Sam Millette understands that, for Ole Miss Athletics to be competitive, it must continually improve, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic that left most collegiate sports programs struggling financially.
He and his wife, Lynne, also understand those improvements — along with a return to a program’s peak success — can be realized with the generous support of the Rebels’ loyal fans.
“The crisis’ effect on the university will be minimized if all alumni and friends will consider contributing as they have faithfully done throughout these many years,” said Millette, a 1975 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration and Destin, Florida, resident.
“Our alumni and friends are notable for their love for Ole Miss and the university. I am confident everyone will step up in this instance.”
The Millettes are leading the way. Their recent $2 million gift to Ole Miss Athletics will support Manning Center improvements while also honoring their family by naming the Rebel tunnel at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“Sam and Lynne’s tremendously generous gift proves the passionate support of our Ole Miss family and comes at a pivotal time for Ole Miss Athletics and our university. We are extremely grateful for their support and for leading the way through their philanthropic generosity,” said Chancellor Glenn Boyce.
“It’s our pleasure to publicly thank the Millette family for this selfless act and their generations of support.”
While humbled by the naming, Millette said he enjoys knowing his family members will appreciate the honor for years to come.
The Sam Millette Family Tunnel opens at the stadium’s southwest end and is the portal through which the football team enters the field amid intense fanfare on game days. At its mouth stands the bust of Rebel legend Chucky Mullins — a talisman of sorts for the student-athletes who rub the statue for luck as they pass by.
“This is where the energy happens; it’s where the players get psyched up for the game ahead; it’s where the fans first see the team and then cheer them into the arena. The Millette name will be right there — a part of all that excitement,” said Jordie Kindervater, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation associate director for development. “We are extremely grateful for this gift and all that it will help us accomplish on behalf of our student-athletes.”
Donor support has been crucial to the completion of a number of projects for Ole Miss Athletics. Among these are construction of The Pavilion at Ole Miss, enhancements of the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center, expansions of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with new suites and a field club, newly constructed football practice fields, renovations to the Gillom Athletics Performance Center for Women’s Sports, development of the Jake Gibbs Letterwinners Walk in the North End Zone Plaza, expansion of the Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field, creation of the Tosh Family Short Course at the Ole Miss Golf Course and building the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center.
“Improvements like these help Ole Miss produce winning teams, and winning seasons facilitate more and larger contributions to the university and community as a whole,” said Fowler Staines, OMAF chief executive officer and chief financial officer.
Millette understands that too.
“It has always been my view that academics and athletics go hand in hand,” he said. “I hope this gift might encourage others to contribute toward the goal of maintaining top-notch facilities to help Ole Miss win championships, grow the student body and assist with the Oxford and Lafayette County economy.”
The Millettes are life members of the Ole Miss Alumni Association; Lynne, a 1975 UM liberal arts graduate, is a past board member. Both are charter members of the Vaught Society and members of the Lyceum Society. Additionally, Sam Millette is a member of the UM School of Law’s Lamar Order. Their children are UM graduates Martin (and Clare Smith) Millette and Lindsey Millette Bryant. Lindsey and husband, Brett, have two children, Adelaide and Bennett.
With a previous gift, the couple established the Samuel M. Millette Faculty Support Endowment in Business, which provides funds to support and expand the School of Business Administration by enabling the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty. Endowment income is used to support salaries, research and creative activity, programs and other faculty needs.
“That gift was to honor my dad, who generously paid for my education in the ‘B School’ even though I had not decided to be a serious student until I entered law school years later,” Sam Millette said. “I believe in giving back to God and to others for the education and opportunities afforded to me over the years. I believe it is a responsibility we all share.
“If not for my educational experience at Ole Miss, I doubt that I could have successfully attained a law degree,” he continued. “And without these educational opportunities, I would not have been in the position to contribute in this manner.”
By Bill Dabney