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Parent Group Makes Largest Gift to Date

Family Leadership Council Provides Support to Student Service Areas

When Brenda and Grant Deary's son, Grant decided to attend the University of Mississippi, the Sacramento, California, couple joined the Ole Miss Family Leadership Council as a way to be actively engaged in his education and bridge the geographical distance between their home and Oxford.

Ongoing support for students’ mental health is among the many University of Mississippi services being funded this year by the Ole Miss Family Leadership Council (FLC).

Private funds of more than $150,000 from the council – the largest gift in the FLC’s seven years of operations – are being directed to Division of Student Affairs programs that are designed to enhance the student experience on the Oxford campus.

A written statement submitted by Grant and Brenda Deary of Sacramento, California, both council members, stated: “As parents, we are matching financial resources with the school’s needs based on their highest and best uses. In doing so, we are helping shape the Ole Miss legacy.”

Each year, UM’s 15 Student Affairs departments appeal to the council for help in funding special projects. This process allows FLC members to learn more about the services offered to their students. The parents then determine which areas to support.

This year, the FLC agreed to provide assistance to the University Counseling Center, University Health Services, UMatter, Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, Career Center, University Police and Campus Safety, MPower and Campus Recreation.

Several of the approved requests went to the University Counseling Center (UCC), allowing the center to continue to support students’ mental health in a time when online capabilities are essential.

“The UCC has been moving toward offering an online option for mental health services for over two years and the Covid-19 pandemic highlights our need to have such an option,” said Bud Edwards, the center’s director.

“The gift from the FLC will help cover the costs of a tele-mental health platform that also contains a robust psycho-educational library with self-help materials and training modules on various topics important to our students.”

The 2019-2020 Family Leadership Council is composed of 60 families from 22 states.

“The benefit of being a part of the Family Leadership Council has been experiencing a very thorough immersion into the University of Mississippi culture and a behind-the-scenes look at some of the unique educational disciplines,” the Dearys wrote. “The reward is networking with engaged families from all across the country.”

FLC member Mary Pierce of Nashville, Tennessee, said joining the council gave her family the opportunity to further invest in her daughter’s college experience.

“When presented with the opportunity to join the Family Leadership Council, we saw it as a way to support our daughter and our alma mater in this new role as college parents,” said Pierce, who earned her undergraduate degree on the Oxford campus. “In just two years, we feel more knowledgeable about Ole Miss than we did as students.”

In addition to FLC parents directing their support to programs that strengthen the Ole Miss student experience, members also have the opportunity to share feedback with university leaders, faculty and staff, as well as hear updates on new programs and campus expansion.

“We are truly honored to be in partnership with the Family Leadership Council; we value the group’s investments in our ideas, people and students,” said Natasha Jeter, assistant vice chancellor for Wellness and Student Success.

“The impact of the FLC’s contributions is seen in our departments and in our enhanced ability to provide innovative, cutting-edge strategies, programs and services. In our students, it is evident by their current achievements and success. Together we are changing lives and making a difference.”

Brett Barefoot, senior director of development for parent and family leadership, has worked alongside the FLC since the organization’s founding during the 2014-2015 academic year.

“We have parents from all over the country who want to be connected to the university, and the FLC offers a special experience for these families,” Barefoot said. “It is exciting to work with so many parents, a large percentage of whom are not UM alumni but care so much about Ole Miss and the student experience.”

For the Deary family, being part of the FLC is a continuation of their involvement in their children’s lives.

“We have always been actively engaged in our children’s education, whether volunteering, fundraising or serving on a leadership committee,” the couple responded.

“Secondly, given the geographic distance between home and Oxford, the Family leadership Council provides us an opportunity to assimilate with the school culture and network with Rebel parents very efficiently.”

To be council members, parents of Ole Miss students donate at least $2,500 annually. To learn more about the Family Leadership Council, contact Brett Barefoot at [email protected] or 662-915-2711. To make a gift, click here.

By Mary Stanton Knight