To help the Ole Miss Rebel baseball team continue its success after winning the 2022 NCAA National Championship, American First National Bank of Houston, Texas, has given $100,000 in support.
Announced as part of Giving Day 2023 — the University of Mississippi’s annual social media-driven fundraising event — the gift is intended to bolster the baseball program.
“As a player on baseball teams from elementary school through college, I know the Ole Miss baseball program needs a lot of efforts including financial support to continue building a strong, winning team,” said Wen-Lung Henry Wu, chairman of the American First National Bank Board and an Ole Miss School of Engineering graduate. “When the baseball team won the NCAA championship, I decided to make this gift.”
Mike Bianco, head coach of the baseball program, and his team mounted a magical march at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, to bring the national championship trophy home to Oxford for the first time ever. The team continues to be celebrated, including an appearance at the Mississippi Legislature last week.
“We are immensely grateful to Henry Wu and American First National Bank for their generous gift in support of our program,” said Coach Bianco. “Contributions like theirs give us the opportunity to keep Ole Miss baseball competing at a national-championship level while providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our student-athletes.”
The Rebels went 10-1 in the NCAA Tournament, including 5-1 in the College World Series, and beat Oklahoma in two games in the championship series in front of a large, enthusiastic fanbase. The baseball team’s win in Omaha highlighted the best year in Ole Miss Athletics history and locked in a 20th-place finish in the LEARFIELD Directors’ Cup standings — the best finish in school history.
The LEARFIELD Directors’ Cup was developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution’s finish in NCAA Championships.
“Henry Wu and American First National Bank are strong supporters of our university,” said Chancellor Glenn Boyce. “We are grateful for their vision for our baseball program, as they invest in opportunities for our student-athletes and ultimately for their success in life after graduation.
“We experienced a phenomenal year in Ole Miss Athletics thanks to support from generous donors, and Mr. Wu understands the resources needed for successful programs.”
Wu said he hopes the bank’s gift assists with recruitment.
“I hope these resources help the baseball team attract more talented student-athletes so the team can continue to perform well in the future,” he said. “College sports provide all phases of opportunities for students to pursue needed training and necessary working skills for their future after graduation.”
In addition to Wu, several UM alumni provide leadership at American First National Bank, including two of its directors, Ray Chang and Paul Cheng.
With a $60,000 gift in 2021, the financial institution established the American First National Bank-UM Chinese Language Flagship Taiwan Program Fund in the Department of Modern Languages in the College of Liberal Arts. The resources were aimed at giving Ole Miss students studying in Taiwan a host of educational, cultural and professional opportunities.
The gift enhanced the university’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, which requires students to study abroad. At the time of the gift, Wu praised the program.
“Ole Miss is the leading university in Mississippi’s higher education system,” he said. “We are impressed by the goals of UM’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, which include creating global professionals who possess superior-level proficiency in Mandarin and have a deep understanding of the Chinese culture so they can work successfully with their Chinese counterparts here and around the world.”
The American First National Bank’s gift is included in Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss. For information, visit https://nowandever.olemiss.edu.
By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development