Private support to the University of Mississippi during fiscal year 2020 soared to more than $127.2 million, up 26 percent from the previous fiscal year, despite challenges brought on by a global pandemic.
More than 22,000 alumni and friends supported academics, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Ole Miss athletics, with 3,441 new donors. Donor counts by generation show that baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) made the most gifts, and Generation X (born 1965 to 1980) came in second. The average gift was $2,300, up from $1,600 in FY19.
For the ninth consecutive year, private support exceeded $100 million, signaling that alumni and friends believe Ole Miss students, programs and state-of-the-art facilities are worthy of major investments, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.
“We are humbled and inspired by the generosity of our donors and are truly thankful for their investments in our students, programs and faculty,” he said. “We recognize that the decision to give during these uncertain economic times can be a difficult decision and we are extremely grateful to each of you for entrusting us with your valuable resources.
“During these most challenging of times, our flagship university is moving forward with exceptional preparation of students while also expanding our research capacity and working tirelessly to serve our state. The phenomenal support of alumni and university friends play a critical role in pushing our future forward.”
The largest FY20 gifts to the Oxford campus included $26 million from brothers and businessmen Jim and Thomas Duff, of Hattiesburg, toward the construction of the Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation. A $3.3 million planned gift was committed to School of Law scholarships by an anonymous donor, and a $3 million gift from New England-based Reba and Dave Williams will move the Willie Morris Awards for Southern Writing from New York to the Oxford campus.
“Donors give back to our beloved Ole Miss because they believe in our mission of transforming lives to build a better world through education,” Boyce said. “They care deeply about the success of our students and are ensuring that students have enriching opportunities and experiences that are meaningful and life-changing.”
UMMC benefited from a number of $1 million-and-above gifts for the Children’s Campaign of Mississippi, which is dramatically expanding pediatric clinics and the Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the state. Among those donors were the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund, of McComb; and Friends of Children’s Hospital and Century Club Charities, of Jackson.
Alumni and friends also responded to needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
“We are so grateful for the people and organizations who provide financial support for our work at the Medical Center,” Woodward said. “Your continuing gifts for our new Children’s of Mississippi patient care tower, scheduled to open this November, are answering a huge unmet need for a facility that matches the quality of our pediatric teams.
“During this extraordinary year of the pandemic, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for our front-line health care heroes. From hand-sewn masks to homemade meals to financial assistance for our research on effective therapies against the virus, your support buoyed our spirits and made a daunting task more bearable. Thank you.”
The university also launched an online campaign to respond to student needs on the Oxford campus created by COVID-19, establishing a relief fund for students and student services, with hundreds of alumni and friends contributing $220,000 in gifts. In addition to individual students, the funds supported the Ole Miss Food Bank, Student Emergency Fund, University Counseling Center, University Health Services and Fins Up, the latter for student-athletes.
“We owe an extreme debt of gratitude to the thousands of donors who stepped in when our students were impacted by COVID-19 and offered their support so students could pay for medications, groceries, rent and so many other critical necessities of life,” Boyce said. “Your support was felt immediately, and the impact on our students was immeasurable.”
Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, spoke to the meaningful support.
“Our alumni and friends constantly inspire us as their generosity allows us to offer top-tier educational opportunities,” she said. “We are committed to ensuring that every member of our UM community can access the resources they need to thrive.”
Part of the overall FY20 gifts came through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The Hearin Foundation, of Jackson, invested $11.2 million in the School of Education’s Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, which recruits top-performing students with full scholarships and professional incentives into an honors college-style learning experience. Scholars make commitments to teach in Mississippi communities for five years after graduation.
Another example of this support was a gift from the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Education Fund, providing more than $972,000 to the Croft Institute for International Studies – a program boasting a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to give students the tools to meet America’s global challenges in the 21st century.
The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics also welcomed continued private giving in a year that saw spring sports unable to complete seasons due to the global pandemic.
“In the midst of one of the most challenging years in our nation’s recent history, the Ole Miss family has shown the strength of its generosity and its love for our great university,” said Keith Carter, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics. “The financial issues we are all facing are unprecedented, and it is only with the support of our outstanding donors that we can maintain our student experience and compete at a championship level.
“We are beyond grateful for the passion of our alumni and friends, and during these uncertain times, we will continue to be fiscally responsible while ensuring a safe environment for our campus community.”
Suzan Thames, of Jackson – chair of the UM Foundation board of directors, an Ole Miss alumna and longtime UMMC volunteer fundraiser – said she is heartened to see donors providing strong support, particularly in the face of a pandemic.
“Our alumni and friends always step up when needed,” she said. “We can trust in their interest and support of our university, students, academic community, athletic programs and our Medical Center; they can trust us to be good stewards of the resources they provide.
“There is no limit to the University of Mississippi’s achievements with this kind of support from alumni and friends. We are grateful beyond words.”
To learn about and support UM programs, students, faculty, staff and needs, visit https://give.olemiss.edu. To read stories about donors and their gifts and experiences, visit https://www.umfoundation.com.
By Tina H. Hahn