A scholarship endowment paying tribute to the lives of three University of Mississippi students has grown to more than $480,000, and three new recipients say they feel honored to represent the men for whom the scholarship is named.
Continuing gifts from the Kappa Alpha fraternity have expanded the Charles Walker Kelly, Samuel Clayton Kelly and Bryant Mason Wilbanks Memorial Scholarship Endowment that pays tribute to the lives of lifelong friends tragically killed in a 2011 car accident.
All natives of Madison, Mississippi, the friends graduated together from Madison Central High School, attended Broadmoor Baptist Church, enrolled in Ole Miss and pledged the same fraternity. Now their legacies are kept alive by fellow KA brothers who receive the annual scholarship awards.
This year’s recipients of the $5,000 scholarships are Hays Larson and Dan Shell, both of Oxford, Mississippi, and Cade Falgout of Madison.
“Our sons were great young men who understood the values KA stands for and tried every day to be good models of those. So it’s our pleasure to give back to the members through scholarships in memory of our boys; KA meant so much to them,” said Sam Kelly, father of Sam Clayton Kelly. “Even though their time in the chapter was very short, it was extremely meaningful. As parents, we’re very grateful for that.”
Alumni advisors of the KA’s Alpha Upsilon chapter and UM’s scholarship committee work together to select recipients. The award is based on a number of criteria, including financial need, leadership and academic performance.
“At our son’s celebration of life service in Madison, the one thing we’ll always remember is his pledge brothers up in the choir loft and then walking out of the church through all the KA pledges lined up,” said Ken Wilbanks, father of Mason Wilbanks. “We’re very thankful for everybody in Kappa Alpha and for what this scholarship is doing.”
Falgout, a sophomore finance major and computer science minor who hopes to have a career in wealth management, expressed gratitude for the award.
“I am very honored and blessed to receive the Kelly Kelly Wilbanks Scholarship from these great families,” he said. “These families have been a blessing to me in many ways as Mr. Sam Kelly was my Bible study group leader and a great mentor to me throughout my four years of high school.
“As this scholarship honors the three KAs who lost their lives in a tragic accident, words cannot explain how appreciative I am to receive this in a way that honors and represents the impact they had on this great fraternity,” said Falgout, adding that the award will enable him to take classes and intern this summer in London.
“This will help me gain the experience and knowledge I need to make an impact in the world when I graduate from Ole Miss,” he continued.
Likewise, Larson, a sophomore general business major, said, “To say I am extremely grateful to be awarded this scholarship would be an understatement. To be able to continue the legacies of Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker is truly such an honor.
“To the families, I am humbled to be a recipient,” he continued. “I fully understand the responsibility of accepting this scholarship, to respectfully honor the legacy of your sons. They will never be forgotten.”
Shell, a sophomore biology major, echoed his friends’ sentiments: “I am honored to be one of the 2023 recipients of the Kelly Kelly Wilbanks Scholarship. Keeping the memory of Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker alive by respecting my brothers, behaving as a gentleman and striving to serve with the vision of making the world a better place are ways I can continue their legacy.
“I am thankful for the generosity of these families and the courage they continue to show by coming back to our chapter each year to present the scholarships and give members like me the opportunity to continue my education and involvement with KA.”
Chapter advisor Trey Horne of Oxford has been instrumental in growing the endowment.
“Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker were strong men of character who loved God and their families. Through this scholarship endowment, their legacies will live on by providing three men of Kappa Alpha Order scholarships each year,” he said.
“As new classes enter Ole Miss, this endowment will remind these men that the lives Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker lived are worthy to be followed.”
The endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks Scholarship noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, at email@example.com or 662-915-3120; or visit https://give.olemiss.edu.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation