Steve Rogers

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Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Video: Ole Miss Donations Hit $118 Million

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OXFORD, Miss. – With more than $118 million in private support, the University of Mississippi again experienced a record fundraising year, with alumni and friends helping advance the flagship university’s academic, medical and health care, and athletics programs.

An emerging trend was seen the increasing gifts designated for faculty, meeting a need expressed by UM leadership.

“The commitment of our alumni and friends is truly inspiring,” UM Chancellor Dan Jones said. “On the Oxford campus alone, our generous donors committed more than $6 million for new named faculty positions. We are fortunate to have alumni and friends so actively engaged in the life of the University of Mississippi that when there are needs, they respond at generous levels. This is beneficial not only for transforming individual lives but also for society in general.”

Increased faculty support is critical, the chancellor said, with the fierce competition nationally for top professors. In addition, more than 200 professors will have to be added to UM campuses over the next few years to keep up with enrollment growth.

“Named, endowed faculty positions are powerful recruitment and retention tools,” Jones said. “Our donors understand that an investment in faculty makes a direct, positive impact on students, a solid return on their investment. We continue to seek and retain talented teachers to prepare, mentor and guide our students, as well as pursue important research.”

Cash gifts of all sizes to the university combined for nearly $90 million, with new pledges receivable in future years adding up to more than $25 million. Donors committed $2 million in planned and deferred gifts. Alumni and friend participation increased 4 percent, and the number of gifts rose from 37,000 in 2013 to 42,000 in fiscal year 2014.

The gifts touch every area of the university, including its Medical Center campus.

“This is a generous state, and it’s gratifying when people choose to give because they want to help make a positive difference in the health of every Mississippian,” said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “I’ll be retiring in the summer of 2015, but I plan on working hard until then because there’s still a lot to do. As Mississippi’s only academic medical center, the stakes are high. We rely on philanthropy to give us that added margin of excellence that the people of our state deserve. Our donors make that possible, and I’m always humbled by their support.”

Donors are responding positively to developments they see at UM and to the stewardship of their gifts, said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation, which had an investment return of 16.4 percent in fiscal year 2014.

“Our donors want to give back to the place they love, and they clearly see the return on their investments compounding over time,” Weakley said. “The credit for successful investment and management of private funds must be given to our alumni leaders who give countless hours of service to ensure our assets are in the most favorable, long-term position.”

Debbie Vaughn, senior executive director of development, said when she is traveling the country, she is always struck by the common trait among Ole Miss alumni and friends.

“Members of the Ole Miss family vary in how much time they have to come back to campus,” she said. “However, whether it has been six months or 25 years since a visit, our alumni and friends keep Ole Miss and its growth uppermost in their minds. Our stakeholders are incredibly dedicated, and they are clearly focused on helping others experience Ole Miss. They want to leave a meaningful legacy, and we help match their interests and passions with university needs.”

Momentum also is continuing in gifts designated for Ole Miss Athletics and new or expanded facilities, such as a new basketball arena under construction, with $27.4 million in cash contributed. The last two years, combined cash giving totals $53.4 million, reflecting a 44 percent growth over the previous two years.

The Vaught Society, which began in 2010 with 29 original charter members, has more than 300 members and received $6.7 million in cash contributions this fiscal year. Vaught Society members make pledges of $25,000 or greater over the course of five years.

“This is an extraordinary demonstration of the generosity and commitment by the Ole Miss family,” Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “It remains our quest to provide our student-athletes with a world-class experience. Our mission is being fulfilled each and every day because of the generosity of so many supporters who are filled with the Ole Miss spirit. There are many victories and achievements yet to be fulfilled, but we cannot thank our donors enough as we move forward together.”

In addition to the Vaught Society, $6.3 million was brought in through Forward Together Capital Gift Agreements. The Forward Together campaign has topped $112 million, which comes to $32 million in new pledges for the fiscal year. The total campaign goal is $150 million.

“With such tremendous growth last year, our goal was to maintain similar levels of giving for 2014,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. “Experiencing an additional growth of $1.4 million shows just how committed Rebel Nation is to growing Ole Miss Athletics.”