On a breezy Friday afternoon, the University of Mississippi’s Pride of the South Marching Band members finished the day’s rehearsal and then gathered close to shout in unison: “Thank you, Helen!”
Watching the students from a hill nearby, Helen Overstreet beamed in response. The 1981 UM alumna and avid band fan has committed $100,000 toward the proposed band practice field renovation, in addition to $100,000 to the Patterson School of Accountancy’s new home – bringing her support of the university to more than $1 million.
To honor her gift and memorialize her late husband, who played trumpet in the band as an Ole Miss student, the Helen and Mike Overstreet Observation Deck will be constructed at the north end of the practice area and will serve as a teaching lab for aspiring band directors as well as choreographers and musicians. It also will provide seating where alumni and community members can enjoy watching the practice performances.
Nancy Maria Balach, chair of the UM Department of Music, praised the donor.
“Helen Overstreet has made a gift that will have a tremendous impact on our project to renovate and expand the Pride of the South Marching Band’s practice facility. Our gratitude runs deep for this exceptional alumna’s generosity that pays tribute to the great love of music she shared with her husband,” Balach said.
“We love that Helen recognizes the extraordinary efforts of Ole Miss students who participate in the Pride of the South, dedicating hours and hours of their time to their craft and practicing and performing in all kinds of weather. The band’s vibrant music is the centerpiece of some of our most celebrated traditions on this campus, and we must provide the practice facility the band deserves.”
In addition to her latest gift, among several endowments Overstreet established at the couple’s alma mater are the Mike Overstreet Memorial Band Scholarship and Jazz Scholarship endowments. Thanks to a band scholarship, Mike Overstreet was able to attend Ole Miss, participating in the marching band and Jazz Ensemble throughout his undergraduate years.
The 1970 UM alumnus and Oxford, Mississippi, resident was a businessman and health care administrator who pursued his interest and passion for music all his life. The Overstreets kept an apartment in Manhattan, New York, to enjoy the Lincoln Center and other iconic music venues.
“There are many stories to be told about our life together and most center around Ole Miss — and many of them focus on music,” said Helen Overstreet, who shared in her husband’s business interests and now oversees their companies. “Ole Miss made such an impact on our lives and supporting it is a way of acknowledging all our university has done for us.
“Our businesses have continued to thrive even through COVID-19, and I am so grateful for the business and accountancy education we both received that prepared us well to achieve our goals. That’s why part of this recent gift is directed to the new home for accountancy.”
Helen Overstreet has directed support to a number of areas, including the Patterson School of Accountancy, School of Business Administration, Ole Miss Athletics, University Museum and Historic Houses, University Police Department, Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Department of Music. But for this donor music-related giving is always a priority.
“We are extremely grateful to Helen Overstreet for her generous gift to the UM Band. We need many things, but the practice field renovation is the most costly at $3.5 million,” said Randy Dale, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands.
The 300-member Pride of the South Marching Band rehearses eight to 10 hours a week on a field that is not optimal. Renovation plans call for expanding the field from 80 yards to the regulation 120 yards; installing synthetic turf and lighting; and building the observation deck, director’s tower, restroom facilities, access ramps and sidewalks.
“Helen’s gift will be part of the funds that give our band members the practice facility that they so badly need and deserve. When the work is completed, our facility will finally be on par with other band practice facilities in the SEC,” Dale said.
The Pride of the South Marching Band has delivered memorable performances in concerts and at athletic events since it organized in 1928. In addition to performing at all home and some away football games, the Pride of the South performs at bowl games and in parades.
“As a former music student, I am grateful to Helen for showing true leadership in supporting our young artists and future music educators,” said Brady Bramlett, an associate director in the Office of Development. “There is an urgent need for extensive work on this facility, and I encourage others to step up with support. Gifts of all sizes will combine to continue moving this project forward.
“Helen’s commitment to Ole Miss inspires me every day to continue the pursuit of enhancing the Ole Miss student experience at Ole Miss and the UM Department of Music.”
Overstreet’s new gifts are part of Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss, a historic comprehensive campaign to raise $1.5 billion and strengthen the university for generations to come.
Mike Overstreet’s career centered on real estate and long-term care facility industries, and he served in various leadership roles in the Mississippi Nursing Home Association. The Overstreet family includes daughters Marion McAbee and her husband, Jeff, of Broomfield, Colorado; Ruth Buss and her husband, Josh, of Neenah, Wisconsin, and Rebecca Cornelius Anderson and her husband, Derek, of Oxford; and son Rob Cornelius of Portland, Oregon. Another daughter, Katherine Overstreet Logan, passed away.
One of the grandchildren, Vaiden Logan, a student at the University of Kentucky, is carrying on his grandfather’s love of music. He is a jazz artist and a classical pianist and guitarist.
To contribute to the ongoing Pride of the South’s field renovation campaign, send a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation with the project written in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or give online at https://nowandever.olemiss.edu. For more information, contact Brady Bramlett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-3081.
By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development