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Endowment Honors Memories of Three Friends

By: Bill Dabney

University of Mississippi

Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers (beginning fourth from left) Keaton Calhoon, Clay Ivy and Brooks Stewart, recipients of the 2022 Kelly Kelly & Wilbanks Scholarship, are joined by (from left) freshman KA and brother of the late Mason Wilbanks, Peyton Wilbanks; Ken and Lynn Wilbanks; Kim and Sam Kelly; and Chris Kelly. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

A scholarship endowment paying tribute to the lives of three University of Mississippi students has grown to more than $540,000, and three new recipients say they feel honored to represent the men for whom the scholarship is named.

Continuing gifts from the Kappa Alpha fraternity have expanded the Charles Walker Kelly, Samuel Clayton Kelly and Bryant Mason Wilbanks Memorial Scholarship Endowment that pays tribute to the lives of lifelong friends killed in a 2011 car accident. 

All natives of Madison, the friends graduated together from Madison Central High School, attended Broadmoor Baptist Church, enrolled in Ole Miss and pledged the same fraternity. Now their legacies are kept alive by fellow KA brothers who receive the annual scholarship awards. 

This year’s recipients of the $5,000 scholarships are Keaton Calhoon and Clay Ivy, both of Oxford, and Brooks Stewart, of Madison.

“Our sons were great young men who understood the values KA stands for and tried every day to be good models of those,” said Sam Kelly, father of Sam Clayton Kelly. “So it’s our pleasure to give back to the members through scholarships in memory of our boys; KA meant so much to them. 

“Even though their time in the chapter was very short, it was extremely meaningful. As parents, we’re very grateful for that.”

Alumni advisers of the KA’s Alpha Upsilon Chapter and UM’s scholarship committee work together to select recipients. The award is based on a number of criteria, including financial need, leadership and academic performance.

“At our son’s celebration of life service in Madison, the one thing we’ll always remember is their pledge brothers up in the choir loft and then walking out of the church through all the KA pledges lined up,” said Ken Wilbanks, father of Mason Wilbanks. “We’re very thankful for everybody in Kappa Alpha and for what this scholarship is doing.” 

Calhoon, a senior finance major with a minor in Spanish, said he feels honored to have been selected as a Kelly, Kelly & Wilbanks scholar.

“To be awarded this scholarship is incredible and it means the world to me that I am able to honor the lives of Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker,” he said. “I will forever be grateful for those families.”

Likewise, Ivy, a junior banking and finance major, said, “I am extremely grateful to have received this incredible scholarship. It is truly an honor to be able to represent Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker’s legacies.

“I also want to thank all of the parents for supporting me through this scholarship, and allowing me to represent their sons the best way possible.” 

Stewart, a sophomore accountancy major, echoed his friends’ sentiments.

“Being able to receive the Kelly Kelly Wilbanks Scholarship is an incredible honor,” he said. “This scholarship means a lot to me because of its ability to allow three great young men’s legacies to continue. 

“I am extremely grateful that the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks families have allowed me to be a part of something much bigger than I.”

Chapter adviser Trey Horne, of Oxford, has been instrumental in growing the endowment.

“Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker were strong men of character who loved God and their families,” he said. “Through this scholarship endowment, their legacies will live on by providing three men of Kappa Alpha Order scholarships each year.

“As new classes enter Ole Miss, this endowment will remind these men that the lives Mason, Sam Clayton and Walker lived are worthy to be followed.”

The endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the Kelly, Kelly and Wilbanks Scholarship noted to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development, at cpparks@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3120; or visit https://give.olemiss.edu.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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