Since his graduation from the University of Mississippi in 1980, Bill Fry and his wife Lee Anne have frequently offered financial support to his alma mater. Now, having established two planned gifts, they will continue to give back to Ole Miss long after their lifetimes.
The New York City and Oxford, Mississippi, residents recently offered to bequeath a portion of their estate to the university. Estimated at an additional $2.5 million, the gift will strengthen the School of Business Administration — naming a faculty chair in honor of their two grown children — and support Rebel sports programs via Forever Ole Miss, the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s planned giving vehicle.
The Frys’ estate gift is also included in Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss — the most ambitious drive in UM’s history and the largest ever in Mississippi higher education with a goal of $1.5 billion.
Bill Fry said Now & Ever and Forever Ole Miss provide the perfect opportunity to add to their legacy to improve the lives of generations of UM students, professors and Rebel student-athletes.
“Lee Anne and I have been fortunate in our lives and want to be sure we give back in proportion to what we have received,” Fry said. “Ole Miss has been a major part of our families, a source of lifelong friendships and numerous memorable experiences. We are grateful for the opportunity to return our blessings and hope these gifts accelerate our Ole Miss family’s impact on the world.”
A graduate of the UM public administration program, Bill Fry was inducted into the Ole Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2012. He earned a master’s degree from Harvard Business School in 1990. Between undergraduate and graduate schools, he spent eight years as an officer in the U.S. Navy, last serving as a lieutenant in the Nuclear Propulsion Program.
Fry joined American Securities in 2010 as one of the company’s partners. American Securities is a New York-based private equity fund with over $30 billion under management. Previously, he was CEO of the Oreck Corp. and has also helmed several entities owned by various private equity firms and public companies, holding positions as president of the Dixie Group, CEO of Bell Sports and Bell Riddell, and president of Easton Bell Sports.
As an undergraduate, Fry was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and the Navy ROTC. Lee Anne Fry is a graduate of Auburn University and worked as an analyst for the CIA in Washington, D.C., where they met. They have two grown children, Will and Katie, for whom the additional faculty chair is named.
“What better way to honor your children and tie them to Ole Miss than to endow a chair,” Lee Anne Fry said.
Together, the family enjoys being part of Rebel Nation.
“Athletics has been a rallying point and source of joy for our family for many years. We have enjoyed gathering with friends and bringing new ones to Ole Miss,” the alumnus said.
“Every new visitor leaves an Ole Miss fan,” he continued. “As [former] Chancellor Robert Khayat often said, athletics are the front porch of the university; and we want our Ole Miss porch to be exciting for fans, rewarding for student-athletes and competing for championships.”
Denson Hollis, CEO of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, expressed gratitude for the Frys’ planned gift.
“We are immensely grateful to Bill and Lee Anne for all they do for Ole Miss and Ole Miss Athletics and their vision for supporting our athletics programs through Forever Ole Miss,” Hollis said. “Their gift will ensure the future of Ole Miss Athletics is strengthened as it provides support for departmental leadership in the years ahead.”
The Frys’ estate gift to Athletics enables them to pass down priority points to their children, each receiving red points (priority seating) and blue points (parking and post-season experience priority) and thus establishing their interaction with Ole Miss Athletics.
The Frys’ love of sports at Ole Miss led them in 2021 to fund a campus monument in honor of Rebel basketball legend Coolidge Ball who was inducted into the Ole Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame the same year.
It was then the latest of many major gifts the couple has committed to the university, including a 2018 gift in support of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, a 2019 scholarship in memory of their niece and a 2020 planned gift that established a faculty chair in the School of Business Administration.
For almost two decades, Bill Fry has served on the Business School’s advisory board. The Frys are co-chairing the Business School’s Now & Ever campaign.
“The Business School has been tremendously successful in the past decade,” Fry said. “We have a top-10 rated online MBA program, highly rated Business School and over 97% of our graduates are employed or in advanced education programs. Our professors are among the most published in the SEC. Our faculty and staff have exciting plans and are having a remarkable impact on students. Our graduates are changing the lives of individuals by starting businesses and making opportunities for others.
“Our gifts to endow professorships have an accelerated benefit based on the number of lives impacted — thousands of students educated, mentored and encouraged.”
UM Business Dean Ken Cyree is grateful for the Frys’ engagement with the school.
“Bill and Lee Anne’s gifts of their time and resources to the School of Business Administration are immeasurable,” Cyree said. “In serving on our board, Bill has provided exceptional leadership and the invaluable perspective of his own experience as a successful businessman to help us navigate the challenges inherent to our burgeoning programs.
“Now, their planned gift will ensure that we continue to recruit faculty members with a passion for quality teaching, research and service for future generations of students,” Cyree continued. “I greatly appreciate Bill and Lee Anne for their longtime friendship, loyalty and support.”
Marc Littlecott, advancement director for estate and planned giving, said testamentary gifts like the Frys’ are beneficial to the university and the donors alike.
“According to a recent study, few people with children or heirs have done something like Bill and Lee Anne have done by naming at least one charity in their estate plans,” Littlecott said. “Many are under the impression that charitable estate-giving automatically reduces what they can leave to heirs, when in fact that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Leaving meaningful legacy gifts is the kind of perspective our office provides free to friends and alumni like the Frys as they consider options to take to their attorneys.”
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation