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Gift Boosts University’s STEM Efforts

Participants in the Mississippi Bridge STEM Program take notes in a class led by UM mathematics instructor Kelvin Holmes. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

A recent unrestricted gift to the University of Mississippi from the estate of Maurice Lucas Kellum, of Tupelo, is being directed to support construction of a leading student-centered science, technology, engineering and mathematics building on the Oxford campus.

University leaders have a vision for the 200,000-plus-square-foot building to be an important tool to bolster science literacy in Mississippi by providing active learning classrooms and state-of-the-art labs to prepare STEM majors and K-12 teachers of those subjects. The building will help address the critical need to increase STEM graduates and support growth in the state, regional and national economies.

Kellum’s gift of $187,025 will help offset building costs associated with the $150 million project, which is poised to be the crown jewel of the university’s Science District along University Avenue.

Kellum, who died in October 2017, was married for 56 years to the late Dr. William Carl “Bill” Kellum Sr., a 1950 UM graduate. He was the first board-certified internal medicine specialist in Tupelo and served as chief of staff of the North Mississippi Medical Center. He was also a U.S. Army veteran who served in World War II.

Maurice Lucas Kellum dedicated her life to her family and her church. The Kellums had six children, 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, several of whom are Ole Miss graduates.

“This donation was set up by my parents together in agreement as both realized the importance of education, especially higher education, to succeed in life,” said Dr. Andy Kellum, of Saltillo, a 1982 graduate of the UM School of Medicine. “Theirs was an abiding love for the state in which they lived and raised their family.

“The University of Mississippi held a special place in their heart. It is their hope that this legacy will benefit others and that the university and the state will grow. As well, they desired that all who are touched by it would become shining examples of what we can become with scholarship and learning.”

UM Provost Noel Wilkin believes Mississippi’s future workforce projections suggest a great need for professionals with degrees in STEM fields.

“The new STEM building is designed as a premier educational facility that will allow us to expand and enhance our ability to prepare students to become recognized professionals in these fields,” he said. “We need academic spaces that encourage more engagement; the new facility will focus on active learning spaces that better facilitate the work of students and faculty members.”

Besides the STEM facility, the UM Science District includes Coulter Hall (chemistry), Thad Cochran Research Center (National Center for Natural Products Research, Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and School of Pharmacy); Faser Hall (pharmacy); Shoemaker Hall (biology); Hume Hall (mathematics); Carrier, Anderson and Brevard halls (engineering), the Kennon Observatory and Lewis Hall (physics and astronomy); and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

A major pedestrian artery through the Science District is to be named in honor of the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, which has contributed nearly $54 million to the university, including funds for STEM building construction. Ford Way will run between University Avenue and All American Drive just north of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which includes the location for the new STEM building.

Kellum’s estate gift awarded her membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university opened to its first students. The society recognizes alumni and friends who provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts.

For more information on ways to provide support for the STEM building’s construction, contact Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, at cpparks@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3120.

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

By Bill Dabney

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