Inspirational ideas, fresh perspectives and unique insights will be shared with University of Mississippi students and the larger community as a result of the new Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series, which officially launches this fall by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC).
By bringing renowned cross-cultural leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to the Oxford campus, the Khayat Lecture Series creates opportunities for these speakers to share their ideas and experiences and “cultivate a more expansive mindset” among students and other community members, said Karen Moore of Nashville, Tennessee, a UM alumna and member and OMWC active member and former chair.
“The Ole Miss Women’s Council wants students to view the world through a more philanthropic lens,” Moore said. “The speakers we will host will hopefully inspire students and other audience members through thought-provoking topics and conversations about societal needs.”
Details of the first lecture for the UM community, set for Nov. 2, will be announced soon. Those invited to appear in the series will share their knowledge of a particular topic, their unique experiences and, perhaps, reflect on the OMWC’s philanthropic nature.
“The council’s mission is to create caring and ethical leaders who, ultimately, will be change agents helping to accomplish this goal,” added OMWC chair Liz Randall.
“With the addition of the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series, we will have a world-class series securing incredible personalities to speak on campus for the benefit of our OMWC scholars and all UM students, as well as all segments of the university, which include our faculty, staff and the community,” she said.
Given the noble purpose of the lecture series, the organizers unanimously agreed to name the initiative in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Robert C. Khayat. Khayat was UM chancellor when Ellen Rolfes, an academic fundraiser for the university, developed the idea for the OMWC and worked closely with him and Vice Chancellor Emerita Gloria Kellum to launch the celebrated scholarship program.
Khayat continues to be a source of support and encouragement to the council, calling its scholarships some of the most “innovative in the nation.”
“The three primary components of the OMWC program are leadership, mentorship and philanthropy,” Moore said. “No one better exemplifies these attributes than Robert Khayat.”
While he is “enormously grateful” for the honor, Khayat said, “The true honorees are those who support the university’s students, fund scholarships and work so hard to ensure tomorrow is even better than today.”
“Creating a lecture series aimed at improving the lives of others is reflective of all the efforts of this phenomenal organization,” he continued. “What the Women’s Council has become is truly remarkable. The women who organized it are still active; the program has grown; the endowment has grown and the success has been exceptional.”
The Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series was first announced at a recent OMWC event featuring a conversation with Amy Grant, the Nashville-based singer, songwriter and musician.
“Amy is an amazing speaker and she has experienced so many of life’s opportunities as a singer, songwriter, artist, actor and author,” Moore said. “She shared stories that exposed our students to a wide variety of ideas and personal experiences – some were awe-inspiring and others were humorous. But all her stories offered our scholars a glimpse into a world they had probably never seen but can now imagine.”
Due to health and safety protocols established as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Amy Grant event was restricted to a small, invitation-only audience at The Lyric in Oxford. The success of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaign is expected to allow future speakers to share their inspirational stories to a wider audience in a larger venue.
The Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series is part of the OMWC’s Global Leadership Circle, an international studies and internship initiative. While the GLC raises funds to enable students to expand their horizons by studying abroad and obtaining rewarding national and international internships, the lecture series is a way to bring similar experiences to community members who may not otherwise have those opportunities.
Those who want to support the series will be able to buy tickets to one lecture, a series of related speakers and/or topics, or the whole season of lectures. Additionally, the series can be supported by sponsorships or financial pledges to the program.
The OMWC was established 21 years ago. At $40,000 each, the council’s scholarships are among the largest on the Oxford campus and are defined by more than financial support. Male and female scholars develop into service-oriented citizens through career and life mentors, leadership training, and cultural and travel opportunities.
For more information or to support the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series and/or the Global Leadership Circle, contact Suzanne Helveston, development associate for the OMWC, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2956.
By Jonathan Scott