A longtime Jackson, Mississippi, physician and his wife left an estate gift of $640,000 to the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) to provide library resources, support the training of pediatricians and strengthen allergy-immunology education, patient care and research — all of which will have a long-lasting impact.
The late Dr. Wilfred Q. Cole Jr. found studying medicine to be intellectually stimulating and the “soft spot in his heart for children” led him to specialize in pediatric allergy. Gwen Cole was a faithful supporter of her husband’s medical career, which was largely spent at UMMC.
A total of $10,000 of the Cole estate gift is designated for the R. Faser Triplett Sr., MD Chair of Allergy and Immunology at UMMC, with the balance of the gift divided between endowments for the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical Center and the J.D. Williams Library on the Oxford campus.
“Part of the mission of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics is educating the next generation of pediatricians,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics. “This generous gift from Dr. and Mrs. Cole will support the work and medical education of our pediatric residents through opportunities to travel for continuing education.
“With this gift, we will be able to better invest in these trainees and encourage them to become care providers for Mississippi’s children.”
Dr. Gailen Marshall, professor of medicine and director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at UMMC, spoke to the gift to the Triplett Chair.
“I was privileged to know Dr. Triplett personally for some years before coming to UMMC. He was involved in my recruitment here.
“Through his generosity and his family’s as well as many other donors, I have been privileged to be the inaugural recipient of the R. Faser Triplett Sr., MD Chair in Allergy and Immunology. This honored position has allowed me the opportunity to continue to build excellence in training, patient care and research in allergy-immunology at UMMC for the ultimate benefit of all Mississippi citizens.”
Marshall said the gift will help strengthen the division.
“The recent generous financial gift to the Triplett Chair endowment by Dr. and Mrs. Cole will provide additional resources to expand the mission of UMMC Allergy and Immunology so vitally supported by this chair,” he said.
Dr. Cole passed away in April 2006 followed by his wife in January 2022. They were married for 57 years after meeting during their undergraduate days at Ole Miss.
“Both my parents were firm believers in higher education and giving back to their state universities and their alma mater,” said Dr. Wilfred Cole III, an allergist-immunologist in Alpharetta and Marietta, Georgia.
After Wilfred Cole Jr.’s Ole Miss graduation, he earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia. He was a veteran of World War II having served with the 69th Division, U.S. Army as a light machine gun squad leader.
Dr. Cole began his medical practice in Jackson in 1954 and became active in teaching at UMMC, where he served on the clinical staff until his retirement. He went to Duke University for an allergy fellowship and upon returning to Jackson, co-founded the Pediatric Allergy and Cystic Fibrosis clinics at UMMC.
The physician was a charter member of the Mississippi Allergy Clinic, where he was a partner with Dr. R. Faser Triplett. He was appointed to the Mississippi State Board of Health for 12 years and served as president.
Ashley Cole of Jackson shared a description of her parents: “They wanted all people to be treated fairly no matter what their background, where they lived or how much money they had. Mom and Dad enjoyed people, all kinds of people, and loved to talk, visit and listen to others from all walks of life.”
Cecilia Botero, dean of the University Libraries, also expressed appreciation for the Coles’ gift.
“We are deeply grateful for this extraordinarily generous gift. A gift of this size enables us to increase library holdings, including purchasing more e-textbooks which helps decrease our students’ expenses. In addition, it will allow us to refresh our services with cutting-edge technology,” Botero said.
Ashley Cole said the gift to the library was inspired by the important role libraries played in her family’s lives.
“The library was a huge part of our lives growing up. My mother read to us every single day, and every week we went to the library to get new books,” she said. “Early in my dad’s career, when money was tight, the library was an outing, a place to get something new and exciting.
“Before the days of computers, my father researched at the library places to travel, restaurants to try, the latest Broadway plays, city highlights and anything else he thought was important to see or do on an upcoming trip. He loved researching at the library, digging deep into topics, finding answers and solutions and comparing product reviews. My mother used the library continuously as an adult, keeping index cards of the books she read, alphabetized by author. It was quite a stack!”
Additionally, other members of the Cole family chose Ole Miss as their college home, including Dr. Cole III, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in health-related professions and a medical degree from UMMC; his brother, Dr. Craig Cole of Brandon, Mississippi, who received a bachelor’s degree in engineering before earning a medical degree from the University of Virginia; and sister, Ashley Cole, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education before pursuing a master’s degree in education from Mississippi College. Two of the Coles’ grandsons, William and Joseph Cole, also are Ole Miss alumni.
“The education I received at Ole Miss from both undergraduate and medical school was second to none,” said Dr. Cole III. “I felt fully prepared for my medical career and for life.”
Ashley Cole said, “Ole Miss taught me many things, academically and socially, that I used professionally during my 30-year teaching career. One highlight was traveling to Europe between my junior and senior years with an Ole Miss professor and several students. This wonderful experience propelled me to investigate teaching in Europe, which I did for six fantastic years in Germany.”
In addition to the field of medicine and the library, Dr. Wilfred Cole Jr. was passionate about tennis, serving as an original member of the River Hills Tennis Club and on the board of directors for the Mississippi Tennis Association. In 2001, he was inducted into the Mississippi Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Coles were lifelong members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, where they served in leadership roles.
Individuals and organizations can make gifts to either the Wilfred Q. and Gwen W. Cole Library Endowment or the Wilfred Q. and Gwen W. Cole Pediatrics Endowment by mailing a check with the fund’s name written in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at UM Library or Pediatrics.
For information on including Ole Miss in estate plans, contact Marc Littlecott, director of advancement and planned giving, at email@example.com or 662-915-1584.
By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development