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Fund Named for Spargo Supports the Arts, Rowan Oak

By Mary Stanton Knight

University of Mississippi

The new Linda Spargo Art and Rowan Oak Fund will contribute financially to academic research within the College of Liberal Arts – such as the work examining the history of author William Faulkner’s former home, known as Rowan Oak – and to the work of the Department of Art and Art History. Photo by Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Navigating a four-year university can be daunting for some students, but University of Mississippi students had a mentor in Linda Spargo, who devoted her career to guiding them and their families.

Recently retired, Spargo’s impact is being honored through a support fund. Numerous donors, including former students and parents with whom she worked during her 25 years at Ole Miss, have contributed more than $44,000 to the Linda Spargo Art and Rowan Oak Fund. 

The Spargo Fund will contribute financially to academic research within the College of Liberal Arts – such as the work examining the history of author William Faulkner’s former home, Rowan Oak – and to the work of the Department of Art and Art History.

“I’m an academic, so for me personally, it’s really wonderful and exciting to be associated with a fund that supports the university in this way,” said Spargo, who first served as Chancellor Emeritus Robert C. Khayat’s speechwriter and later as the longtime special projects coordinator for the Office of the Chancellor.

“My very first class at Ole Miss was the Faulkner class, and it really changed my life. It affected how I read everything else that was required for my English degree. It was invaluable, and to me Rowan Oak is hallowed ground.”

While much is known about Rowan Oak during Faulkner’s ownership, Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Department of Sociology and Anthropology researchers are focusing on Robert Sheegog, the builder and original owner of the estate.

Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies, shared that Rowan Oak has another history that goes beyond the significance of being the homestead of Mississippi’s only Nobel Prize-winning recipient.

“The two histories converge in Faulkner’s fiction, much of which he wrote at Rowan Oak and a good bit of which he wrote about men like Sheegog, the powerful white planters and slaveholders of the antebellum era,” Watson said. “In these ways, the residence has become an important part of the history of Oxford, the university and modern literature.”

Portions of the Linda Spargo Art and Rowan Oak Fund will support ongoing research into the early 1800s period of Faulkner’s former home and grounds.

“Having the resources to continue this work means that faculty, staff and student members of the Slavery Research Group can take a multipronged approach to accurately and comprehensively interpret the lives of enslaved persons who lived on what was then the Sheegog Estate, as well as better understand the long-term impacts of their lives through their descendants,” said Jodi Skipper, associate professor of anthropology and Southern studies.

“The educational opportunities available to students of all ages that will come from this are tremendous,” she said. “In addition, these efforts can contribute to making Oxford and Lafayette County a more inclusive and welcoming environment for visitors and community members alike.” 

Watson added that the research will give insight into the many “lives” of Rowan Oak.

“Thanks to this endowment, the university will be in a position to conduct historical and archaeological research that will tell us more about all of these lives. It’s a most worthy acknowledgment of Linda’s many years of service to the university and the wider community.”

The endowment also pays tribute to Spargo’s assistance to 200 to 300 families a year and other areas of impact including co-founding and directing the university’s Writing Center, teaching a section of business communications each semester for 20 years, serving as director of the Paris-Yates Chapel and helping develop the earliest safe ride program for students.

Spargo holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education in English from Ouachita Baptist University, as well as a doctoral degree in English from Ole Miss.

To make a gift to the Linda Spargo Art and Rowan Oak Fund, visit https://umfoundation.com/spargo. Checks with the scholarship name noted in the memo line also can be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation at 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For more information on the fund, contact Brett Barefoot, senior director of development, parent and family leadership, at bmbarefo@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2711.

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