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Alumni, friends donate record $194.3 million to support UM

By Bill Dabney
University Communications

Strong private support, primarily directed to specific programs, enables the University of Mississippi to strengthen its faculty, increase student scholarships, contribute to research discoveries and help improve health care for all ages.

In the UM Foundation’s fiscal year ending June 30, private donors and foundations committed a record $194.3 million to support programs, facilities and students across all campuses.

The contributions supported academics on the Oxford campus, the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and on UM’s regional campuses throughout the state. Additionally, private giving supports Ole Miss athletics programs, facilities and student-athletes.

“The University of Mississippi has a unique role in advancing society through the discovery, creation and dissemination of knowledge,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We are so grateful for the generous donations of our loyal alumni and friends. Their support is helping us transform lives through education and elevate the quality of life for all our citizens.”

Fiscal year 2016 was bolstered by a number of major gifts: a $25 million gift to the Forward Together Campaign for athletics from Jerry “Doc” Hollingsworth of Niceville, Florida; a $20 million pledge to Batson Children’s Hospital from the Friends of Children’s; a $10 million pledge from Joe and Kathy Sanderson, of Laurel, to kick off a $100 million campaign for Children’s of Mississippi at UMMC; and a $2 million gift from the Brockman Foundation to establish a chair within the Patterson School of Accountancy in honor of the late Don Jones of Oxford.

Administrators acknowledge it’s unlikely that single gifts of this magnitude will be repeated in the 2017 fiscal year, but university development staff will be reaching out to alumni, friends, corporations and foundations to continue the fundraising success. Private support for UM has exceeded $100 million in each of the last five years.

“Private giving is vital to recruiting and retaining the nation’s best educators to teach and mentor our students,” said Alice Clark, interim vice chancellor for university relations. “Less than 15 percent of our operating revenue comes from state appropriations, so the resources provided by our generous donors are absolutely essential to reach our goals in bolstering faculty support, as well as attracting funds for student scholarships, construction, library resources and more.”

The state’s flagship university boasts the largest student body among Mississippi’s public universities, necessitating the addition of more than 200 faculty members over the next three years.

Cash gifts of all sizes combined for $118.8 million, with new pledges (as yet unrealized) adding up to more than $61 million. Donors committed more than $14 million in planned and deferred gifts to Ole Miss.

“Our fiscal 2016 private support totals are truly outstanding,” said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation, which had a five-year endowment investment return of 5.2 percent as of June 30. “However, we must continue to push even harder to meet the growing cash needs of the university.”

Donor participation on the Oxford campus increased by more than 16 percent as the number of gifts rose from 52,500 in 2015 to 55,000 in fiscal year 2016. These generous contributions from alumni, private foundations and corporations, friends, parents and others have built an endowment of more than $600 million.

Donor impact reaches every area of the university, including its Medical Center campus.

“Every gift is a stepping stone toward our goal of a healthier Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Our generous donors took us closer to that goal this year, giving the record amount of $60 million.

“We are especially grateful to Joe and Kathy Sanderson’s capable leadership of our $100 million Children’s of Mississippi campaign and their financial gift that pushes us a long way toward our goal. Year after year, the people of Mississippi rise to the challenge in terms of giving.”

The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation also had a record year, generating $45.6 million in cash donations, breaking the previous record of $35.2 million set in 2015. With the highest-ever membership at 17,773 and counting, OMAF donors anticipate the soon-to-be-unveiled improvements to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Swayze Field and other sports facilities made possible by their contributions.

“On behalf of Ole Miss athletics, including our coaches and our talented student-athletes, I would like to thank Rebel Nation for their generous contributions over the past year that set a new standard in fundraising,” Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “The Ole Miss family continues to grow, and the support allows us to continue giving Rebels the highest quality student-athlete experience.”

The Forward Together campaign has topped $167.5 million in commitments with $30 million in new pledges for the fiscal year. The foundation reached the original goal of $150 million for the Forward Together campaign during 2016 and raised the goal to $200 million. With $32.5 million remaining, the new mark is anticipated to be met by June 2017.

“Alumni and friends who give back play an integral role in helping the university improve,” Weakley said. “We could not be more appreciative of those who’ve shared their hard-earned resources with the university and our students.”

For information on providing financial support to the University of Mississippi, visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.