University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney D. Bennett extended a personal thank-you via Skype today (Feb. 21) to sixth-grade students in California for their contributions to the Oseola McCarty Scholarship Fund.
Bennett spoke with members of the class at Alice G. Mulcahy Middle School in Tulare, Calif., and their teacher, Matt Johnson, who introduced the students to McCarty’s story recently as part of a discussion about philanthropy. McCarty, a Hattiesburg, Miss., washerwoman, left the vast majority of her life savings to The University of Southern Mississippi for the establishment of a perpetual scholarship
“I hope that your students take away from this experience that everybody can help in some way,” Bennett told the group. “Everybody can be a philanthropist. You don’t have to have millions of dollars to make a difference. I want to thank you all for honoring the memory and generosity of Miss McCarty.”
The class’ decision to donate a $40 cash prize -- won as part of a school-wide fundraising effort – to the McCarty Scholarship Fund prompted contributions from others within the school. The result was a check for $135 sent to Southern Miss earmarked for the McCarty Scholarship.
“The thing I love is that this wasn’t my idea,” said Johnson. “I’m not sure if I would have thought of making a donation to a scholarship fund. It just goes to show how deeply they were affected by Oseola McCarty’s story.”
In 1995 it was announced that McCarty, who never attended college, intended to leave approximately $150,000 of her savings to Southern Miss. The money would provide scholarships to students who could not otherwise afford a college education. Today, the market value of the Oseola McCarty Endowed Scholarship Fund totals nearly $745,000.
Forty-four students have received McCarty Scholarships with more than $370,000 awarded since the scholarship’s inception. There is a residence hall on the Hattiesburg campus of Southern Miss named for McCarty, who died in 1999. The USM Foundation also renamed its planned giving society the McCarty Legacy in honor of its most well-known planned gift benefactor.
While none of Johnson’s approximately 35 students indicated ever visiting the State of Mississippi, Bennett extended an invitation to them well in advance of high school graduation.
“Six years from now, we’d love to have every one of you enrolled here at Southern Miss,” he said.
To learn more about the Oseola McCarty Scholarship Fund, contact the USM Foundation at 601.266.5210 or visit: www.usmfoundation.com