Donors provide more than $150 million in private gifts

Posted on Sep 7 2017 - 8:00am by Jacqueline Knirnschild

Due to a large amount of recent private giving, the Ole Miss community can expect to see an abundance of new or improved projects, programs and facilities in the next few years.

Fiscal year 2017 brought in a total of $153.6 million in private gifts, which indicates the sixth year in a row donors gave at least $100 million. Donors contributed these funds in support of the Oxford and regional campuses, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Ole Miss Athletics.

Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation, said the increased private support in 2016 and 2017 can be accounted for by athletics and UMMC’s campaign for a children’s hospital.

“Those two years alone are a little bit out of the norm – the medical center has this children’s hospital going on that people are really rallying behind,” Weakley said. “And last year, we had a $21 million give from ‘Doc’ Hollingsworth – that really knocked the ball out of the park.”

In addition, the university’s endowments climbed to approximately $675 million in fiscal year 2017 – a significant increase of 12 percent, according to University of Mississippi News. Weakley said the increase in endowments is a direct result of outstanding market activity last year.

When money is endowed, it means it is held permanently and invested or managed by the UM Foundation, with only annual interest spent, according to Tina Hahn, director of Ole Miss Communications.

UMMC will use recent investments to pull in larger entering classes at the School of Medicine and expand its pediatric clinic.  

The $11 million renovation of the Gillom Sports Center, home to the soccer, softball, volleyball and rifle programs, has just been completed. Track and field facilities have also been upgraded in the past year, and a new tennis facility is under construction.   

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is still under construction, with new additions of the Lloyd Bell Tower and the Jake Gibbs Letterwinner Walk to the north plaza.

Hahn said the UM Foundation’s Board of Directors and Joint Committee on University Investments and the Athletics Foundation’s Board of Governors all help decide where to allocate funds.

“Deeply dedicated alumni serve on these three entities to help make decisions,” Hahn said.

Weakley said the UM Foundation will be pushing hard this upcoming year to attract donor support for the new STEM building and the Flagship Constellations Initiative, an effort to encourage more cross-disciplinary research.

“We really have tremendous need to help support the STEM building,” Weakley said. “It’s going to be a great resource for the university.”

Weakley said the foundation has a new vice chancellor for development, Charlotte Parks, who will help work toward such goals.

Weakley said he understands the effects private giving has on the Ole Miss community and enjoys seeing donors excited to contribute.  

“What I love about my job is working with donors to help them realize their passions,” Weakley said. “Our donors typically are very passionate about some portion of their education or affiliation with Ole Miss.”