Ask most anyone who knew Mike Aune what he was like and they'll probably tell you two things: that he loved life, and he loved all the people in his.
"Mike was the most incredibly dynamic and enthusiastic guy," said John Gutierrez, professor of foreign language education at the University of Mississippi Croft Institute for International Studies. "He was so full of life. He is a student I've seen work the hardest, and he was so driven."
Tragically, his life ended too soon. Aune, a 2000 graduate of Lafayette High School and a 2004 UM graduate, died earlier this year of an aneurysm at age 25.
His parents, Eddie and Cindy Aune of Oxford, have established the Mike Aune Memorial Scholarship Endowment in his memory. The scholarship will assist deserving students pursuing an education at the Croft Institute. The recipient is to be a rising sophomore who shows exceptional promise, and the award can be renewed for three years contingent upon the recipient maintaining at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
"We are grateful for the opportunities afforded Mike by the Croft Institute," Eddie Aune said. "His studies and travel fed his hunger to meet new people and know more about the world. It prepared him for a great career with the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he loved. We hope that this scholarship will enable other students to follow their dreams like Mike, and prepare for a career in international service. We are humbled to be able to assist other young men and women, and to honor Mike's adventuresome spirit by supporting the Croft Institute's mission."
The Croft Institute, a highly competitive program at UM, accepts only 45 students each year for the international studies major. Aune, who was one of those selected, was a dedicated student, traveling to Spain and Chile to better learn Spanish and teach English. After graduation, he taught English at a private school in Pachuca, Mexico, from July 2004 to July 2005.
"When he returned from teaching abroad, Mike helped other Croft scholars interested in teaching apply to the school where he taught," said Michael Metcalf, former director of the Croft Institute who serves as UM's associate provost for international affairs. "It just goes to show that he always saw the bigger picture and looked for ways he could help."
In October 2006, Aune was hired as an intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency-Department of Defense in Crystal City, Va., where he worked as an all-source intelligence officer for the Counter-Narcotics Trafficking Office. He was employed there at the time of his death.
"His accomplishments, for such a short time with the agency, were remarkable," said Tony Tomlinson, Aune's supervisor. "Very few new employees produce such highly praised reports as Mike did on his first try. He was a special young man, and we miss him greatly."
Robert Allen, Aune's pastor at Oxford's First Baptist Church, said Aune made an impact in his own life.
"Mike had the right perspective of life in not letting setbacks affect his plans for the future," Allen said. "He always looked forward and personally encouraged me to face the future. I think this scholarship will help perpetuate Mike's positive view of life."
"His traits were humor, generosity, thoughtfulness, responsibility and a strong work ethic," Metcalf said. "We miss him dearly and are honored to have a scholarship at the Croft Institute bear his name."
Memorial donations to the scholarship fund can be made to the UM Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655.
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