UM Courtyard to be named for Burns family to honor $1M gift

Published 8:40 am Monday, May 16, 2022

The courtyard of the University of Mississippi’s new Patterson School of Accountancy home is to be named for the Burns family to honor the longtime donors’ $1 million gift toward building construction.

Sheryl and Roland Burns, of Frisco, Texas, made the gift to recognize Roland, a 1982 graduate of the school, and their two sons, Derek and Tyler, who also graduated from the School of Accountancy in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

The growth in student enrollment is driving plans for a new academic home that will cost an estimated  $70 million. The Burns Family Courtyard will mark the entrance of the four-story facility featuring 100,000 square feet of tiered auditoriums and classrooms, study areas, conference rooms, administrative and faculty office suites, and outdoor balconies and terraces.

“The Patterson School of Accountancy has always had a special place in our family,” said Roland Burns, who earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from the program.

“In the bigger picture, the Patterson School has the best program at the university and it is nationally ranked. In addition, KPMG chose the school to support its Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics and Master of Taxation and Data Analytics, and paid cost of attendance for 129 students from across the nation to earn data analytics master’s degrees at Ole Miss.”

The new academic home will be constructed on prime campus real estate at the corner of University Avenue and Grove Loop, with balconies offering event space overlooking the iconic Grove.

“I’ve seen the architectural renderings, which are great,” Burns said. “It is going to be a beautiful building at an incredible spot. We’re all very impressed, and I hope this new building helps the school maintain its place as one of the nation’s top programs.”

The school enjoys longtime renown as one of the country’s premier programs in accountancy education. It holds the No. 8 place nationally and No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference in 2021 rankings – marking its 10th consecutive year of Top 10 rankings. In 2021, the school awarded a record 588 degrees, with 253 of those being master’s degrees.

At Ole Miss, “we accountancy students felt like we were part of a very special program,” Burns said. “I lost my father to cancer during my senior year in high school and professors Gene Peery and Jimmy Davis took me under their wings.

“I have such great memories of when they were at the school; they trained students to be professionals. Derek and Tyler were also taught by Dr. Davis, and he was also their favorite professor during their time at Ole Miss.

“The focus that the Patterson School of Accountancy places on instruction and student development is what inspires its alumni to support the university. My accounting professors took a personal interest in my future career and advised me how to be successful in the business world. I left the university and headed to Dallas, Texas, entering the competitive world of public accounting very well prepared to build a business career.”

Chancellor Glenn Boyce expressed appreciation to the Burns.

“We are incredibly proud to have the Burns family as some of our graduates and are extremely grateful for the generous support they have provided the Patterson School,” Boyce said. “This latest gift will help with construction costs of our new facility, which will place our school in a strong position to serve generations of accountancy students.

“Sheryl and Roland Burns have a deep commitment to meeting needs, whether it be faculty support, internships or facilities. They are helping elevate our quality of education and student experiences, which is so important to our program.”

Sheryl and Roland Burns are serving on the steering committee for Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss, the $1.5 billion campaign to strengthen the university for generations. Roland Burns, a Patterson School Hall of Fame inductee, also provides alumni leadership on the UM Foundation board and on the foundation’s Audit Committee.

“Mississippi has fewer resources than elsewhere, and the university has always done a lot with a little,” Burns said. “I would tell other donors that they will get a lot of value for their dollar. It’s great to give back and feel you are making a difference.”

Sheryl and Roland Burns have been honored with the naming of the Burns Chair of Accountancy, a prestigious faculty position held by Dale Flesher; Burns Hall, a residence hall on the Oxford campus; and the Burns Team Meeting Room for the Ole Miss football program to pay tribute to their support of the institution. They give equal gifts to academics and athletics.

“We saw the value of football being the front door to bring alumni and friends back to campus,” Roland Burns said. “Athletic programs tie into how vibrant our university is.”

Besides his financial support, Burns gives Ole Miss accountancy students opportunities to participate in an internship program in the financial reporting department of Comstock Resources, an independent energy company, where he is president and CFO. This opportunity offers students insight into the financial workings of a publicly traded company.

The Birmingham, Alabama, native joined Comstock in 1990 as CFO and contributed to the company’s growth by overseeing a series of acquisitions, joint ventures and financial transactions. As he became president, he was instrumental in transforming the enterprise from a small start-up with few resources into a $7.5 billion NYSE-listed natural gas producer.

Before Comstock, Burns spent eight years in Dallas with accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP, working primarily in the oil and gas audit practice.

Sons Derek and Tyler Burns both work for KPMG in Dallas. Derek Burns is a manager, and Tyler Burns is a senior accountant. The couple also has a daughter, Stephanie Burns, a graduate of Southern Methodist University.

For more information about supporting the new home of the accountancy school, contact Jason McCormick at jason@olemiss.edu or 662-915-1757.