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$55,000 gift made to UM School of Education
Carol and William Gafford’s gift establishes an endowment designed to support students seeking a career in school counseling.

Carol and William Gafford’s gift to the University of Mississippi School of Education establishes the first-ever endowment designed to support students seeking a career in school counseling.

With $55,000 in support, the Cypress, Texas, couple established the William and Carol Gafford School Counseling Endowment.

Both UM alumni and spouses for 56 years, the Gaffords’ connection to each other dates back to the same Water Valley, Mississippi, hospital.

“We were born in the same room, six months apart,” Bill Gafford said, adding that they dated in high school and college.  The two have been together since.

Carol Gafford graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in education and English in 1966; her husband finished a year later with a degree in math and sociology.

Looking back on their college days, Carol Gafford has warm memories of the Grove and taking classes in the School of Education. Bill Gafford talks fondly of his time in the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and the 10 p.m. news-radio segment he hosted on the campus station.

After graduation, Bill Gafford went to work in New Orleans for a petroleum company that would eventually become Amoco. As a geophysicist, he was involved with several gas and oil discoveries. When not at the office, he served as president of the Southeastern Geophysical Society and later the Geophysical Society of Houston, Texas. Bill retired from the field in 2002 but remains active in geophysics as a curator of The Houston Geophysical  Society’s museum.

Carol Gafford enjoyed a career in education, so it’s only natural that she wanted to give back to the field she found enriching.

“All my positions have afforded me a chance to work closely with children and adults as they plan for their futures,” the alumna said. “There’s a need for professional educators in counseling in our schools to give students a path forward for deciding on future plans.”

After earning her college degree, Carol Gafford began teaching 10th-grade English, followed by teaching the subject at the middle-school level. She took a break from work when she gave birth to the couple’s two daughters and later returned to education as the director of a preschool in New Orleans, Louisiana.

When the Gaffords moved to Houston, she served as a director of education at a church and as a Stephen Minister trained to provide one-on-one care to those experiencing difficult times.

Delia Childers, director of development for the UM College of Liberal Arts, alongside Kelly Smith Marion, the director of development in the School of Education, helped the Gaffords learn more about the school counseling program by introducing them to Rick Balkin, chair and professor of leadership and counselor education.

“It was an honor to work with Bill and Carol,” Childers said. “We are truly grateful for their generosity and all they have done for Ole Miss.”

School of Education Dean David Rock also thanked the Gaffords for establishing the endowment in an area of study that is often overlooked.

“School counseling is one of the most important facets in any education system,” Rock said. “And through this endowment from Bill and Carol Gafford, we can ensure that our program provides students with the resources they need to be effective in the field once they graduate.”

With this gift, the Gaffords hope to ease financial burdens while students pursue a career that’s meaningful to them.

“We think that the impact of receiving scholarships can influence individuals in goals and decisions for their future lives while reducing student debt and financial worries,” Bill Gafford said. “We want to encourage people to follow that path.”

To make a gift to the William and Carol Gafford School Counseling Endowment, click here, or send a check with the endowment name noted to UM Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. For more information on making a gift to the School of Education, contact Kelly Smith Marion at or at 662-915-2007.

By Andy Belt/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.