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Mabus Challenge Gift Supports Equity, Honors Meredith’s Legacy

By Jonathan Scott

University of Mississippi

Ole Miss alumnus and former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus (left) visits with Shawnboda Mead, University of Mississippi vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement. Mabus is challenging alumni and friends of the university to support the Diversity and Community Engagement Fund on Giving Day. Photo by Kirsten Simpson/University Development

When Ackerman native Ray Mabus and his classmates graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1969, they took with them one of the best college educations anyone could obtain.

Mabus’ time as a UM student also taught him and others of his generation more difficult lessons, such as those pertaining to inequality, civil rights and social justice.

“The integration of Ole Miss in 1962 – even for those of us who weren’t on campus during the riots that took place when James Meredith courageously enrolled as the first African American student – is still with us today,” Mabus said. “Sixty years later, that remains one of the defining moments of our lives.”

In honor of the anniversary of the integration of Ole Miss and to enhance the university’s continuing efforts to create a more equitable, engaged and transformative community, Mabus is challenging others to join him in supporting the Diversity and Community Engagement Fund.

As part of Giving Day on Tuesday and Wednesday (April 4-5), Mabus is offering to contribute $5,000 for every 30 gifts made to the DCE Fund, up to $25,000. 

This fund is one of three UM initiatives within the “Building Upon the Legacy” fundraising campaign. The others are the James Meredith Legacy Scholarship and the Inclusive Excellence Retention Fund.

Together, these initiatives support the work being done at Ole Miss to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. They also create academic opportunities for students from Mississippi who have the desire to continue Meredith’s mission to ensure equality for all, said Shawnboda Mead, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

“It has been such a pleasure getting to know Secretary Mabus, and I sincerely appreciate his continuous support of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement,” Mead said. “If more people graciously give their support to the DCE Fund, Secretary Mabus’ gift will be unlocked.

“Unlocking this gift will have a significant impact on advancing our mission to make the university a more accessible and inclusive space where all students can thrive.

“As the university is commemorating the 60th anniversary of integration and the enrollment of James Meredith, I am especially grateful for gifts like this that help us eliminate common barriers to student success.”

Mabus is set to speak April 11 at the university’s Honoring Diversity Excellence ceremony and reception, which begins at 3 p.m. in the Ole Miss Student Union Ballroom.

He continues to stay in touch with many other UM alumni who graduated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Often during these conversations, they regularly note how their exceptional undergraduate experience gave them an education that equipped graduates for “whatever our lives had in store for us,” he said.

For Mabus, that meant he was prepared to obtain additional degrees at other prestigious universities, including Johns Hopkins and Harvard. 

Mabus dedicated most of his professional life to public service, including being elected as state auditor and governor in the 1980s, being appointed as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s and being named the 75th secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2017.

The Diversity and Community Engagement Fund assists the university’s efforts to remove barriers and address inequities that exist in education. More specifically, it supports the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and Center for Community Engagement, in addition to programming designed to bring communities and people together and recognizing the work being done to advance diversity, inclusion and equity.

The Inclusive Excellence Retention Fund provides grants to students in need who actively promote diversity, inclusion and respect across all the university’s campuses.

The James Meredith Legacy Scholarship will provide financial support so students from the Mississippi Delta and Meredith’s home county of Attala will have opportunities to attend UM.

Supporters can visit http://www.umfoundation.com/GivingDay to make a tax-deductible gift to Ole Miss. For more information on how to support these funds, contact Katie Morrison, director of foundation relations and strategic partnerships, at katie@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2135.

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