wonderful gift to the School of Business Administration clearly show they’re committed to giving their time and resources to benefit our university.”
The Frys’ commitment to students is evident every time a UM graduate wants to work in New York City, their current residence.
“We try to help each student with advice and introductions and we challenge them to reach out and support other Ole Miss students with similar desires,” Fry said. “Additionally, many of these students have become good friends through our mutual participation in the New York Ole Miss Alumni Club.”
As an undergraduate, Fry was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and the Navy ROTC. Lee Anne Fry is a graduate of Auburn University and worked for the CIA in Washington, D.C., where they met. They have two grown children.
The Bill and Lee Anne Fry Chair in Business Administration Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the endowment’s name noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or visit https://give.olemiss.edu.
For more information on how your support can strengthen an academic area of Ole Miss, contact Denson Hollis, executive director of development for principal gifts, at 662-915-5092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on including Ole Miss in estate plans, contact Daniel K. Wiseman, CFRE, senior director of gift planning, at 662-915-7601 or email@example.com.
By Bill Dabney