Ask Mike and James Ririe about the University of Mississippi and a deep affinity for their alma mater will be instantly apparent.
The brothers say their student experience at Ole Miss was life changing, giving them a foundation for long-term professional success. Now they hope a scholarship their parents established will help recruit other St. Louis, Missouri, students to campus and offer them a similarly transformative experience.
“Growing up in St. Louis, all you hear about is Mizzou. That’s just how it was when I was in high school. If I hadn’t lucked out and gone with my dad to Ole Miss my junior year of high school, I would have missed out on everything that is Ole Miss,” said Mike Ririe, now of Chicago, Illinois. “This gift can help share the Ole Miss experience with new generations of St. Louis natives. What more could an alum ask for?”
The brothers’ parents, Scott and Shelley Ririe of St. Louis, recently added $300,000 to the Ririe Family Scholarship Endowment they established in 2018. The scholarship awards $6,000 a year for up to eight semesters to St. Louis freshmen in the School of Business Administration. The Riries’ additional gift increased the number of available scholarships from two to four.
Neither parent attended Ole Miss, but they donate to the university because their sons’ love for their alma mater was contagious. Interestingly, neither son grew up with UM on their radar.
“My dad brought me down for a home game against LSU with one of his clients. I was absolutely blown away by the Grove, campus, the culture and the people,” said Mike Ririe who graduated from Ole Miss in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “His client’s children were students and showed me around the Grove, a little bit of campus and I was hooked. I did not bother applying anywhere else — Ole Miss was for me.
“Ole Miss had more of an impact on who I am today than anything I have ever done in my life. I met my fiancé there, made lifelong friends and still visit as often as I can for football and baseball games.”
James Ririe, a 2020 business school graduate and current graduate student, had a similar first impression during his visit to campus.
“Ole Miss was the last visit I made when I was in high school,” he said. “What stood out to me the most was seeing the school spirit exhibited by all of the students! Every person I walked past while I was touring was wearing Ole Miss gear.
“On top of this I was blown away by the beauty of the campus and how nice everyone was. We were originally lost trying to find where to start our tour and were happily helped by administrators who showed us where to go.”
In return, the Riries are giving back.
Laura Vanlandingham, a management major from St. Louis, is one of their scholars, and her gratitude is evident.
“I know that as an out-of-state student, one of my first worries was, ‘Where am I going to get money for my education?’ With scholarships like this, I’ve been able to fully immerse myself in what it means to be an Ole Miss student,” she said.
“That means getting involved in and outside of the classroom. I’ve been able to focus on my school work and join leadership organizations across the campus and within the business school to really leave an impact on the school and learn what it means to leave an impact on the world.”
UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce said gifts that fund scholarships are among the most meaningful support donors can provide. In a video produced in response to their gift, the chancellor addressed the Riries directly:
“We are deeply grateful that you have chosen to increase the Ririe Family Scholarship Endowment. Your scholarships will transform the lives of Ole Miss students in countless ways for years to come,” he said. “Thank you for your very generous support of our School of Business Administration and for your additional gifts and enthusiasm for Ole Miss Athletics.”
Business Dean Ken Cyree expressed similar gratitude.
“We are so pleased and honored that Scott and Shelley would support us, especially not being alumni of the University of Mississippi,” he said. “It’s very touching to me to know that they contributed because they felt so impressed by their sons’ experience here.”
In 2020, the Riries also made a $250,000 gift to the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss Athletics, which bolsters facilities and programs for student-athletes. In recognition, Gate 7 of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was named the Ririe Family Gate.
“Ole Miss means the world to my family and myself,” James Ririe said. “It has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the country with whom I would have never built a relationship otherwise. Meeting these people has allowed me to travel and see different parts of the country and appreciate everything they have to offer.
“I hope my parents’ gift will allow future students to realize how blessed they are to attend Ole Miss,” he continued. “I also hope it makes them want to give back to a university that has given, and will continue to give, so much to its students.”
To make a gift to the Ririe Family Scholarship Endowment, benefiting School of Business Administration students, click here.
For more information, contact Brett Barefoot, senior director of development, Parent and Family Leadership, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2711.
By Bill Dabney