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For the Love of Pharmacy and Sports

By Bill Dabney

University of Mississippi

University of Mississippi officials give School of Pharmacy alumnus Francis Cerniglia (center) a tour of campus, including The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss during a 2017 visit. Cerniglia, who died in August 2022, left a portion of his estate to the pharmacy school and Ole Miss athletics programs. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will benefit from a gift in excess of $4 million received from the estate of the late alumnus Francis Cerniglia, of Cordova, Tennessee.

Cerniglia, who died in August 2022, supported both entities throughout his lifetime. He made a planned gift in 2017, designating the university as beneficiary of a portion of his estate.

The 1959 pharmacy graduate and Rebel basketball fan last visited campus the same year and received a tour of The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss as a token of appreciation for his three-decade history of financial contributions to the university.

At the time, Cerniglia said he chose to support the two entities because, “the School of Pharmacy allowed me to have a successful life in my chosen field” and “since 1947, when Ole Miss won the SEC championship in John Vaught’s first year as head football coach, I immediately became attached to Rebel sports and never looked back.”

The retired pharmacist said he found the SJB Pavilion and the campus, in general, to be “remarkable.”

“I have merely echoed what everybody has been saying about The Pavilion: a stupendous addition to the Ole Miss sports field!” he exclaimed. “My tour of the campus was most impressive to one who had not had the chance to view the campus in several years.”

In 2001, Cerniglia directed funds from his mother’s estate into an endowment to reward School of Pharmacy faculty for excellence in teaching.

Barbara Wells, then the school’s dean, considered the donor a friend.

“Francis Cerniglia was a kind, compassionate and generous man, and I admire him so much for these personal qualities,” Wells said. “He cared particularly about students, faculty, quality teaching, the practice of pharmacy and the patients he served.

“He was a cherished and good friend to me and a good friend to the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy and his profession. I will greatly miss him and our occasional lunches at Macaroni Grill.”

Donna Strum, the school’s dean, said Cerniglia’s unrestricted gift of more than $3 million will make a lasting impact on the school.

“We understand that Mr. Cerniglia’s estate gift is a testament to his love for the school as well as for the pharmacy profession,” Strum said. “The support fund it establishes will be used to fulfill some of the school’s greatest needs on behalf of our students and faculty.”

Keith Carter, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, who accompanied the alumnus on his Pavilion tour, said Cerniglia’s gift in excess of $1 million will make a positive impact on Ole Miss sports programs.

“It was a pleasure to get to know Mr. Cerniglia, and I extend my sympathies to his family and friends,” Carter said. “I remember that he was eager to talk with me about Rebel basketball and, as a former player, I always enjoy visiting with such a great fan of the sport.

“His gifts to our program will help keep us competitive for years to come, and we greatly appreciate his generosity and support.”

A Greenwood native, Cerniglia’s first experience in pharmacy was during a summer internship at Chaney’s Pharmacy in his hometown. Earnings were quite different back then – Cerniglia made $50 per week in his early days at the store and said he was satisfied with it.

“That was new training for me as I hadn’t had much experience filling prescriptions yet,” he said. “I had to quickly apply what I learned in the classroom.”

After graduating from college, Cerniglia went to work for Morgan’s Pharmacy in Yazoo City. It was an “old-timey” pharmacy where the “smell of medicine would knock you out,” he said.

Cerniglia later joined the staff at Walgreens in Vicksburg, where he worked for eight years before deciding to relocate to Memphis, where he continued to work for Walgreens for 32 years before retiring in 1992.

The planned gift awarded Cerniglia membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students. The society recognizes generous donors who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts.

For information on including the university in long-term estate and financial plans, visit https://umlegacy.org/ or contact Marc Littlecott at marcplan@olemiss.edu or 662-915-6625.

For information on supporting Ole Miss athletics with an estate gift, visit Forever Ole Miss or contact Denson Hollis at dhollis@givetoathletics.com or 662-915-7159.


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Adam Brown
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