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Family Helps Study-Abroad Students Cover Expenses

By Bill Dabney

University of Mississippi

With a $100,000 gift, Gabriella (left) and Marshall St. Amant have established two endowments to benefit University of Mississippi students who study abroad. They are joined by their children, Marshall and Bella, whose educational experiences at Ole Miss inspired the gifts. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

With a $100,000 gift to the University of Mississippi, Gabriella and Marshall St. Amant, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have established the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Classics Endowment and the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Croft Endowment.

The endowments memorialize Gabriella St. Amant’s mother, who died in June 2022, and honor the educational experiences shared by the couple’s children: Bella St. Amant, a 2020 alumnus of the UM Croft Institute for International Studies, and Marshall St. Amant, a 2023 graduate who majored in biochemistry and classics on a premed track.

Funds from the endowments will support unexpected or incidental expenses incurred by Ole Miss students traveling abroad. 

“The St. Amants’ vision for this endowment is inspiring,” said Oliver Dinius, director of the Croft Institute. “After hearing from students what would make their study abroad experience more fulfilling, the St. Amants made a generous gift that specifically addresses that need. 

“It will provide students with a financial cushion to embrace unique cultural experiences as they live and study abroad.”

Inspiration for the gift occurred to the St. Amants when their daughter was studying in Uruguay with other Croft students, her mother said. 

“Bella’s experience made us realize that tuition is covered, but that doesn’t mean that living expenses are,” Gabriella St. Amant said. “Maybe you need to get a phone plan or a bus pass or maybe it’s simply a nice dinner out one night that you really couldn’t afford and you’re eating peanut butter and jelly that you packed in your suitcase for the six months that you’re there.” 

The St. Amant gifts – and even the siblings’ desire to attend Ole Miss – are a tribute to their grandmother, Carmen Posada, a native Puerto Rican who graduated from Tulane Medical School and worked as a pediatrician for more than 50 years. She met and married Jerome Pepper, whose career designing airports for the U.S. government meant his family lived in many different countries.

“They were both very well-traveled and they instilled in my siblings and myself a sense of the importance of discovering other cultures,” Gabriella St. Amant said. “My husband is the exact same way, and we have tried to do that with our kids as well.”

Bella St. Amant, a master’s student at the University of Sussex in England, said she and her brother can trace their interest in the world around them to their grandmother.

“From her, we have these inherent traits of curiosity and an itching for learning,” she said. “It was kind of like the perfect storm that the programs we found at Ole Miss were such a great fit. I credit every success to the instruction that I had at Croft and the mentors I encountered through Ole Miss. 

“The ability that I have to be fluent in Spanish now and to communicate with my grandmother in Spanish was possible in part because of my education at Ole Miss.”

Marshall St. Amant plans to attend the University of Georgia this fall to pursue a master’s degree in classical language. From there, he’s considering either medical school with a palliative care focus or continuing his education toward earning a doctorate.

He chose Ole Miss after visiting his older sister on campus.

“I always felt super-welcomed in the classics department, and of the two majors, it was the one that piqued my interest more,” he said. “That can all be attributed to the wonderful faculty we have here. 

“It was a small cohort, so I was able to have a one-on-one experience with every professor in the department. They were all truly nurturing in shaping my vision of education.

Gabriella St. Amant hopes other Ole Miss alumni and friends will understand that even small donations to the Croft Institute and the Department of Classics can make a big difference. 

“I wanted to create something where people felt like they could give any amount – where $100, $20 or $5 would make an impact,” she said. “I believe if you have a fund that’s for ancillary expenses, it’s a little bit easier to approach a recent alum and say, for example, ‘Your $20 just paid for a phone plan for a student for the six months that they’re in Bogota.’

“You’ve got to pay it forward. I think if we don’t teach our kids the culture of giving, then we become a very isolated society. I feel very strongly about that.”

Individuals and organizations can support the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Classics Endowment and/or the Dr. Carmen Posada-Pepper and St. Amant Family Croft Endowment by sending a check, with the fund’s name written in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at https://give.olemiss.edu.

For more information, contact Brett Barefoot, executive director for central development, at bmbarefo@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2711.

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