Two new endowments at the University of Mississippi stand as perpetual tributes to a beloved grandmother and as testaments to her grandchildren’s Ole Miss experiences.
With a $100,000 gift, Gabriella and Marshall St. Amant of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, established the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Classics Endowment and the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Croft Endowment.
The endowments memorialize Gabriella St. Amant’s mother who died in June 2022. The gifts also honor the educational experiences shared by the couple’s children: Bella St. Amant, a 2020 alumnus of UM’s esteemed Croft Institute for International Studies, and Marshall St. Amant, a 2023 graduate who majored in biochemistry and classics on a premed track.
Funds from the endowments will support unexpected or ancillary expenses incurred by Ole Miss students traveling abroad.
“The St. Amants’ vision for this endowment is inspiring,” said Oliver Dinius, director of the Croft Institute. “After hearing from students what would make their study abroad experience more fulfilling, the St. Amants made a generous gift that specifically addresses that need. It will provide students with a financial cushion to embrace unique cultural experiences as they live and study abroad.”
Inspiration for the gift occurred to the St. Amants when their daughter was studying in Uruguay with other Croft Institute students, her mother said.
“Bella’s experience made us realize that tuition is covered but that doesn’t mean that living expenses are. Maybe you need to get a phone plan or a bus pass or maybe it’s simply a nice dinner out one night that you really couldn’t afford and you’re eating peanut butter and jelly that you packed in your suitcase for the six months that you’re there,” Gabriella St. Amant said.
And so the idea was borne: “We thought the easiest way to make the biggest impact was to create a fund that would give each one of these programs enough money to help students who maybe don’t have the financial wherewithal to cover some of these ancillary expenses,” she continued.
The St. Amant gifts — and even the siblings’ desire to attend Ole Miss — are a tribute to their grandmother, Carmen Posada, a native Puerto Rican who graduated from Tulane Medical School and cared for children as a pediatrician for over 50 years. Stateside, she met and married Jerome Pepper, a Michigan native whose career designing airports for the U.S. government meant his family was destined to live in many different countries.
“They were both very well-traveled and they instilled in my siblings and myself a sense of the importance of discovering other cultures,” said Gabriella St. Amant. “My husband is the exact same way, and we have tried to do that with our kids as well.”
Bella St. Amant, now a master’s student at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, said she and her brother can trace their interest in the world around them to their grandmother.
“From her, we have these inherent traits of curiosity and an itching for learning. It was kind of like the perfect storm that the programs we found at Ole Miss were such a great fit,” she said. “I credit every success to the instruction that I had at Croft and the mentors I encountered through Ole Miss. The ability that I have to be fluent in Spanish now and to communicate with my grandmother in Spanish was possible in part because of my education at Ole Miss.”
Marshall St. Amant plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall to earn a master’s degree in classical language. From there, he’s considering either medical school with a palliative care focus or continuing his education toward earning a Ph.D.
He chose Ole Miss after visiting his older sister on campus.
“I always felt super-welcomed in the classics department, and of the two majors it was the one that piqued my interest more. That can all be attributed to the wonderful faculty we have here,” he said. “It was a small cohort, so I was able to have a one-on-one experience with every professor in the department. They were all truly nurturing in shaping my vision of education.
“I can’t speak highly enough of how much the department means to me and how good of a job the professors do with the students.”
Molly Pasco-Pranger, chair of the Department of Classics, is proud of this recent graduate.
“Marshall has been a great student and a great community member; my colleagues and I are thrilled to have had the opportunity to develop and mold his passion for this discipline,” she said. “We are equally grateful to his parents for showing their appreciation for Marshall’s experience with such a generous and thoughtful gift that will help open up the full experience of study abroad to our students, regardless of their financial resources.”
Gabriella St. Amant hopes other UM alumni and friends will understand that even small donations to the Croft Institute and the classics department can make a big difference.
“I wanted to create something where people felt like they could give any amount — where $100, $20 or $5 would make an impact,” she said. “I believe if you have a fund that’s for ancillary expenses, it’s a little bit easier to approach a recent alum and say, for example, ‘Your $20 just paid for a phone plan for a student for the six months that they’re in Bogotá.’
“You’ve got to pay it forward,” she continued. “I think if we don’t teach our kids the culture of giving then we become a very isolated society; I feel very strongly about that.”
Individuals and organizations can support the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Classics Endowment and/or the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Croft Endowment by sending 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 https://give.olemiss.edu.
For more information, contact Brett Barefoot, executive director for central development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2711.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation