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Honors College Grads Compete with Gifts

'Clash of the Classes' to Raise Funds for Student Needs

The 2016 class of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College celebrates its commissioning.

A new online fundraising challenge aims to help students in the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College (SMBHC) by encouraging its alumni to do battle.

Of course, the battle is lighthearted, good-natured, totally virtual and all for a good cause – helping UM honors students who have technological, economic and safety needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of our students are facing great challenges because of the ongoing pandemic,” said Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-González. “They need our financial support now.”

Funds raised in the online challenge, called Clash of the Classes, will provide stipends for SMBHC students who do not have adequate technology, small scholarships for students economically impacted by COVID-19 and personal safety supplies for faculty, staff and students.

Donors compete by visiting the Clash of the Classes site at There, they can click on a page designated for their class year and make a gift. Classes are competing in two ways: donor participation and dollars raised.

“We decided to crown a Donor Champion and a Dollar Champion in order to level the playing field a bit,” said Anthony Heaven, associate director of development for the Honors College and the architect of the Clash of the Classes. “Our first official graduating class of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College in 2001 had 32 members, but class sizes have grown every year since. Our class of 2020 had nearly 300 members.”

Clash of the Classes also invites graduates from the years prior to 2001 to compete. The precursors to the Honors College, the Honors Program (1987-2000) and University Scholars (1952-1986), also have alumni eager to contribute to current honors students and to connect with other honors alumni, Heaven said.

“We developed this challenge in direct response to requests from alumni to help them get their friends and classmates involved in giving back to the Honors College,” Heaven said. “Our original vision for this, pre-pandemic, had a few more in-person events planned, but this was always an online campaign first and foremost.

“Graduates of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College are living and working all over the world; it makes sense to reach out to them virtually. We also invite parents, faculty and staff – as well as anyone who appreciates the impact the Honors College has had on our university – to make a gift.”

The UM Honors College was founded in 1997 supported by a gift from Jim Barksdale of Jackson, Mississippi, and the now late Sally McDonnell Barksdale. At the time, the Barksdales’ donation was the largest academic contribution in the history of the university. Their vision allowed honors students to study and work together, taking courses from dedicated Honors College faculty and actively learning through research projects, internships and study-abroad opportunities.

To find out more about Clash of the Classes or to make a gift, visit For more about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit

To learn more about ways to direct support to the Honors College, contact Anthony Heaven, associate director of development, at [email protected] or 662-915-3083.

By Angela Atkins