The University of Mississippi’s endowment has grown to more than $775 million – the largest for any Mississippi public university – reflecting both generous private support and a rising investment market.
For comparison, the endowment total was $415 million on June 30, 2010.
The university’s endowment – permanently held funds invested and managed by the Joint Committee on Investments, consisting of alumni, university and foundation leaders – benefited from a 17.8% return on investment for the first eight months of the current fiscal year.
Endowed funds are invested primarily in U.S. and international stocks, bonds, private equity, debt, natural resources and other diversifying assets that enable Ole Miss to provide scholarships to students, faculty support and university programs. These resources also support and stimulate pioneering research, strengthen teaching programs, invest in technology and maintain libraries, laboratories and other facilities, said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation.
“Our endowment continues to grow, despite the impact of COVID-19 and a significant downturn in the market in the last fiscal year,” he said. “Returns at that time were disappointing, but we’ve rebounded because of our investment committee’s steadfast approach to the diversification in our portfolio and the resulting market appreciation.”
While the costs associated with cutting edge research and academic quality continue to increase, state funds account for less than 13% of the university’s operating revenues, making endowment support essential for maintaining and expanding UM excellence. More than ever, private support is crucial, as distributions in recent years have grown to exceed new gifts coming into the endowment.
“In difficult financial times, endowments help sustain the university’s teaching and research and allow it to provide essential support for faculty and students,” Weakley said. “Gifts to the endowment help our university grow now and for generations to come, so we are ever grateful for the continued support of our loyal donors and believe we are well-positioned for the headwinds that may lie ahead in the markets.”
Despite challenges brought on by a global pandemic, private support to the university during fiscal year 2020 totaled $127.2 million, up 26 percent from the previous fiscal year. Of this private support, new cash gifts to the endowment totaled $12.1 million. More than 22,000 alumni and friends supported academics, the UM Medical Center and Ole Miss athletics. This included 3,441 new donors.
Fiscal year 2020 was the ninth consecutive year private support exceeded $100 million, signaling that alumni and friends believe Ole Miss students, faculty, programs and state-of-the-art facilities are worthy of major investments, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said.
“We are humbled and inspired by the generosity of our donors and are truly thankful for their investments in our students, programs and faculty through endowments that enable Ole Miss to continue delivering the excellence for which we are so well-known and respected,” he said.
Endowment gifts, which constitute part of total private support, enable individuals and corporations to transfer private funds to support public purposes with the confidence that their gifts will benefit UM students, faculty, facilities and programs for as long as the institution exists.
Among the largest FY20 and FY21 gifts designated for the endowment were a $3 million gift from New England-based Reba and Dave Williams to move the Willie Morris Awards for Southern Writing from New York to the Oxford campus; a $1 million estate gift from Roger Friou, of Ridgeland, for scholarships in the School of Accountancy; and a $1 million gift from John Stone, of Germantown, Tennessee, to assist computer science majors.
“Donors give back to Ole Miss because they believe in our mission of building a better world through education,” Boyce said. “They care deeply about our students, our state and our future, and they are invested in how our students can pursue their passions, maximize their potential and push their boundaries through enriching learning opportunities and meaningful, life-changing experiences.”
Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, spoke to the endowment’s growth.
“It is great to see the endowment’s rebound at a time when gifts to both academic and athletic programs have been dramatically impacted by the global pandemic,” she said. “Health concerns curtailed development officers’ ability to travel and visit with our donors and potential donors, and athletic events that bring alumni and friends back to campus had to be canceled.
“Fortunately, we are able to return to nearly normal, and our donors are – as they always have been – exceptional. We are grateful that they understand their support enables top-tier opportunities for students and the long-term financial health of our university. Also, an endowment gift is a permanent investment in whatever the donor values most at Ole Miss.”
For example, Millie Craig, of Kingwood, Texas, gave $250,000 to establish an endowment in memory of her husband, the late O.V. Craig, to help future students attend college. Higher education would have been unobtainable for him if not for the generosity of a man who provided financial assistance to youth.
“He was always grateful, crediting that scholarship as the means to escape the extreme poverty he endured as a young man,” said David Craig, of Klein, Texas, the Craigs’ son. “Our father was always a very generous person, both with his time and money, and he always had a special place in his heart for those who came from nothing.”
For more information about the UM endowment, visit https://umfoundation.com to:
- Learn why endowments are important and how to establish one to help Ole Miss students, faculty, facilities and programs. The FAQ section of this brochure is particularly helpful.
- Review a sample Memorandum of Agreement. This is an agreement signed by the donors and representatives of the foundation and university upon establishing an endowment.
- In the UMF’s Joint Investment Policy Statement, discover how the foundation invests donations and maximizes gifts to the university.
- See endowment returns and investment allocations.
To learn about and support UM programs, students, faculty, staff and needs, visit https://give.olemiss.edu.