Skip to content
Scholarship Recipients Carry on Fraternity Brothers’ Legacies
Pictured at the Feb. 10 awards ceremony are (from left) Lynn Wilbanks; junior KA and the late Mason Wilbanks’ brother, Peyton Wilbanks; Liam Thornton, Braedan Watters, Walker Poole and Ken Wilbanks.

A scholarship endowment paying tribute to the lives of three University of Mississippi students has grown to almost $500,000, and three new recipients say they feel honored to represent the men for whom the scholarship is named.

Continuing gifts from the Kappa Alpha fraternity have expanded the Charles Walker Kelly, Samuel Clayton Kelly and Bryant Mason Wilbanks Memorial Scholarship Endowment that pays tribute to the lives of lifelong friends tragically killed in a 2011 car accident while returning to Ole Miss to attend a church service with other members of the fraternity.

All natives of Madison, Mississippi, the friends graduated together from Madison Central High School, attended Broadmoor Baptist Church, enrolled in Ole Miss and pledged the same fraternity. Now their legacies are kept alive by fellow KA brothers who receive the annual scholarship awards.

Liam Thornton

This year’s recipients of the $5,000 scholarships are Walker Poole of Flowood, Mississippi; Liam Thornton of Augusta, Georgia; and Braedan Watters of Madison, Mississippi.

At an awards ceremony on Feb. 10, Ken Wilbanks, father of Mason Wilbanks, told the audience, “When a parent loses a child, they fear their child will be forgotten. Thanks to KA, family, friends and donors, we know that’s not going to happen and we really appreciate that. KA means a lot to us and meant a lot to our sons.”

Wilbanks went on to offer this advice: “It’s great being a KA at Ole Miss and having fun, but just remember to always hug the people you need to hug, do the things you need to do and say the things you need to say. You never know when — and I don’t wish it on anybody — something like this tragedy might happen. So have a great time but remember to be the person God meant for you to be.”

Alumni advisors of KA’s Alpha Upsilon chapter and UM’s scholarship committee work together to select recipients. The award is based on several criteria, including financial need, leadership and academic performance.

“At our son’s celebration of life service in Madison, the one thing we’ll always remember is his pledge brothers up in the choir loft and then walking out of the church through all the KA pledges lined up,” Wilbanks said. “We’re very thankful for everybody in Kappa Alpha and for what this scholarship is doing.”

Walker Poole

Poole, a sophomore finance major who hopes to have a career in law or real estate, expressed gratitude for the award.

“I am so blessed and thankful that I have been chosen to be the recipient of this scholarship. It’s truly a gift from God,” he said. “I am honored to be able to represent the lives of Sam Clayton, Mason and Walker. I hope I can continue their legacy through KA in my final two and a half years at Ole Miss.”

Likewise, Watters, a sophomore biological science major who hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, said, “The story behind this scholarship is what makes it truly special to me. Being able to honor three men from my hometown who I recently discovered attended the same church as me growing up is a blessing that the Lord has presented me with.

“I have had the honor of having Jamison Wilbanks lead me in a small group in high school as well as Peyton Wilbanks be my big brother in the fraternity, so I know how special the Wilbanks family is,” he continued. “It is truly an honor to carry on these KAs’ legacies through this, and I will be forever thankful for Mason, Sam Clayton, and Walker.”

Thornton, a junior entrepreneurship major who plans to begin active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating, echoed his friends’ sentiments: “Being awarded this scholarship is an absolute honor. I could not be more proud to receive something that has impacted KAs in this chapter for years, in honor of the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks families and their boys.

Braedan Watters

“To honor the loss of Sam Clayton, Walker and Mason by giving back to the brotherhood they loved is really cool to be a part of,” he continued. “I will always remember the donors’ generosity. Additionally, I want to thank the family members who contributed and let them know how grateful I am that they continue to do this. It does not go unnoticed, and I am truly humbled.”

Chapter advisor Trey Horne of Oxford has been instrumental in growing the endowment.

“Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker were strong men of character who loved God and their families. Through this scholarship endowment, their legacies will live on by providing three men of Kappa Alpha Order scholarships each year,” he said.

“As new classes enter Ole Miss, this endowment will remind these men that the lives Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker lived are worthy to be followed.”

The endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks Scholarship noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, at or 662-915-3120; or visit

By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.