Teaching and learning were Dorothy Wayne Blackwell’s lifelong passions.
The daughter of educators, it came as no surprise that Blackwell pursued a teaching career. Neither was it a surprise that she ultimately chose to leave an estate gift of more than $153,000 to the University of Mississippi School of Education, where she earned a master’s degree in special education.
R. Vance Blackwell of Paris, Kentucky, the nephew of Dorothy Blackwell, said the estate gift, directed largely to scholarship support, “made perfect sense.”
“Her life was one of servitude, gifting others with the skills necessary to take the next steps in life. If she could help others realize their potential and financial hardships were a roadblock, she would want to remove such barriers,” he said.
“Education, especially at the primary and secondary level, does not provide the financial rewards that other careers offer, making the repayment of student loans a true hardship. It would be our family’s hope that her gift could be used to help reduce the burdens of education loans,” Blackwell said.
Dorothy Blackwell’s teaching career spanned over three decades, primarily in Mississippi and within the Miami Dade County Public School system in south Florida, teaching students with learning disabilities.
When she retired from teaching, Blackwell moved to Tupelo, Mississippi. Ever the student, Blackwell continued to take courses at Itawamba Community College. During the process of sorting through her household affairs after she passed away, a two-inch-thick stack of completion certificates from the community college was discovered, spanning her retirement. She also took every opportunity to travel with the community college, friends and family.
Blackwell passed away in September 2021 at the age of 92.
“The School of Education is deeply grateful for this meaningful gift from Dorothy Blackwell, who was an exemplary teacher and learner,” said David Rock, dean of UM’s School of Education. “We are inspired by her career and life and know that our students will be also.
“The return on her investment in the School of Education will be significant, as our students are assisted in their degree pursuits and then go out and transform their students’ lives. The portion of her gift directed to our school’s greatest needs will strengthen our ability to offer enriching educational opportunities that prepare students for fulfilling careers as educators and administrators.”
More than $78,000 of Blackwell’s gift to Ole Miss is designated for the Transfer to Teach Endowment, which will award scholarships to full-time transfer students from one of the state’s 15 community colleges who are rising juniors in the Ole Miss School of Education. Recipients may retain the scholarship for up to four semesters provided they remain in good academic standing.
In return for the scholarship support, recipients must agree to teach at a Mississippi public school for no less than three years following graduation. The beginning of this service can be delayed allowing for a recipient’s participation in graduate school.
The Transfer to Teach Endowment can also provide funds for the Study USA/Off-Campus Learning Experience, travel to attend national or regional conferences, technological support, a mentoring program and/or career incentives.
When asked what he would like future recipients of the scholarship to know about Dorothy Blackwell, Vance Blackwell said, “Dorothy was dedicated to education, both from the standpoint of teaching and her own personal desire for lifelong learning.”
He added that her interests were numerous: music, history, culture, travel, the arts and teddy bears, of which she had a large collection.
Another $50,000 of her gift is directed to the Education Academic Enhancement Endowment, which provides funds for the School of Education to address needs.
The remaining $25,000 goes to the Education Equity Undergraduate Scholarship Endowment, which will award scholarships to incoming undergraduate and transfer students. Recipients will be full-time School of Education students who demonstrate a commitment to racial equity in education and contribute to the diversity of the school’s student population. First preference will be given to those students who have a commitment to teach in Mississippi public schools.
Dorothy Blackwell’s family discovered a quote posted by Emory University among her belongings and said the educator personified the statement: “Teaching and knowledge, and experience or practice, though different from each other, are inextricably linked by a mutualistic relationship.”
“She was ravenously curious, and when the decision was made to pursue a skillset, her first steps were always to gain the requisite knowledge,” her family members said.
After graduation from Plantersville Consolidated High School in Plantersville, Mississippi, Blackwell received a bachelor’s degree in education from Blue Mountain College before going on to Ole Miss for a master’s degree in 1958.
“Dorothy loved the traditions and culture of Ole Miss,” said Vance Blackwell. “Both she and her brother were Ole Miss alumni and they often spoke of the lively nature of life on the Ole Miss campus. I did not attend Ole Miss but know numerous alumni, so I would say it is obviously an experience that remains with one for life.”
The three endowments are open to accept gifts from individuals and organizations. Gifts can be made by writing the fund’s name in the check’s memo line and sending to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS; or online at Transfer to Teach Endowment, Education Academic Enhancement Endowment or the Education Equity Undergraduate Scholarship Endowment.
For more information on supporting the UM School of Education, contact Kelly Smith Marion, associate director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2007.
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