University of Mississippi alumni Brandon Dixon and his wife, Emma Gaines, hope their gift to Ole Miss Athletics will help give student-athletes the extended knowledge they need to proactively navigate life after graduation.
“Think about this: our university will give an academic scholarship to help someone who has great capability in music cultivate that talent. I view athletes the same way. These young men and women have amazing abilities, so let’s cultivate those talents and give them the skills and education they’ll need later in life,” said Dixon, who earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Ole Miss in 2003. Gaines earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science in 2016 and a nursing degree in 2018.
Dixon, a tax attorney and principal of Trust Point Capital Partners, LLC, has a history of making opportunities happen for himself and he wants UM student-athletes to have similar advantages.
“For instance, let’s build up their athletic careers now and help them understand the value they should get out of it. Then, give them the skills they’ll need to manage their future finances and their health down the road, to work with PR and the public, to manage their image and to understand branding and strategies for making opportunities happen for themselves.”
William Fisher, OMAF Director of Development, said he’s grateful for the couple’s desire to support student-athletes comprehensively.
“It’s something we strive to do within Ole Miss Athletics. We want to prepare our student-athletes for competition in the Southeastern Conference, as well as for life after graduation,” Fisher said. “Because of Brandon’s experience working in development himself, he knows the importance of private support. Gifts like his and Emma’s are crucial to our programs and to the long-term success of our student-athletes.”
While working toward his master’s degree, Dixon served as a graduate assistant in the Dean of Students Office and later in UM Development’s Office of Annual Giving. There, he realized he had an interest in advancement.
“I’ll never forget driving down Sorority Row one day and looking at all the students’ high-end cars. I started thinking that there’s got to be an opportunity there,” Dixon said. “So I looked at what other universities were doing in terms of reaching out to parents for private support and I realized we weren’t doing anything.”
The self-proclaimed “scrappy” student approached UM administrators who told him they would hire him as director of parent programs if he could raise the funds to support his position. And so began the Ole Miss Family Leadership Council, which is today a burgeoning source of private support for the university helmed by Brett Barefoot, UM’s executive director for central development.
“I’ve always been one of these people who look for an opportunity to make something happen,” he said. “I’ve never just had opportunity open its doors to me.”
As an undergraduate at Eastern Kentucky University, the Franklin, Kentucky, native negotiated his way onto the football team as a running back by telling the coach he could convince three top players from his high school to join the team too.
“I did get to dress out a couple of games and had some memorable moments for myself. It was worth it because it showed me that, number one, I could do something hard and go beyond what others might expect of me,” Dixon said. “Number two, I learned to never sell myself short; there’s always a way to get where you need to be.
“Creating my own path, creating my own way, that’s what I’ve always done.”
After law school, Dixon found it difficult to find a job because even seasoned lawyers were out of work due to the recession of 2008. As a result, he offered to work for free and once again negotiated his way into a position that ultimately paid off — practicing tax law until four years ago when he left the firm to become full-time outside general counsel for a family office.
Through that experience, he met his current business partners “and now to bring it full circle, we are out there on the forefront of sponsors providing tax-advantaged investments.”
“A lot of what we’re doing is on that path,” Dixon said. “I look back and that’s something I’ve done ever since I was at Ole Miss. Ole Miss was instrumental in where I am now. It opened the doors.”
Dixon’s and Gaines’ gift will help open similar doors for UM student-athletes.
In the newly renovated Manning Center, supported by gifts to CHAMPIONS. NOW., Ole Miss will train in a 10,710-square-foot weight room, featuring a cardio mezzanine, yoga/pilates space, state-of-the-art technology, fueling stations, counseling and sport psychology services, and offices for the nutrition staff. The training room will also expand and provide additional recovery benefits, including hydrotherapy, massage therapy, compression units, two sensory deprivation tanks, cold and hot tubs, and new concussion rehabilitation technology.
The Van Devender Family Foundation Locker Room will receive a complete makeover and will be expanded to include a barber shop, hydro tanks, plunge pools, a players’ lounge and fueling station.
New office spaces include separate offensive and defensive team meeting rooms to supplement the existing Roland and Sheryl Burns Team Meeting Room. Office layouts will be streamlined for offensive, defensive, analytics and recruiting staffs, and plans include a renovated head coach’s office.
Additionally, the equipment room will be expanded along with an ESPN/SEC Network bureau camera room, a photo and video studio, and a media workroom. The new Williams-Reed Foyer will welcome visitors to the Ole Miss football headquarters and the Gina and Chip Crunk Grill at 1810 will remain to prepare meals for the Rebels.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation