By Bill Dabney
University of Mississippi
Edith Kelly-Green, a 2011 inductee of the University of Mississippi Patterson School of Accountancy Hall of Fame and first African American woman to become a FedEx vice president, credits her accountancy education for much of her stellar success.
“I stumbled into the accountancy field as I knew nothing about the profession prior to my freshman year at Ole Miss,” said Kelly-Green, a 1973 UM graduate. “My education and experience have provided immeasurable opportunities and rewards.”
Now, with a $120,000 gift to the university, she hopes to help future generations of students enjoy similar career and life successes.
Kelly-Green’s gift increases the endowment for the Christine Hickonbottom Scholarship in Accountancy, ensuring that it will completely support one student’s needs. The scholarship was fully funded in 2000, but had to be paired with a second scholarship when tuition began to exceed the earnings of the original endowment.
The scholarship, once again fully funded, stands at $250,000.
This endowment, given in honor of the donor’s grandmother, will continue to provide financial support to full-time entering accountancy students from Mississippi or Tennessee with additional consideration given to students who have overcome adversity.
Kelly-Green’s gift will go toward Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss, a historic fundraising initiative to secure $1.5 billion in private gifts to strengthen the university for generations to come.
Mark Wilder, dean of the accounting school, expressed gratitude for Kelly-Green’s gift.
“Over more than 25 years I have witnessed the tremendous impact that scholarships have made on our program, enabling us to provide transformational, life-changing opportunities for accountancy students,” he said. “We are extraordinarily grateful to Edith for her generous support that will help so many students achieve success.
“Edith has enjoyed an exceptional career and is one of our most outstanding graduates. She is a wonderful role model, and the Hickonbottom Scholarship will help us immensely in providing support for students who have overcome adversity.”
A native of Oxford, Kelly-Green was raised on meager means by Hickonbottom, a campus housekeeper.
“There was no money and had it not been for a combination of financial aid products, I would probably not have gone to college or would still be paying off my student loans,” Kelly-Green said. “Not having to worry about how to pay for college is big for those like me who grew up in poverty, with no immediate and obvious financial means.”
Thus, the accomplished alumna can empathize with students from similar backgrounds and hopes her gifts to the university will help relieve their financial burdens. Additionally, because her recent gift funds a Women’s Council scholarship, the recipients will benefit not only from scholarships but also mentoring, leadership development, travel and other cultural opportunities as afforded by the award.
“It is a complete package, so even if students start two steps behind in terms of exposure to options and opportunities, they will catch up fast,” said Kelly-Green, founding chair of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
In 2010, the alumna also established the Edith Kelly-Green Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship in Accountancy and the Jayna Michelle Kelly Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship in Biology. Both were created with $125,000 planned gifts from her estate – support that will be realized by the university after her lifetime.
Additionally, in 2013, she established the Marion Mullin Kelly Gordon Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship Endowment with a $125,000 gift in honor of her mother-in-law.
The Women’s Council is a group of female leaders and philanthropists committed to nurturing the development of students with a desire to contribute to create a caring, more ethical world. Since it was established in 2000, the group has built a scholarship endowment totaling almost $19.5 million.
Its $40,000 named scholarships, which have grown to be among the largest on campus, are awarded each year to both female and male students. Thus far, the Women’s Council boasts 164 scholars, including the cohort of seven freshmen this 2021-22 academic year.
“There were fewer than 10 women in my graduating class and maybe two African Americans,” Kelly-Green said. “Accounting is a field that opens doors to so many other professions: from entrepreneurs to chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies.
“I want more females, and particularly African American women, to have that opportunity.”
Besides her UM degree, Kelly-Green also earned a master’s degree in business from Vanderbilt University in 1980. She was inducted into the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame in 1999.
After college, Kelly-Green worked as a senior auditor for Deloitte and Touche before joining FedEx Corp. in 1977 as a senior accountant. Rising through the ranks, she became vice president of internal audit in the early 1990s and reported directly to founder Fred Smith.
She completed her career as vice president and chief sourcing officer for the global shipping company in 2003.
In 2005, she founded a business with her daughter, Dr. Jayna Kelly, a 2005 UM graduate, and son, James Kelly. Her son, Ryan Green, also worked in the family-owned KGR Group, which became the umbrella to the Lenny’s Grill & Subs franchises and Wimpy’s Burgers and Fries.
“As an African American who started with nothing, our family business shows that anyone can elevate themselves with education, initiative, motivation, discipline and a vision,” she said. “Yes, it’s hard, and there are obstacles. But, it is doable, and our business shows that it can be done.”
Besides her Women’s Council leadership, Kelly-Green is one of seven founders of Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis and a founding member of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis.
She serves or has served on the boards of directors of the University of Mississippi Foundation, Baptist Women’s Hospital, Regional One Health, Applied Industrial Technology Inc., Paragon National Bank, Mid-America Apartments Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc., BULAB Holdings Inc., Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Hattiloo Theater.
She was named the 2019 Farrington Entrepreneur of the Year by the Ole Miss School of Business Administration. She also is an avid runner, having completed marathons and half marathons across all 50 states, Antarctica and South America.
“Edith is an inspiration to our scholars, and the entire Ole Miss family,” said Suzanne Helveston, OMWC development associate. “She was the first chair of the Ole Miss Women’s Council in 2000 and 22 years later, she continues to give her time and resources to ensure the fulfillment of our mission.
“Edith is hands-on, working with our students and sharing her experiences. There is not one student in the history of our program who has not been touched by her generosity and philanthropic drive.”
Kelly-Green said her college years shaped who she is today.
“Ole Miss has a strong network throughout the country, and I have been afforded opportunities around the world because I’m a graduate of the University of Mississippi,” she said.
“One of the best things Ole Miss gave me was the tenacity to be the best and never give up.”
For more information about supporting students through the Ole Miss Women’s Council, visit https://omwc.olemiss.edu/ or contact Suzanne Helveston, development associate, at email@example.com or 662-915-2956.