Donor Support

Ririe Family’s Gift to Benefit Forward Together Campaign

By | Donor Support

A St. Louis, Missouri, couple’s gift to Ole Miss Athletics will benefit student-athletes while also honoring their sons, who are University of Mississippi alumni. Scott and Shelley Ririe made a $250,000 gift to the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss Athletics, which bolsters facilities and programs for student-athletes. In recognition, Gate 7 entrance of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be named the Ririe Family Gate. “We love athletics and we especially love college football,” Scott Ririe said. “After our first son enrolled at Ole Miss in 2007, we fell in love with the Grove and all of the traditions. We donated to the athletics program to help perpetuate those positive traditions at Ole Miss.”

The Riries said they also hope their gift will enable the university to continue developing the brightest and best student-athletes possible. “You have to have first-rate equipment and facilities to attract high-level talent in a very competitive Division 1 atmosphere,” said Scott Ririe, who was introduced to Ole Miss in 2005 when he visited the Oxford campus with his son, Mike – then a junior in high school. The two enjoyed a campus tour, a Rebel football game and festivities in the university’s historic Grove. “We never visited another school after that day,” said Ririe, founder and co-president of Control Technology and Solutions (CTS), an energy service company based in St. Louis.

Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter expressed gratitude to the Ririe family. “We love families like the Riries, whose love for Ole Miss Athletics grew from their sons’ passion for and loyalty to their alma mater,” Carter said. “We are so grateful to Scott and Shelley, especially during these uncertain times, and hope their gift will inspire others to similarly support our students and programs.”

Mike Ririe graduated from Ole Miss in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is a commercial real estate agent in Chicago, Illinois. His brother, James, is a 2020 graduate of the School of Business Administration. Inspired by the Ririe brothers’ love for their alma mater, Scott and Shelley made a $300,000 gift in 2018 to establish the Ririe Family Scholarship Endowment, which awards $6,000 a year for up to eight semesters to two St. Louis freshmen in the School of Business Administration.

Scott Ririe graduated from Cornell College in 1979 and Shelley is a 1981 graduate of the University of Iowa. Yet they now proudly support Ole Miss. “Our family has become attached to Ole Miss through our boys and their love and loyalty to the university,” Shelley Ririe said. The couple also has two other children: Andy, a paramedic studying to become a physician’s assistant, and Elise, who graduated from the University of Dayton (Ohio) and is a pharmaceutical sales representative living in Cleveland, Ohio.

Scott Ririe began his career working in sales for Honeywell International Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa. He became service sales manager in 1984 and moved to St. Louis, where he was soon promoted again to district general manager. In 2000, he and a business partner founded CTS, which has grown to become the CTS Group, operating in nine states with over 124 employees and revenue of more than $100 million a year. He serves on the executive committee as treasurer for National Association of Energy Services Companies Board of Directors and the board of Midwest Easter Seals Association. He also has served on the advisory boards for General Motors and, along with his wife, Ranger Bass Boats. His high school sweetheart and wife of 36 years, Shelley Ririe began her career with Revlon Inc., marketing cosmetics to retailers. She then joined Ormco, an orthodontic supplier. Today, she owns Branson West Marine and Powersports.

The Riries’ most recent gift is part of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s drive to honor donors with naming opportunities for each entrance gate at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “The gate naming initiative will play an integral role in completing the $200 million Forward Together campaign,” said Fowler Staines, chief executive officer of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. “With $186 million raised toward a multitude of capital projects, the final phase of the campaign saw the opening of the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center and completed renovations to the Tosh Family Short Course and Oxford-University Stadium.”

Naming opportunities remain available in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the grand gates at the north, east and west entrances as well as a limited number of individual gates. For more information about the Forward Together campaign or the gate naming initiative, visit or contact Matt Mossberg, chief development officer of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, at 662-915-7167 or

RJ Young President Supports Ole Miss Athletics with Major Gift

By | Donor Support

By Bill Dabney

Chip Crunk is no stranger to the University of Mississippi campus.

“I’m up here at least once a month trying to give back, trying to do the right things and help young people better themselves,” said Crunk, president and CEO of the RJ Young Company of Nashville, Tennessee.

The 1987 UM graduate and his wife, Gina, recently made a $500,000 gift to Ole Miss Athletics, the latest of many gifts to his alma mater.

“That’s the reason you work hard — so you have the ability to give back to help young people have better opportunities to attend college and be proud of what the university has to offer,” Crunk said. “I want to see young people have the opportunity to better themselves.”

Crunk is also no stranger to hard work. He started his career with RJ Young at age 14, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, mopping and taking out the trash.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Crunk returned to the company as a sales representative. He became director of sales in 1989, then executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 1995, he took the reins and led RJ Young to see double-digit annual growth.

Providing technology services and office solutions for small- to enterprise-level businesses across every industry, the multimillion-dollar company now ranks as the largest, privately held dealer in the Southeast and one of the largest in the nation. Crunk oversees an operation that covers eight states and employs more than 650 people in 30 locations.

“We are so grateful to Chip and Gina for their commitment to the University of Mississippi and specifically to Ole Miss Athletics,” said Keith Carter, vice chancellor of intercollegiate athletics. “This type of leadership gift shows the Crunks’ commitment to helping us make a difference in the lives of our student-athletes.

“Gifts like these are inspiring to others who may be considering whether the timing is right to give back to Ole Miss,” Carter continued. “Other potential donors will see Chip and Gina leading the way toward increased support and hopefully feel that they want to contribute too.”

In addition to his interest in opportunities for student-athletes, Crunk said he is equally determined to see the School of Business Administration grow in national stature. A longtime member of the Business School’s Advisory Board, he now serves as president.

Crunk is also a member and past president of the Copier Dealers Association, along with serving on both the Canon USA and Ricoh Corporation copier dealer counsels. He is active in church, community and civic organizations and enjoys flying, boating, golfing and cheering for the Rebels and Tennessee Titans.

The Crunks live in Brentwood, Tennessee, and have two children, Trey, a first year student at Ole Miss and Caroline, an Ole Miss alumna.

To support Ole Miss Athletics with a gift to the Forward Together campaign, contact Matt Mossberg at, call 662-915-7159 or visit

Knight Gift Names Gate 38

By | Donor Support

By Bill Dabney

Their recent $250,000 gift to the University of Mississippi gives Amy and Alex Knight of Germantown, Tennessee, a lasting family tribute while honoring a beloved fallen Rebel.

The Knights’ name adorns Gate 38 of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, representing in perpetuity the family’s desire to help improve athletics facilities and help recruit student-athletes to campus.

“We believe that modernized facilities help land top recruits that lead to winning seasons, so it seemed logical to focus our support in that direction,” said Alex Knight, executive vice president of analytics and an owner of Citizens Rx, a national full-service pharmacy benefit-management provider for public and private companies.

“In selecting Gate 38, we wanted to honor Chucky Mullins’ spirit and courage,” said Amy Knight, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the UM Patterson School of Accountancy in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

The late Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins, a Rebel defensive back from Russellville, Alabama, died on May 6, 1991 — 19 months after the Ole Miss homecoming game in which he sustained a devastating football injury that left him a quadriplegic. After the injury, Mullins became the central figure in an outpouring of support that spread nationwide. On Sept. 3, 2006, his jersey number (38) was retired in a pregame ceremony.

The Knights’ gift is part of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s drive to honor donors with naming opportunities for each entrance gate at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“We are so grateful to Alex and Amy for participating in our gate naming initiative, which is the first of its kind and will play an integral role in completing the $200 million Forward Together campaign,” said Keith Carter, interim athletics director. “This type of leadership gift shows the Knight’s commitment to helping us make a difference in the lives of our student-athletes.”

Of the $180.9 million raised toward a multitude of capital projects, gifts have most recently supported the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center and renovations to Oxford-University Stadium.

Naming opportunities remain available for the grand gates at the north, east and west entrances as well as a limited number of individual gates.

Prior to his current position with Citizens Rx, Alex Knight held various operational and business development roles in retail, mail order, specialty, internet and hospital pharmacy as well as pharmaceutical repackaging and physician dispensing.

In 2011, he was named to the Memphis Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” for his professional contributions, accomplishments and community service. In 2013, he was named “Big of the Year” for the State of Tennessee by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Memphis for his service mentoring his “Little,” Marquette, for more than 12 years.

A CPA by trade, Amy Knight held various accounting and financial leadership positions for both privately and publically held companies. Her career focused on directing global corporate compliance and financial process improvement efforts. She developed a high level of proficiency in all aspects of financial controls and compliance-related initiatives, specializing in re-engineering countless revenue and accounting-related processes.

In 2016, after a successful 15-year career, she chose a new challenge, leaving behind her position at a Fortune 50 logistics company to focus on raising the couple’s son, Jack, now 4. This role includes participating in various functions at his school, St. George’s Independent School. She also volunteers with various philanthropic organizations, including the Memphis Zoo, Orpheum Theatre, Children’s Museum of Memphis and Junior Auxiliary of Collierville, Tennessee.

The Knights, who met at Ole Miss, want their support to inspire similar giving.

“We hope other young alumni, family, friends and fans of Ole Miss, especially those in the Memphis, Tennessee-area will consider enhancing their philanthropic giving to Ole Miss Athletics,” Alex Knight said.

His wife agreed: “It’s never too early to focus on giving opportunities for which you feel passionate about and have a personal connection.”

For more information about the Gate Naming Initiative, contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7782 or visit

Hankins Gift Supports Ole Miss Athletics and Gate Naming Initiative

By | Donor Support
By Bill Dabney

The Hankins name is stamped on every piece of lumber that leaves the family’s Ripley, Mississippi, mill.

“It’s because we want people down the line to know who made it, and it represents that our family believes in the quality of the product we produce,” said David Hankins, a registered forester and the eldest of three brothers whose company manufactures, dries and planes Southern Yellow Pine lumber sold nationwide.

Soon, the Hankins name will appear on Gate 15 of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at the University of Mississippi and will represent the family’s support for Ole Miss Athletics.

David and Rita Hankins, J.D. and Beverly Hankins, and Harold Wayne and Patsy Hankins recently made a $250,000 gift to the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss Athletics, which bolsters facilities and programs for student-athletes. In a meeting on the Oxford campus, Interim Athletics Director Keith Carter expressed gratitude to the Hankins family. “Gifts like these are inspiring to others who may be considering whether the timing is right to give back to Ole Miss. Other potential donors will see the Hankins family leading the way toward increased support and hopefully feel that they want to contribute too,” Carter said.
“The Hankins family story is remarkable because of the longevity of support they’ve given Ole Miss as faithful donors for more than 25 consecutive years.”

In fact, the brothers are third-generation Rebel fans; their grandfather’s enthusiasm for Ole Miss continues to spread to his descendants. They and their wives rarely miss a game in the trifecta of most-popular sports — football, basketball and baseball. They sit together in the stands; they laugh and cheer together; and they’re best friends.

J.D. Hankins, a 1976 UM graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting with an emphasis in marketing, credits that relationship and the family’s faith — both nurtured by their mother — for the financial success that enables them to give back.
“It wasn’t a gravy train; it was a battle all the way,” he said, referring to the company’s start-up challenges and the housing market crash of 2008. “We’ve really been blessed through it all. God really took care of us. Especially looking back, you can see His footsteps here, there and everywhere, and we’ve just wondered why He was taking such good care of us.”

Now with 100 onsite employees, 700-plus indirect supporting workers and state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution equipment, Hankins Inc. is in the top-tier of U.S. mills using the latest technology. The brothers grew up in Grenada, Mississippi, working in a lumber business owned by their father and uncle. After their father’s death, his ownership passed to them. In 1988, they decided to sell their interest and start a new company in Ripley by purchasing an existing sawmill. In 1993, the company embarked on a seven-year plan to modernize the entire production line. Now, the mill has a production capacity nine times that of its first year. “We’ve gone from 12-million board feet annually during the first year to 110-million board feet in 2018 and a total exceeding 2 billion board feet over the past 30 years,” said Harold Wayne Hankins, a 1980 Ole Miss graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. “Our special ability in the industry for product mixture is what set us apart competitively.”

“Throughout our business, we stress the core values of quality, integrity and safety, and we strive to provide a superior product, without any compromises to our beliefs or to the safety of our employees.”

The brothers are now semi-retired, but the business remains in the family: J.D.’s son Trey Hankins, a 2003 graduate, is chief financial officer and David’s son Blake Hankins, a 2007 graduate, is chief procurement officer. The Hankins’ gift is part of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s drive to honor donors with naming opportunities for each entrance gate at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “The Gate Naming Initiative is the first of its kind and will play an integral role in completing the $200 million Forward Together campaign,” Carter explained. “With $180.9 million raised toward a multitude of capital projects, the final phase of the campaign saw the opening of the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center and completed renovations to Oxford-University Stadium.”

Naming opportunities remain available for the grand gates at the north, east and west entrances as well as a limited number of individual gates. In 2017, the stadium’s south entrance was named for Diane and J.L. Holloway of Ridgeland, Mississippi; Gate 4 was named for Jane and Doug Simmons of Hollandale, Mississippi; Gate 2 was named the Braddock-Beagle Gate in memory of Larry “Big L” Braddock of Laurel, Mississippi; and Gate 14 will serve as a lasting tribute to alumnus Roger Friou and his wife, Susie, of Ridgeland.

For more information about the Gate Naming Initiative, contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7782 or visit

Andy Prefontaine Pays it Forward with Planned Gift

By | Donor Support
By Bill Dabney

Andy Prefontaine built bridges in the summertime to pay his way through college.

“At that time, the interstate was being built in Connecticut, and my oldest brother was a foreman,” recalls Prefontaine of Indianapolis, Indiana. “I worked as a rod buster, reinforcing concrete with steel. It was a great paying job but it was very, very difficult.” In addition to that summer job, Prefontaine took out a student loan, which his sister paid off as a gift. He knows there’s value in hard work but admits a scholarship would have helped offset expenses, allowing him to more readily focus on school.

Now, as CEO of Family Leisure — a multistate retailer of swimming pools, outdoor furnishings and recreation equipment — Prefontaine wants to pay his blessings forward by including the University of Mississippi in his estate plans. His unrestricted gift, with an estimated value of $423,000, establishes the Andy and Deborah Prefontaine Scholarship Endowment. “I know financial assistance is important these days with rising tuition costs,” said Prefontaine, who recently made a similar gift to his alma mater, Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky. “Students need scholarship money. Sometimes just a few thousand dollars is the deciding factor on whether a student can attend college or not.

“I came from a very humble background: first-generation American parents who were textile workers,” he continued. “I grew up with very little. So I know life can be trying, challenging. I know what that’s like. I’ve just been very fortunate and God blessed my work, so I feel like I have an obligation to pay it forward.”

Interim UM Chancellor Larry Sparks said he appreciates the Prefontaines’ interest in the longevity of Ole Miss. “It’s encouraging to see alumni and friends of the university who understand the importance of higher education and have a desire to help our students achieve their goals,” Sparks said. “We are extremely grateful to Andy and Debbie for their generosity and forethought in making a gift that will help students for generations to come.”

An avid follower of collegiate sports, Prefontaine became a Rebel fan when his son, Kevin, attended Ole Miss in the mid-1990s; he graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “I just fell in love with the SEC and Ole Miss in particular, its hospitality and everything that goes on. Over the years, people assumed I went to Ole Miss and I got tired of telling them I didn’t, so I enrolled,” said Prefontaine, who took a Russian history class. “I’m a history buff, but I had that piece as an open blank that I needed to fill in. And I loved it; it was great. Now I can truthfully say I went to Ole Miss!”

As a student at Morehead State, he was a member of the ROTC program’s first commissioned graduating class and served as the last president of the Aquila Club before the social organization became the national fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. After graduating, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served six years as a reserve engineer officer. Along the way, he met Debbie at a country music venue in Cincinnati, Ohio, her hometown and the city that launched his retail career. The couple has three children and eight grandchildren.

Prefontaine’s estate gift awards him membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university opened the Lyceum doors to its first students. The society recognizes generous alumni and friends who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts. “I hope the gift enhances many students’ lives and that it will make a difference,” Prefontaine said. “Perhaps these students can pay it forward, realizing it was the break they needed to be able to go to school.”

For information on including Ole Miss in your estate, contact Byron Liles, senior director of gift planning, at 662-915-7601 or

For information on giving to the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, contact Keith Carter, Deputy A.D. for Development and Resource Acquisition, at 662-915-1929 or

Frious’ Gift Supports the Forward Together Campaign

By | Donor Support
By Bill Dabney and Tina H. Hahn

New signage at Gate 14 of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will serve as a lasting tribute to University of Mississippi alumnus Roger Friou and his wife, Susie, who recently made a major gift in support of Ole Miss Athletics. “When Billy Brewer was coach here, I was a real insider. I really was. So that brought me close to the Athletic Department and, ever since, I’ve been a very active supporter of the athletic programs. So I just decided one day that it was time to make a gift to the Athletic Department,” said Roger Friou, who graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accountancy in 1956 and 1959 respectively.

“The Lord has been good to me, the stock market has been very good to me and I’ve been good to Ole Miss.”

The Ridgeland, Mississippi, couple’s $250,000 gift is part of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s drive to honor donors with naming opportunities for each of the entrance gates at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and the Pavilion at Ole Miss, the Rebels’ basketball arena.

“The Gate Naming Initiative is the first of its kind and will play an integral role in completing the $200 million Forward Together campaign,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. “With $178.4M million raised toward a multitude of capital projects, the final phase of the campaign saw the opening of the William F. Galtney Indoor Tennis Center and completed renovations to Oxford-University Stadium.”

Friou hopes his gift will help improve the Rebels’ competitive edge. “The NCAA issue really impacted our program, but we’re gradually coming back,” Friou said. “We must have resources for scholarships. So that’s the purpose of my gift: to help the program continue to award scholarships and improve what we’re doing.”

Matt Mossberg, a development officer with the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, said he hopes the Frious’ gift will inspire similar support for the campaign. “Now, more than ever, it’s critical for Rebel fans to give back,” Mossberg said. “We greatly appreciate Roger and Susie for stepping forward in support of Ole Miss. Their generosity will help to significantly improve our facilities, giving our student-athletes the competitive edge they deserve.”

Friou might have attended a different university, except his mother, Annie Belle H. Friou of Tupelo, Mississippi, sought the advice of a family friend on the best accountancy program available for her only child. In turn, Friou assures many young people also enjoy the benefits of his alma mater’s accountancy program through scholarships and other support, as well as utilizing his accountancy background through alumni service to strengthen the overall university.

“Roger is a clear thinking, no-nonsense, passionate advocate for Ole Miss,” said Don Fruge, professor emeritus of law and chair of the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation Board of Governors. “He has an unswerving dedication to Ole Miss Athletics, the Patterson School of Accountancy and to the University of Mississippi Foundation, having served as chair of the UMF board and a long-time member of the Joint Committee on Investments. Roger provided steady leadership during a period of significant growth for the university and its endowment fund. I am proud to call him my friend and thank him for his wonderful service to our university.”

Friou also served the UMF Investment Committee as chairman of its audit committee, the Accountancy Advisory Board and the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “My mother was absolutely correct in guiding me to Ole Miss,” Friou said. “When she passed away in 1984, the first scholarship I established was in her memory. I have always maintained a great interest in income taxes, and the scholarship bearing her name assists outstanding fifth-year students focusing on taxes and preparing for a career in public accounting.”

Friou and his wife became interested in establishing a second scholarship in 1998, when James W. “Jimmy” Davis was the accountancy dean and began efforts to substantially increase the number of accountancy scholarships. With a $250,000 gift, the couple set up the Roger and Susie Friou Scholarship Fund. “At that time there were no scholarships for freshmen who had already selected accountancy as their major. I decided that having such a program would definitely help to attract quality students to the accountancy program. This has been very rewarding for Susie and me, presenting eight to ten scholarships annually. Meeting each year’s scholarship group has been a great pleasure,” said Friou, who is a member of the Patterson School of Accountancy Alumni Hall of Fame and also a donor to a scholarship fund named for Davis and faculty endowments at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Friou has witnessed his investments making a mark. The undergraduate (No. 7), master’s (No. 9), and doctoral (No. 7) degree programs in the Patterson School of Accountancy are all now ranked within the nation’s Top 10, with the undergrad and doctoral programs placing Ole Miss as the No. 1 Southeastern Conference school in the national rankings. “It’s spectacular to know the Patterson School has come so far,” said the alumnus. “We have generous alumni support and outstanding professors. I’ve wanted to be involved as an alumnus because attending Ole Miss was such a life-changing experience for me. My dad passed away when I was fourteen but he left me just enough money to go to college, inspiring me to help deserving young people pursue college degrees.

“I would hasten to tell alumni that without private gifts, Ole Miss would not be the university we know. Our future is unlimited as far as continually moving ahead, but resources are an absolute requirement.”

Friou began his career at Standard Oil (now Chevron) and retired as vice chairman and CFO of Jitney Jungle Stores of America in 1997. He served for 14 years on the board of the Luckyday Foundation, which provides major scholarship support and other programming at Ole Miss for academically deserving students with financial need. The Frious are the parents of two sons, Tom and Stuart, and five grandchildren.

Naming opportunities remain available for the grand gates at the north, east and west entrances as well as a limited number of individual gates. In 2018, the stadium’s south entrance was named for Diane and J.L. Holloway of Ridgeland; Gate 4 was named for Doug and Jane Simmons of Hollandale, Mississippi; and Gate 2 was named the Braddock-Beagle Family Gate in memory of Larry “Big L” Braddock.

For more information about the Gate Naming Initiative, contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7782 or visit

Donor Support and Team Success Highlight 2017-18 Year

By | Donor Support

OXFORD, Miss. – Success was found throughout the 2017-18 Ole Miss Athletics season, and the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation added to another strong year for the Rebels by announcing $33 million in cash donations for the fiscal year. This marks the fourth consecutive year that the foundation exceeded $30 million in cash donations.

“Once again, the strength of Rebel Nation shows in the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation’s annual report,” said Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork. “For our friends, donors and alumni to give close to $200 million over the last six years is nothing short of remarkable. The combination of our great fan base along with the hard work by Keith Carter and his staff has allowed us to build some of the best facilities in the country for our student-athletes. From capturing national championships to SEC Championships, it’s been another great year to be a Rebel. We will continue to take the positive momentum into the 2018-19 year. Hotty Toddy and Go Rebels!”

In competition, the Rebels competed against the best, and a couple ended up being the nation’s best. Arianne Hartono (women’s tennis) and Janeah Stewart (women’s track and field) captured the national championship in their respective sports.

On the team side, Ole Miss Baseball made a memorable run to win the SEC Tournament Championship. Ole Miss Volleyball, playing its first season in the newly-renovated Gillom Center, protected its home court to win the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. The men’s and women’s tennis teams advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, while playing some of their matches in the new indoor tennis center. The Rebel softball and soccer teams made the NCAA Tournament once again, while the women’s golf team advanced to the NCAA National Championships for the first time in program history.

Along with the Gillom Center renovation and debut of the indoor tennis center, the Lloyd Bell Tower was another completed project. Serving as the front door to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the bell tower will introduce new tradition to Ole Miss Football gamedays. For the baseball team, Oxford-University Stadium and Swayze Field have undergone a $20 million renovation that will be finished by the 2019 season. The new Dugout Club opened for fans during the 2018 campaign, while the team’s new performance center is near completion. These facilities are funded by the Forward Together campaign. Out at the Ole Miss Golf Course, a project including a new driving range, a short-game practice area and a short course that features several holes is being crafted to give the men’s and women’s golf teams one of the best practice facilities in the country.

These projects and others would not be possible without the support of Ole Miss Athletics Foundation members, including Diane and J.L. Holloway who made a $1 million commitment. Another important fund that began this past year was in honor of the late Eddie Crawford. As a Rebel student-athlete, coach and senior staff member for decades, Crawford left his mark on Ole Miss. His impact led to the development of the Eddie Crawford Scholarship Endowment Fund. With pledges near $125,000, the fund will provide financial assistance to help student-athletes achieve success on the fields and courts of play as well as in the classroom.

Ole Miss Athletics continued its recent string of academic successes by yet again recording the highest Graduation Success Rate in school history for the fourth straight season. Ole Miss improved three percentage points to 84 percent in this most recent report. Four sports earned a perfect 100 percent GSR in the latest report: rifle, women’s golf, softball and volleyball. More than 50 percent of Ole Miss student-athletes have earned a 3.0 GPA or better each term during the past four years, and, most recently, 194 student-athletes were named to the SEC Honor Roll in 2017-18.

“On behalf of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, I would like to thank those who have contributed financially throughout the past year,” said Keith Carter, Deputy Athletics Director for Development and Resource Acquisition. “The support shown year in and year out allows us to enhance our facilities to help our student-athletes compete at the highest level, while also providing a high-quality gameday experience for our fans. We look forward to the upcoming year as we look to close out the Forward Together campaign and begin new endeavors.”

The upcoming year will be an exciting one for Ole Miss Athletics. A new era of Ole Miss Basketball begins with the hiring of Kermit Davis (men’s basketball) and Yolett McPhee-McCuin (women’s basketball). The men’s team will travel to Canada for a foreign tour in August, and later host Iowa State (SEC/Big 12 Challenge), Kentucky and other NCAA Tournament teams at The Pavilion, while the women’s schedule features a trip to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ole Miss Football will kick off the 2018 campaign against Texas Tech in Houston on September 1. After the Rebels face the Red Raiders, they return to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the home opener on September 8. Tickets are still available.

The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation is looking forward to continuing momentum into this upcoming year, closing in on the $200 million Forward Together campaign goal. The campaign currently sits at $175.6 million, and the foundation is working to reach the goal this year.

For more information on the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, please visit or call the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7159.

New Scholarship Fund Honors Eddie Crawford’s Legacy

By | Donor Support, Memorial

By Bill Dabney

The late Eddie Crawford of Oxford, Mississippi, is being memorialized with a scholarship fund in his name.

The legendary Ole Miss player, coach and administrator was touted as one of the University of Mississippi’s greatest ambassadors. “Eddie epitomized everything good about Ole Miss and wore many hats during his 55-plus years of service to help our great university become what it is today,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. “He was responsible for much of the groundwork that built the high level of success our athletics department now enjoys.”

The Eddie Crawford Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund will provide student-athletes financial assistance to help them achieve success on the fields and courts of play as well as in the classroom. Crawford, a native of Jackson, Tennessee, most recently served in a part-time role as Special Assistant to the Athletics Director. Prior to his “official” retirement in 2004-05, he was the senior associate athletics director the previous 12 years, after serving eight years as the associate athletics director for development and director of the Loyalty Foundation (now the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation). He also provided leadership as interim athletics director at Ole Miss from April to June 1998.

Shirley Crawford said her husband felt fortunate and grateful to work in many different areas at Ole Miss and would be honored by the naming of this fund. “He loved coaching, working with the student-athletes and seeing them become successful both on campus and beyond, so this fund is something he would be very proud of,” she said, adding that Crawford’s work allowed him to cross paths with countless alumni and friends who supported the university.

Now, Carter said, Ole Miss Athletics is calling on those alumni and friends to help continue Eddie Crawford’s legacy by making a gift to the endowment. “Eddie, with Shirley alongside, made improving Ole Miss Athletics their life’s work,” Carter said. “Now it’s time for us to give back to permanently cement Eddie’s legacy while helping current student-athletes achieve the goals that Eddie worked for his entire career.”

The Crawfords’ longtime friend and early contributor Bob Seibels of Montgomery, Alabama, said the honor is well deserved. “Eddie spent his life making Ole Miss better and now we have an opportunity to continue his work,” Seibels said. “I cannot think of a more appropriate way to honor his memory than to give to this worthy cause.”

Crawford joined the athletics department in 1962 as head basketball coach, freshman football assistant coach and varsity scout. He was head basketball coach from 1963 to 1968. He coached the offensive backfield and receivers before taking on full-time recruiting responsibilities in 1977.

Crawford was a star performer for the Rebels and UM’s last three-sport letterman, excelling in football, basketball and baseball from 1954 to 1956, and also participating in track for one season. As the starting left halfback, Crawford helped lead Head Football Coach John Vaught’s Rebels to back-to-back Southeastern Conference titles in 1954 and 1955, and had a three-year career rushing average of 6.4 yards per carry. In basketball, he started at forward for Coach B.L. “Country” Graham in a lineup that included All-Americans Denver Brackeen and Joe Gibbon. Playing for Coach Tom Swayze, Crawford was an All-SEC center fielder in 1956, serving as team captain when the Rebels won the SEC Western Division and NCAA District III titles, advancing to the College World Series.

Following his collegiate career, Crawford was drafted by the New York Giants of the National Football League. He was an instant success with the Giants in 1957, playing first team as a defensive back. However, a nagging shoulder injury from his college days limited his pro football career to that single season, even though Giants assistant Vince Lombardi was encouraging Crawford to return in 1958. With his mind made up to retire from the NFL, Crawford entered the coaching ranks as an assistant at Greenville (Mississippi) High School in 1958. He was named head coach at Greenville High in 1959 before returning home to Tennessee, where he was hired as Jackson High School’s coach and athletics director in 1960, a position he held until returning to Ole Miss in 1962.

Crawford is a member of four Halls of Fame, having been inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Jackson-Madison (Tenn.) County Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1990, Crawford was honored by the Ole Miss Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame with its Distinguished American Award.

The Crawfords have two children, Kim and Kip, both Ole Miss graduates, and two grandsons, Slater and Logan.

To support the Eddie Crawford Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund, checks may be written to the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation or UM Foundation with “Eddie Crawford” in the memo line and sent to P.O. Box 1519, Oxford, MS 38655.

For more information on the Eddie Crawford Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund, contact Keith Carter at or 662-915-7159.

Forbes Family Makes Major Gift to Ole Miss Athletics

By | Donor Support

By Bill Dabney

Avery and Neil Forbes of Madison, Mississippi, attended colleges other than the University of Mississippi, but the couple caught Rebel fever nonetheless. “When I came to Mississippi in 2003 to run a political campaign, I happened to work for a candidate who was a UM grad and his love for Ole Miss was contagious,” said Neil Forbes, a Chesapeake, Virginia, native who’s now a partner specializing in government services with the accounting firm Horne LLC of Jackson, Mississippi.

“Additionally, my roommate was a former team mascot and, considering it was Eli Manning’s last year as quarterback, there was a lot of excitement about the football team,” Forbes continued. “It was a great year to get engaged and excited about Ole Miss football. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked.”

The Forbes family has steadily increased its involvement with Ole Miss Athletics since 2005 and most recently made a major gift to the Forward Together Campaign, which supports facility improvements and scholarships for student-athletes. “We just want our gift to help the athletics department continue to provide world-class facilities for our athletes and the fans,” Neil Forbes said, adding that the infectious Ole Miss spirit is quickly spreading to his children. Hannah, 11, Sawyer, 7, and Madeline, 5, flashed wide grins on the “smile cam” during a baseball game and enjoyed a sideline pass for football. Sawyer even wanted to celebrate his birthday at the Pavilion at Ole Miss, the university’s basketball arena. “We were also thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the team through the Walk of Champions prior to a game last season,” Neil Forbes said. “Coach (Matt) Luke and (Rebel wide receiver) AJ Brown both stopped for a picture with our family, and that is a memory none of us will ever forget!”

The Forbes family looks forward to creating many more such memories. “Supporting Ole Miss Athletics has become a natural part of what we do as a family on weekends,” said Avery Forbes, who was admitted to Ole Miss out of high school but decided to study communications at Mississippi College in her hometown of Clinton, Mississippi. Even then, she frequently visited friends at Ole Miss. “Our goal is that when our kids are older and out of the house, they will always look back and think of all the fun we had and the memories we created over the years going to games.”

Neil Forbes joined the U.S. Army after high school. After serving in South Korea and at Fort Bragg with the 82nd Airborne, he attended community college first and then Virginia Wesleyan College, where he earned a degree in English literature.

Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, said he welcomes the Forbes family into the Vaught Society. “Some of our most loyal fans are not UM graduates and we think that’s simply a testament to our excellent game-day experience,” he said. “On behalf of all those who love our program, we greatly appreciate Neil and Avery’s generous support of Ole Miss Athletics.”

The Vaught Society is the leadership fundraising arm of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. Members of the Vaught Society make a commitment of $25,000 or more that is fulfilled over five years ($5,000 per year). These major gift commitments are above and beyond any priority seating annual donations. In recognition of their generosity, Vaught Society members gain access to an exclusive stewardship program.

To support Ole Miss Athletics with a gift to the Forward Together campaign, contact Keith Carter at, call 662-915-7159 or visit

Hester’s Major Gift Helps Give UM Tennis Competitive Edge

By | Donor Support

By Bill Dabney
A major gift to the University of Mississippi from attorney Bill Hester of New Orleans, Louisiana, is helping give the Ole Miss tennis teams a competitive edge. Hester, who started playing tennis at 6 years old and lettered at Ole Miss from 1967 through 1969, recently made a gift of $100,000 to the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss Athletics. The gift will help offset construction costs associated with the new $11 million indoor tennis facility.

An earlier $300,000 gift from Louis and Lucia Brandt of Houston, Texas, helped jump-start construction on the 52,000-square-foot, two-story building. Located southeast of the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletic Performance Center on Manning Way, the facility features six indoor tennis courts for practice and competition, grandstand bleacher seating for 300 spectators, fan amenities and a spacious lobby.

“The new indoor facility will help the coaches get better recruits and take this program to a whole different level, which everyone is looking forward to,” said Rebel tennis player Zvonimir Babić, a senior from Zagreb, Croatia.

Hall of Fame UM men’s head tennis coach Billy Chadwick and longtime friend of Hester agrees: “The sport has grown … The SEC is recognized as the premiere tennis league in the nation. This new building will put us now in a position where we are competitive with the top teams in the nation from the facilities standpoint. It’s an absolutely fantastic facility.”

Hester grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, where he won the state high school championship two years in a row. After high school, he enrolled at Ole Miss (also his mother Rosa’s and sister Katie’s alma mater), where he played freshman and varsity tennis for four years — the last two in the No. 1 position — and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1969. He then served in the U.S. Army for almost three years before returning to Ole Miss for law school, receiving his juris doctorate degree in 1974. After law school, he joined The Kullman Firm in New Orleans, where he has practiced labor and employment law for more than 40 years.

Hester continues to play tennis regularly and competes annually in southern and national tournaments. In fact, he and his late father, International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee W.E. “Slew” Hester, are four-time USTA National Finalists in father-son doubles.

“One of my most favorite tennis stories involves (Ole Miss Alumna) Eleanor Shaw and the Hesters,” Chadwick recalls. “Slew used to play mixed doubles with Eleanor and won a Southern mixed doubles championship. I will say it was 35 years later when Bill played with Eleanor and again won a Southern mixed championship title, making Eleanor the only player to win a Southern mixed doubles title with both a father and son. The name Hester is synonymous with Mississippi tennis.”

Hester said the sport has changed significantly since his college days. “Our coach, John Cain, was an All-American running back at Alabama, and at Ole Miss, he was primarily a football coach. The so-called “minor sports” of tennis, golf, track and field were all coached by a football coach. That was their sideline,” he said. “Now, these sports have moved into the major category with full-time coaches and full-time assistant coaches, which was unheard of when I was in school.

“It’s much more competitive,” he continued. “In any given year, you’ll have five or six SEC teams in the top 15 of Division I schools. But when I was in college, I think USC won the championship every year that I was eligible to play, but that’s not the case now.

“In the four years that I played, we flew on an airplane one time: to the SEC tournament in Gainesville at the University of Florida. Now the team flies to tournaments and competitions all over the country. It’s totally different; it’s a big deal now.”

Additionally, when Hester played for Ole Miss, tennis was not a scholarship sport; now it’s not only a scholarship sport but the competition is all year. Hence, one reason for the new facility. “By getting the new indoor, we can practice regardless of the weather conditions,” Babić said. “Help from supporters of the Ole Miss Tennis program, like Bill Hester, has a tremendous impact on our tennis and actually our lives. The whole team is very grateful for the donations, and we hope to cheer our donors with some big wins.”

Chadwick said Hester simply has a giving spirit. “I’m so glad he’s getting this recognition because it’s really well-deserved — not only for the fact that he gave us a nice gift, but through the years he has been one of those forces that just elevates the program and the entire university.

“I’ll never forget our matches against LSU, Bill and his wife, Lorraine, were always in the stands,” Chadwick continued. “It was great to see a smiling face in Baton Rouge and it meant so much to the team. They were, and continue to be, fantastic supporters and outstanding ambassadors for the university.”

To support Ole Miss Athletics with a gift to the Forward Together campaign, contact Keith Carter at, call 662-915-7159 or visit