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Extraordinary Generosity in Uncertain Times Marks USM Foundation’s Largest Fundraising Year Yet

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 13:28pm | By: Karelia Pitts

In a year that has been profoundly unusual, an outpouring of support from donors elevated giving through The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation to new heights. With the private support of nearly 3,400 alumni and friends of the University, gifts totaled $39 million during the 2020 fiscal year, including $7.3 million in outright gifts and $31.7 million in deferred gifts through estate planning.

“Every single gift provides the life-changing gift of education to Golden Eagles from around the world,” said Stace Mercier, executive director. “The passionate support of Southern Miss alumni and friends, whose generosity made our most successful fundraising year possible, is inspirational. Golden Eagles always answer the call to support Southern Miss. This milestone is a testament to their dedication and generosity, especially during this challenging year.”

In the largest fundraising year since the Foundation’s creation in 1959, contributions increased nearly 150 percent, rising from $15.8 million in fiscal year 2019.

Significant gifts during the 2020 fiscal year include the following:

  • Businessmen and brothers, Jim and Thomas Duff, each designated USM as the beneficiary of planned gifts to USM, representing the largest bequests in the University’s history. The collective gifts of $30 million will provide scholarships to USM students upon maturity. In addition, the family continues to support USM with outright gifts, including $145,000 for the Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families Building through the Duff Family Foundation.

    “We are glad to have the ability and opportunity to give back to the state of Mississippi through scholarships for USM students. Our family is dedicated to enriching educational opportunities in our home state, and we hope this support will help talented students prepare for and seize opportunities that allow them to enjoy rewarding careers,” said Thomas Duff. “In the Southern Miss graduates we’ve hired and the current students we meet, my brother and I see a similar spirit of entrepreneurship, innovative problem-solving and drive to be the best. Expanding educational opportunities for those kinds of hardworking students to achieve is a legacy of which we are proud,” stated Jim Duff.

  • The 2020 Southern Miss Eagle Relief Program assisted students, faculty and staff impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and severe weather events in April 2020. Collectively, nearly 400 donors gave $60,000 through the Southern Miss Emergency Relief Fund, the Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry and the Southern Miss Fund.
  • An anonymous million-dollar planned gift will create scholarships for nursing and elementary education students, in addition to supporting the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and the USM Symphony Orchestra.
  • Touching an array of units, the Jimmy A. Payne Foundation awarded $536,500 to 11 programs across USM, offering the most awards given since their Foundation’s creation.
  • The Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Charitable Foundation committed $625,000 to support the DuBard School for Language Disorders.

This year, over $8 million was disbursed to the University through the USM Foundation, including more than 2,100 scholarships, totaling over $4.3 million. Over the last decade, nearly 22,000 scholarships have been awarded through the USM Foundation because of the generosity of the Southern Miss community, totaling $38 million in privately funded financial aid for students.

The 2021 fiscal year is also off to a strong start with celebrations planned this fall for the 25th anniversary of Oseola McCarty’s incredible gift to USM and the groundbreaking of a new, 100 percent privately funded facility for the USM Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families.

“I cannot say it enough. Thank you to each and every donor who has invested in the bright future of USM, making a difference in the lives of our talented and hardworking students, faculty and staff,” said Mercier. “As members of our community continue to raise the bar in their research, teaching and other academic endeavors, opportunities for further growth at USM are everchanging and evolving. Great things are on the horizon, and together, we continue our rise ‘to the Top.’”