After sharing her exceptional athletic skills with her University of Mississippi women’s basketball teammates back in the 2000s, Tywanna (Inmon) Smith now devotes much of her time and talents to improving the lives of new generations of student-athletes.
Whether Smith is providing financial support to young female athletes with her scholarship program or teaching youth about business and financial strategies, she serves as a servant leader.
Celebrating her benevolent nature, on Nov. 2 Smith was honored with the Emerging Young Philanthropist Award by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC) at The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss.
“To be recognized with this award by the Ole Miss Women’s Council is humbling,” said Smith of Proctor, Arkansas. “While I don’t serve others for the recognition, but for the fulfillment brought through giving, I feel incredibly blessed to inspire others through my philanthropy, and I graciously accept this award.”
Nurturing philanthropic behavior is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Women’s Council’s mission. The program encourages its scholars to develop strong leadership skills while also becoming caring, ethical leaders within their communities and with causes that are important to them.
“We are thankful to have the opportunity to shine a light on Dr. Tywanna Smith and honor her for sharing her gifts with everyone around her,” said Betsy Collier Smith, an active OMWC member. “She has a true servant’s heart and is a perfect example to our scholars of the impact that can be made when you are intentional about what matters: scholarship, leadership, mentorship and philanthropy.”
While only 41, Smith has accumulated a long list of achievements and accolades, and serves as a positive role model for others, said Yolett McPhee-McCuin, head coach of the Ole Miss women’s basketball team.
Affectionately known as “Coach Yo,” McPhee-McCuin was one of the featured speakers during the Emerging Young Philanthropist Award ceremony.
“Dr. Tywanna Smith was a tremendous student-athlete at Ole Miss and has gone on to have a career as an outstanding professional player,” she said. “In addition to playing professionally, she has continually impacted others by encouraging growth and advocacy for athletes and entrepreneurs.
“Dr. Smith is a sterling example of how athletics and Ole Miss have served as a platform for women to develop and share their gifts, and we are grateful to have her as an alumna and member of the Ole Miss women’s basketball family.”
At Ole Miss, Smith was team captain during the 2003-04 season. She played professionally in Europe for two years.
Smith received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the university. She earned a Doctor of Liberal Studies from the University of Memphis (Tennessee).
In 2022, she was named to the Ole Miss Alumni Association’s Top 40 Under 40 and gave the commencement address for Ole Miss MBA graduates. Smith also serves as a mentor to students for the OMWC’s Rose Society.
She is a working mother with two children, Tyson, 8, and Tatum, 6.
In her professional life, Smith is an award-winning sports manager, best-selling author, in-demand speaker and president of The Athlete’s Nexus, a sports marketing and business management firm for international professional athletes. For more than 16 years, she has worked with over 50 professional athletes and coaches.
Smith has become a thought leader in sports around business management, branding and marketing, and professional development. Additionally, she is the co-executive producer of an acclaimed international sports documentary about American athletes who play basketball overseas.
Much of her free time focuses on assisting those in need.
“I’ve been so blessed to serve others throughout my short time on this earth,” Smith said. “There is great joy in giving. I’m always encouraging people to give what they can because you never know how that small gift can change someone’s life.”
Some of her major philanthropic efforts include establishing Teen Money Box, a program that shares business and financial strategies with youth in underserved communities, and the Tywanna (Inmon) Smith Scholarship Fund to support higher education for female basketball players across the Mid-South.
Smith said her passion for helping others is deeply rooted in her life experiences. For instance, she was able to travel around the United States as part of the Amateur Athletic Union because of financial and in-kind support provided by others. Scholarships also helped her afford college.
“Without that ‘spirit of giving,’ I would never have experienced some of the most enriching moments of my life,” she said.
“My faith tells me that we all have a duty to share and assist whoever we can, however we’re able. When we can take our blessings and pay them forward, we can restore individuals’ faith, confidence and belief in their ability to succeed. There is no greater calling. God works through us all.”
By Jonathan Scott/UM Development