A year after graduating from the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss, Ben Ingram died by suicide. Ben’s twin brother, Lee Ingram, has worked to preserve his brother’s legacy by publishing a book titled “Dreams About Food: Stories by Ben Ingram and Friends” to fund a scholarship in Ben’s name.
“Dreams About Food” is a compilation of Ben’s writings from his honors thesis, as well as short tributes from his friends and family. The GoFundMe page for the scholarship calls the collection “a straight-shooting, uncensored view into Ben’s internal world; Ben’s perspective on daily life with a slightly dysfunctional, yet fascinating, Southern family.”
Using the proceeds from “Dreams About Food,” the Ingram family has started the “Benson Reed Ingram Scholarship,” which, when fully endowed, will be the only honors scholarship exclusively for junior-entry students like Ben. Lee said the mission behind Ben’s scholarship is that “no person’s talents should go unrecognized.”
“Our hope with this scholarship is to reward someone like Ben, as applying to the Honors College — especially as a junior — takes a lot of courage,” Lee said. “Those that are a part of the Honors College put in countless hours to succeed academically, and we want to honor those students as an incentive to keep going.”
Professors at the University of Mississippi described Ben as a brilliant mind who was always smiling and making jokes. He took academics seriously, and his intellectual abilities did not go unnoticed.
“Ben spoke up regularly, always being the first one to answer my hardest questions,” said Leigh Anne Duck, one of Ben’s English professors. “He was always so thoughtful about classes and often had something to say about a project he was working on. Ben loved learning and was truly generous and kind to those around him.”
However, Lee said that Ben, after enjoying his first two years at Ole Miss, struggled to figure out where he belonged and what he wanted to do with his life after graduation.
Looking for an academic challenge, Ben applied to the Honors College as a junior entrant. Lee said that even though Ben knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get accepted, Ben was determined to try. When Ben was accepted into the Honors College, Lee said that the experience allowed his brother to prosper and find himself during a difficult time in his life.
“When Ben was accepted to the honors program, it completely shifted his life. He was confident. He really pursued and was excited about his classes and his thesis,” Lee said. “I truly believe the Honors College changed him.”
One of the Honors College’s requirements is a senior thesis. Ben decided to write a collection of fictional short stories titled “Dreams About Food.” At the time, Lee said, creative theses like this were uncommon, but Ben was able to channel his intellectual abilities into the challenge of going against the norm.
Ben asked author and creative writing professor Tom Franklin to advise him throughout the process. Franklin, who called Ben “a true class clown in the best way possible,” said they worked closely on each of Ben’s short stories. Franklin would offer suggestions for revision, which he said Ben took “very seriously.”
“Ben was a natural storyteller — he loved short stories and fiction,” Franklin said. “He took fiction workshops with me, and I admired his writing. It was as funny as he was.”
Reed Ingram, Ben’s father, approached Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College, about establishing this scholarship. Reed told Ben’s story of having a goal of being an Honors College graduate before being accepted as a junior.
Ron Wilson, development officer for the School of Liberal Arts, said the Ingram family has been devoted to establishing and completing the scholarship fund.
“I have been working with them on this project ever since, and they have been an absolute pleasure to work with,” Wilson said. “I have been especially impressed with Lee, Ben’s twin brother, who has been very invested (in) completing this scholarship.”
The scholarship will be fully endowed upon reaching $25,000 in donations. Once endowed, an annual award will be granted to one or more junior-entry participants. Those who donate a minimum of $15 will receive a copy of Ben’s book. To donate to the Benson Reed Ingram Scholarship, visit https://www.gofundme.com/the-benson-reed-ingram-scholarship.