Olen and Janet Akers of Dunwoody, Georgia, are supporting the Patterson School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi while enjoying income from their investment.
With the residual of a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT), the donors are establishing the Olen S. and Janet T. Akers Patterson School of Accountancy Endowment.
The CRUT was established with $320,000 which will ultimately benefit the School of Accountancy Building Fund.
“The building is going to be beautiful and it’s exciting because it’s being constructed at the best location on campus (at the corner of Grove Loop and University Avenue),” Olen Akers said. “When we were shown the plans a couple years ago, we thought it would be something we wanted to a part of by helping it become a reality.
“Recently, we decided we wanted to start making contributions annually instead of when we’re gone,” he continued. “So, I looked at the CRUT as a way to make contributions and receive benefits from it, including tax benefits and some retirement income.”
A CRUT is a planned-giving tool that generates income for donors, while providing a charitable tax deduction and an opportunity to offset capital gains taxes that could make selling some appreciated assets cost-prohibitive.
“There are many ways to make a gift to the University of Mississippi Foundation, and a CRUT allows donors to receive payments to help preserve their quality of life,” said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. “Income from these gifts can be spread across multiple lives, a set term of years, or in some cases, both.
“Upon the termination of the trust, whatever remains then reverts to the UM Foundation, allowing donors to impact future generations. These trusts can be set up to establish permanent endowments for scholarships, faculty support, athletics or any other area of campus.”
Olen Akers is a 1963 UM graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an emphasis in accountancy, having studied under renowned Professor Gene Peery.
“I have always been very appreciative of the education I received and the opportunity I had, which was beneficial to me and my career,” Akers said. “That was our motivation for making an initial commitment to the Patterson School, which we’ve done, and we will continue to make additional commitments.
“I hope our gift and many others like it will expedite the approval and start of construction so it can be enjoyed and provide a dedicated place for our students in accountancy,” he continued. “We already have a great accountancy school, and I think this will make it even better.”
Patterson School programs have been ranked in the top 20 in the nation by the Public Accounting Report each year since 2008. Earlier this year, Big4AccountingFirms.org released a list of the “50 Best Accounting Schools in the USA,” and the Patterson School was ranked No. 8 nationally and No. 1 in the SEC. During the 2020-2021 academic year, the school granted a record 588 degrees — with 253 of those being master’s degrees.
Dean Mark Wilder expressed his appreciation for the Akers’ gift.
“We are grateful for all that Olen and Jan have done for us over a long period of time,” he said.
“Our new building is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It will easily be the finest stand-alone accountancy building nationally. It will be in a premier location on campus, and we believe it will provide our school an opportunity to become the No. 1 accounting program in the nation,” the dean continued. “We greatly appreciate the Akers’ generous support of this truly transformational opportunity for the Patterson School.”
At Ole Miss, Olen Akers was a member of Beta Alpha Psi accountancy honor society, Sigma Chi fraternity, Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society and Delta Sigma Pi professional business fraternity.
Prior to graduating, he served a five-year stint in the U.S Marine Corps before returning to Ole Miss to complete his degree.
After graduation, he accepted a position with accounting firm Arthur Andersen in Houston, Texas, for two years before joining the company that would become the UNISYS Corp. There, he worked in marketing and management primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, but also for 13 years in Washington, D.C., with the UNISYS division that handled customers in the U.S. government. He retired in 1998 to spend time traveling, playing golf and attending Rebel football games.
In 2020, the Akers gave $40,000 to help construct McCormick’s Grill within The Inn at Ole Miss and in 2017, their $40,000 gift helped underwrite an addition to the Triplett Alumni Center. Through their 40-year marriage, the Akers have contributed thousands to the School of Accountancy and to the Vaught Society, the primary fundraising association of Ole Miss Athletics. They have likewise supported a myriad of scholarships.
“The one thing I always say to people is, ‘I believe in Ole Miss,’” Jan Akers said. “We’re continually trying to recruit our neighbor’s grandchildren and our nieces and nephews. I’ll say if they ever go on campus at Ole Miss, they’ll never go anyplace else.”
The Akers are life members of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. Olen Akers has served on the Alumni Association board of directors and for eight years as president of the Atlanta Alumni Club.
The Olen S. and Janet T. Akers Patterson School of Accountancy Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks may be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the endowment noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts can also be made online by visiting https://give.olemiss.edu.
For more information on including Ole Miss in estate plans, contact Anna Langley, vice president of the UM Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-5944.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation