Thursday, July 7, 2022

New Institute Focuses on Improving Student Wellness

By Bill Dabney

University of Mississippi Communications

University of Mississippi officials and members of William Magee’s family celebrate the grand opening of the William Magee Center for Wellness Education in 2019 at the university’s South Campus Recreation Center. A new gift from the Dr. and Mrs. R. Faser Triplett Foundation helps establish the William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing, which will include the center and will expand its work far beyond the Ole Miss campus. Photo by Christian Johnson/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The Triplett family – longtime supporters of the University of Mississippi and its efforts to improve life for Mississippians – is making a big dream to help others come true. The family’s $500,000 gift, from the Dr. and Mrs. R. Faser Triplett Foundation, provides the seed money needed to establish the William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing at the university.

The institute will serve as the umbrella organization over a number of wellness centers designed to encourage holistic well-being and to change and improve lives through education, research and support related to alcohol and other drugs. This is the second major gift the Triplett Foundation has made to the university’s efforts in this area, and the support has been instrumental in the growth of powerful resources for students.

For example, the existing William Magee Center for Wellness Education, with its primary focus on preventing substance abuse, will be moved within the new institute along with a research center and other services that address such issues as mental health and eating disorders. The Magee Center will continue to focus on Ole Miss students with support and education, while the broader Magee Institute can work beyond campus, finding solutions for students and families.

“The Triplett family’s caring is allowing us to reach for the stars,” said Natasha Jeter, assistant vice chancellor for wellness and student success. “Their support is allowing us to dream big and build that dream into reality.”

The Triplett Foundation, named for the late Jackie and Faser Triplett, of Jackson, is managed by their children: Chip Triplett, of Ridgeland; Diane Holloway, of Nashville, Tennessee; Suzy Fuller, of Greenwood, South Carolina; Liz Walker, of Jackson; and Lou Ann Woidtke, of Madison.

“We’re all for a total-wellness type of facility to which students can go to seek help,” said Chip Triplett, president of the foundation. “In today’s environment, many students have so much going on in their personal lives while also trying to successfully achieve a college degree.

“Students need a place to go where they can talk to somebody when they’re struggling with an issue that they or a family member or friend are encountering. And now, building this institute, we can serve even more.”

Building the university’s next standalone institute is a big lift, however. Thus, the Triplett family is providing funding for the Triplett Family Visioning Series, led by Ole Miss’ Meagen Rosenthal and Annie Cafer. The months-long process involves stakeholder engagement and research resulting in the plan to launch the institute so it can serve students, families and communities.

The Magee Center and institute are tribute to William Magee, an alumnus of the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Croft Institute for International Studies and member of the track team on the SEC academic honor roll. He lost his life to an overdose in 2013.

Brett Barefoot, senior director of development, worked with Magee’s parents, Kent and David Magee, to secure more than $2 million in cash and pledges to establish the center.

“The issue of substance abuse is a concern on every college campus and across our society,” Barefoot said. “The Ole Miss family always responds to the needs of young people, but reaction to this issue has been especially strong and truly inspiring.”

In 2019, the Triplett Foundation awarded the William Magee Center $750,000 to support the hiring of a health-education specialist, fund the planning of a national symposium at Ole Miss and cover expenses associated with the startup.

Its most recent gift is designed to help the center continue its proven success in achieving its mission, which is to advocate for well-informed, healthful choices and encourage students to strive for wellness in a positive, empowering, open and inclusive environment.

“Understanding that the university is fully committed to seeing the center succeed in helping Ole Miss students have a place to seek help and seeing what they’re already doing just reinforces that they’re headed in the right direction,” Chip Triplett said. “So we wanted to continue to provide funds to further this important effort.” 

Besides supporting student wellness, the Triplett siblings directed a $1 million gift to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi at the UM Medical Center to support the expansion of Children’s Hospital. They also helped establish the R. Faser Triplett Sr. Chair of Allergy and Immunology in honor of their father.

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education, part of the new South Campus Recreation Center, accepts gifts from individuals and organizations. Donors can mail a check with the center’s name in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at

For more information, contact Brett Barefoot at or 662-915-2711.

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