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Family, Friends Establish Endowment in Recognition of Graduate’s Work
David Brevard (at microphone) announces a surprise endowment honoring Billy Crews (in striped tie).

Audience members attending the School of Education’s Alumni Awards Ceremony at the University of Mississippi were surprised when someone suddenly yelled from the back of the room.

School of Education Dean David Rock (right) presents Billy Crews with the 2024 Outstanding Educational Service Award as part of the school’s Hall of Fame ceremony.

And for former School of Education development officer Billy Crews — who had just received the Outstanding Educational Service Award as part of the school’s Hall of Fame — another surprise was coming.

UM alumnus David Brevard of Tupelo, Mississippi — having interrupted the quiet ceremony with his outburst — made his way to the stage at the front of Johnson Commons auditorium and said, “Good afternoon, Crews family, friends, Dean (David) Rock, faculty, staff, our distinguished honorees, Governor (Ronnie) Musgrove…”

As heads turned with quizzical looks, Brevard took the microphone to describe his longtime friend’s many accomplishments, achievements and accolades before revealing his purpose at the podium.

Then, “Brother Billy, listen up!” Brevard exclaimed. “I have the honor and privilege to share a secret and to announce to you, your family, and the crowd of witnesses present that an endowed award has been established in your honor.”

With gifts totaling more than $75,000, the Brevard Family Foundation along with Crews’ friends and other alumni leaders established the Billy Crews School of Education Imagine Fund Award.

“The Billy Crews Imagine Award has been established to recognize your dedication to the School of Education, as well as your lifelong commitment to imagining and striving for more equitable communities in our state,” Brevard said.

The award is now one of four Vision Awards (Imagine, Impact, Innovation and Inspire), which are awarded each spring to education majors who represent the school’s highest values and visions.

“I was stunned by the announcement of an endowment in my name and numerous gifts,” Crews said. “During my eight-year tenure working with the School of Education, I helped other donors set up endowments. I was not expecting one to be set up in my name.

“Honestly I was in a daze, trying to figure out what was happening,” he continued. “It took a while for me to process the generosity of the Brevard family and my numerous friends, donors and leaders in the School of Education who had put this in motion.”

Billy Crews with granddaughter Mary Carmen is congratulated by (from left) Thomas Wallace, brother David Crews, Donald Cole and David Brevard.

Crews said he feels confident that Dean David Rock, development leaders and faculty will use the funds to help expand opportunities for all students while enabling the School of Education to continue to make an impact on thousands of Mississippi children.

Crews retired in 2023 after serving as development officer for the School of Education.

“I couldn’t be happier that my good friend and colleague, Billy Crews, has been recognized so publicly for his outstanding dedication to the improvement of our school through his work to attain ongoing private support,” Dean David Rock said. “He is a true servant leader!  Billy has been an asset to the University of Mississippi and his legacy will continue as generations of our students benefit from the scholarships, faculty and facilities he helped to secure.”

A campus leader during his college days at Ole Miss, Crews served as student body president before graduating in 1978. He then moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, where he ultimately became publisher and CEO of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and served as president of numerous key organizations in the community and region.

“The saying ‘once a leader, always a leader’ applies to Billy,” Brevard said. “His integrity, vision, empathy, courage, judgment and determination as a servant leader were consistently demonstrated. He always placed an emphasis on the needs, growth and well-being of his peers, employees and colleagues and he attempted to foster an inclusive environment and culture for everyone under his leadership.”

During his 35 years in business as well as working as chief operating officer for Tupelo Public Schools and in his second career with Teach for America and the UM School of Education, Crews was an activist and proponent of public education in Mississippi.

Additionally, he served on the alumni boards for the School of Education and the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

The son of a UM faculty member, Crews grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, just a stone’s throw from campus. He and his wife, Catherine, have three grown children: Mary Catherine (and Rich) Molpus with their children Nash and Reese Molpus; son Lowrey (and Nash) Crews with their children John and Spencer; and Perrin (and Jill) Crews with their children Jay and Mary Carmen.

To make a gift in support of the Billy Crews School of Education Imagine Fund, click here.

To make a gift to the School of Education, click here or contact Kelly Smith Marion, director of development, at or 662-915-2007.

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.