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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Memphis Couple Pledges $500,000 to Seed Classics Endowment

Two University of Mississippi supporters are so impressed with the positive direction that Chancellor Robert Khayat is taking the university that they have decided to help.

Mike and Mary “Bickie” McDonnell of Memphis, Tenn., have pledged $500,000 to create the Mike and Mary McDonnell Endowment in Classics. The two agree their decision reflects their confidence in the university’s leadership and direction. “This gift is precipitated entirely by our admiration of Chancellor Robert Khayat,” Mike McDonnell said. “We thought his job ought to be celebrated.” Khayat said that the McDonnells’ decision to create the endowment is inspiring and will help further the university’s commitment to attracting the region’s brightest students and producing future leaders.

“For many years, Mike and Mary McDonnell have been good friends of the university,” Khayat said. “Their generous gift supporting classics at Ole Miss is a reflection of their extraordinary awareness of eternal values and their generosity. We are profoundly grateful.”

The classics department is an area the McDonnells say they feel strongly about, as they consider the classics to be the focal point of a well-rounded liberal arts education. Classical studies may touch on a wide range of subjects, including religion, art, philosophy, drama, poetry, science, astronomy, mythology, geography, mathematics, archaeology, politics and law.

“This wonderful gift from Mike and Mary McDonnell to the Department of Classics will make extraordinary opportunities available to both students and faculty,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The Department of Classics and the College of Liberal Arts are stronger because of this gift, and we are extremely grateful to Mike and Mary McDonnell for their generous support.”

Earlier this year, the classics department moved into the newly renovated Bryant Hall. Located on Lyceum Circle, Bryant Hall also houses the Department of Philosophy and Religion. The building has new, wired classrooms and gathering space on the main floor for students and faculty.

Mike McDonnell, a graduate of Yale University, is co-owner of Orgill Inc., which provides wholesale distribution and retail services to the home improvement industry. He and Mary enjoy spending time with their three children and six grandchildren, all of Memphis.

“We are proud of what Ole Miss is doing,” Mary McDonnell said. “We want to see this growth continue.”