A Dallas, Texas, couple is helping strengthen the University of Mississippi’s academic reputation with a $250,000 gift for graduate student stipends and a matching gift of $162,500 for the Patterson School of Accountancy Building Fund.
“Working with university leadership, we learned that a gift to the College of Liberal Arts for graduate students could help the college attract the students who would enhance Ole Miss’ educational standing and prestige as it helps recruit top graduate students,” said Bill Searight, who made the gift with his wife, Judy, both UM alumni.
“I think every donor hopes their gift, no matter how small, will enable their alma mater to make a difference in the lives of its students.”
The Judy and Bill Searight Graduate Student Stipend Endowment will award support to students working toward Ph.D.s in the departments of Economics and Mathematics.
Bill Searight, who earned an undergraduate degree in accounting, Master of Business Administration and Juris Doctor from Ole Miss, was a partner for 28 years with the accounting firm Deloitte. The Deloitte Foundation is providing the matching gift that the Searights are directing to the new 100,000-square-foot home of the Patterson School, which will be constructed at the corner of University Avenue and Grove Loop, overlooking the iconic Grove.
Previously, the Searights provided a gift for graduate student stipend support to the Department of Modern Languages, where Judy Searight earned an undergraduate degree in French.
“While on campus last summer, Bill and I were introduced to Dr. Daniel O’Sullivan, chair of modern languages. He explained how much the department has grown and that it now provides degrees in more languages than we could imagine being taught at Ole Miss. We walked away thinking we wanted to do something for the department,” said Judy Searight.
Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, expressed gratitude for the couple’s support of graduate students.
“We deeply appreciate Judy and Bill Searight making this important investment in graduate stipends, resources we will use to recruit high-performing graduate students,” he said. “Top-quality students make significant contributions to our academic and research community, and offering graduate stipends makes it possible for our students to reduce or avoid debt while pursuing their academic goals.”
Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School of Accountancy, said the matching gift is a testament to Bill Searight’s outstanding career at Deloitte, and for the firm’s long-standing support of the Ole Miss Accountancy program.
“Our new building will be located on prime University real estate, and will help us recruit outstanding students, faculty and staff to the Patterson School,” Wilder said. “This facility will strengthen the outstanding education that our School provides to students — and will help us pursue our goal of becoming the top-ranked accountancy school in the nation. We are grateful for this generous and visionary support provided by Bill and Judy Searight.”
The Searights spent significant time on campus last summer for the first time since their graduations in the early 1970s.
“The campus is as beautiful as ever. The new buildings and athletic venues are remarkable. During our visit, we wandered around looking at our old dorms, Barr, Kincannon and Stewart, being demolished and gawked at the new Robert C. Khayat Law Center sitting squarely where the ‘Village’ — the place we started our married life — used to be. Ole Miss is fabulous.”
The Searights are both natives of Jackson, Mississippi.
“We attended Murrah High School together and began dating after our high school senior year,” said Judy Searight. “We both started our college experience at other colleges but transferred to Ole Miss as sophomores. Bill always wanted to study accounting and Ole Miss has for years had one of the best accounting programs — so Ole Miss it was.
“Besides a wonderful education, we made many lifelong friends and filled our hearts with a love for the Rebels!”
The couple moved to Memphis following graduation where Bill Searight began his career in public accounting. His career then took the couple to New Orleans, and in 1978, they moved to Dallas, where they’ve been ever since. Since retiring from Deloitte, Bill Searight has practiced law serving his clients’ business and tax needs.
In 2018, Bill Searight was asked to join the board of GreenLight Credentials and in 2021 he became CEO of the company’s software subsidiary, FitnessGram, turning control of the company over to other leaders at the end of 2023.
The Searights are the parents of two grown children, Amanda and Bill.
For more information on supporting graduate student stipends in the College of Liberal Arts, contact Delia Childers, director of development, at email@example.com or 662-915-3086.
To learn how you can support the Patterson School of Accountancy Building Fund, contact Jason McCormick, executive director for development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-1757.
By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development