Foundation will increase pledge to Ole Miss, not revoke it

By Jeff Amy, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 4, 2015 at 5:21 p.m.



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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Not only is the Gertrude Ford Foundation not pulling back its $20 million pledge to the University of Mississippi after the removal of Chancellor Dan Jones, it's raising the donation to $25 million.

Ole Miss and foundation officials announced the $5 million increase for a planned science building Friday, unveiling drawings for the new building.

The university plans to knock down a number of older buildings to clear space, including the 1908 Old Power Plant building where William Faulkner worked night shifts as he wrote "As I Lay Dying" in 1929. University spokesman Mitchell Diggs said Ole Miss will build a display honoring Faulkner as part of the project.

The university said it will build a new walkway named for Gertrude Ford stretching from the central Grove past the new building to a plaza between Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and the school's new basketball arena. Ford Way is supposed to extend the Walk of Champions, where football players walk through the Grove on game days.

"State-of-the-art facilities attract outstanding professors and they, in turn, attract talented students," foundation board member John Lewis said. "By providing the environment and resources gifted young people require to make those great discoveries, all of our lives will be better."

Foundation officials had threatened to not give the money during the uproar following the College Board's spring decision to not renew Jones' contract. Trustees said Jones hadn't done enough to improve contract administration at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. The leaders of the foundation opposed forcing Jones to step down, and said they would withhold the pledge as part of an unsuccessful campaign to pressure the College Board to reverse the decision.

University officials said they will begin work in the spring on what's now projected to be a $135 million building, up from an original estimate of $100 million. The 200,000 square-foot structure, set for completion in fall 2018, would be added to the area south of the Lyceum circle and Grove that hosts most of Ole Miss' science and engineering buildings.

"We believe this new facility will provide a platform to increase student research through hands-on education and active learning, while encouraging collaborative research between students and faculty," acting Ole Miss Chancellor Morris Stocks said in a statement.

University officials say they will seek other private, state and federal money to pay for the rest of the building, as well as use cash and borrowed money.

Ole Miss has hosted a building boom for the last decade, with construction of new dorms and academic buildings. It's building a new basketball arena and adding to Vaught-Hemingway. The university has received more than $350 million in private gifts in the past three years.

The foundation has now given or pledged $53.5 million to Ole Miss, including an earlier $20 million gift that helped pay for a performing arts center named for Ford that opened in 2002.

Founded by Gertrude Castellow Ford, who died in 1996, the foundation has also given gifts to Jackson's Millsaps College, hospitals, museums and arts groups.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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Jeff Amy

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