Unexpected academic guidance from a University of Mississippi professor and the decades-long success of an accounting firm managed by Ole Miss alumni are among the factors driving $150,000 in recent gifts to UM that will help educators transform the lives of future students for generations.
Virgil L. “Brother” Sandifer Jr. and his recently retired business partner, Ben Sayle, at the Sayle, Sandifer & Johnson LLP, CPA firm, gave $50,000 to the Patterson School of Accountancy Building Fund.
This gift complements a recent $100,000 gift made to the same fund by Joe Macione Jr., who was Sayle and Sandifer’s partner in their Greenville, Mississippi-based accounting firm.
“Mr. Macione called me about the new accountancy school building that will be built in the near future and told me that he was making a gift,” Sandifer said. “He added that he would be honored if Mr. Sayle and I would make a gift so we could have three rooms – inscribed with our names – located adjacent to each other in the new building.”
Sayle noted that he and the firm are pleased to be able to support the accountancy school.
“I think it’s great that Sayle, Sanderson & Johnson can participate in this undertaking for the Patterson School of Accounting,” he said.
Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School of Accountancy, said, “We are grateful for the generous support, and it is wonderful to see longtime business partners Brother, Ben and Joe all have named spaces in our new Patterson School building.
“Our new building will be in one of the most high-profile locations on campus. It will help us tremendously in recruiting top talent to the school and will give us an opportunity to pursue our goal of Ole Miss being the top-ranked accountancy program in the nation,” Wilder said.
The four-story facility featuring 100,000 square feet of tiered auditoriums and classrooms, study areas, conference rooms, administrative and faculty office suites, and outdoor balconies and terraces will be constructed at the corner of University Avenue and Grove Loop, overlooking the iconic Grove.
Sandifer said he and his two former partners are thrilled to know that their support of the future home of the School of Accountancy will nurture the careers and professional relationships of accountancy majors for years to come.
“The Patterson School of Accountancy has been ranked in the top 10 in the country for a decade, and this new building will have the latest technology and numerous other amenities that will only make the Ole Miss accountancy program stronger,” Sandifer said.
“Being able to offer the best of the best because of this new facility, the university will continue to attract the best faculty, the best staff and the best students.”
The Patterson School offers a bachelor’s degree, four master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in accountancy. The master’s degrees include the traditional MACCY and MTAX as well as new master’s degrees in data analytics (Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics and Master of Taxation and Data Analytics). It is the top accounting school in the SEC and Big4AccountingFirms.org recently ranked the Ole Miss program No. 8 in the nation.
In 2021, UM granted a record number of accounting degrees — 588 — with 253 of those being master’s degrees. Over the three-year period from 2020 to 2022, eight Patterson School students earned the prestigious Elijah Watts Sells Award, the most renowned CPA-exam award worldwide. This ranks the Patterson School No. 1 in the SEC and tied for No. 4 nationally in the number of Sells awardees over the past three years.
Sandifer credits the accounting program and an exceptional professor for transforming his academic and professional careers nearly 50 years ago.
After attending Mississippi Delta Community College, formerly known as Mississippi Delta Junior College, for two years, Sandifer transferred to Ole Miss in the summer of 1975. He planned to be a general business major before going to law school.
“I took Professor Gene Peery’s Principles of Accounting class that summer and to my surprise, when I picked up the registration packet that I needed for my first fall semester of classes at Ole Miss, I noticed my major had been changed from general business to accounting.
“When I went to ask Professor Perry about my major being changed, he looked at me and said, ‘Son, anyone who makes an A in my Principles of Accounting class should be majoring in accounting.’ And that’s how I became an accounting major.”
Switching majors resulted in Sandifer being invited by Sayle and Macione to join their firm shortly after he earned an MBA degree from UM in 1979.
“I am forever grateful to Professor Peery,” Sandifer said. “I also appreciate the opportunity that Mr. Sayle and Mr. Macione gave me to be a part of their firm in Greenville, which is just about 25 miles from my hometown of Hollandale, Mississippi.
“For these reasons and many others, I am delighted to enthusiastically support the new Ole Miss accountancy building.”
Sayle, who studied accounting at UM in the 1940s, is 93 and continues to support several Ole Miss academic and athletics initiatives from his home in Greenville.
The Maciones, Sayles and Sandifers’ gifts add to the Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss, a historic fundraising initiative to secure $1.5 billion in private support to strengthen the university for generations to come.
For more information about supporting the new home of the Patterson School of Accountancy, contact Jason McCormick, director of development, at email@example.com or 662-915-1757.
By Jonathan Scott/UM Development