A major gift to the University of Mississippi from alumnus Waddell Mashburn and his wife, Sally, will support the teaching of chemistry in lab courses housed in the Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation.
The Dallas, Texas, couple’s $250,000 gift adds to the funds available for the building, which will ensure that state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation will be available to our students as they take courses and learn in the new, premier STEM building on the university’s Oxford campus.
“I feel privileged to be in a position to contribute to a school like Ole Miss, which I think a great deal of. Particularly in the competitive world of higher education, I continue to be impressed with how well Ole Miss can perform in a number of areas and that, as much as anything, inspires me to want to make a gift,” said Waddell Mashburn, a 1969 graduate of the UM College of Liberal Arts and the owner of Mashburn Commercial Realty in Dallas.
In 2020, with eyes on increasing job opportunities and boosting the economy, business leaders and brothers Jim and Thomas Duff of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, committed $26 million to the construction of the 202,000-square-foot STEM building. It’s the largest single construction project in Oxford campus history and projected to be one of the nation’s leading student-centered learning environments for STEM education.
“I’d been thinking about doing something for the university for a couple of years. My first thought was to pursue a scholarship, but with guidance from personnel at the university, I was told about the STEM facility, who the Duffs are, and what it’s going to entail, and that excited me and spurred me on to want to do something right away,” Mashburn continued. “I’m interested in mathematics and science and thought it was appropriate to contribute there.”
The couple’s gift is being recognized with the naming of the Sally and Waddell Mashburn Chemistry Lab in the university’s new science building. Other naming opportunities remain available inside the Duff Center.
Mashburn said he’s honored by the naming; his wife agreed.
“I want to compliment Waddell because it was his decision and I think it’s excellent because it’s imperative for the future. If I were a student today, I would take advantage of all the Duff Center has to offer; we didn’t have that kind of facility when I was in school,” said Sally Mashburn, a graduate of Southern Methodist University. “It’s the future and it gives kids today so many more opportunities because it’s state-of-the-art with the newest technology out there.”
Construction began in 2020 on the STEM building that’s located with one side facing the Grove and another facing Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and The Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss. Upon completion in 2024, it will house lecture halls as well as chemistry, biology, physics, engineering and computer science labs. Lower student-instructor ratios will be in place, and various disciplines will be spread throughout the building to promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
“We are deeply grateful to Waddell and Sally for this significant investment which will enhance our world class faculty’s ability to educate and prepare our students in the natural sciences. Ultimately, this will make our students more competitive for the graduate programs and careers they will pursue after they graduate,” said Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
“The additional space and educational opportunities afforded by the Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation are not only critical in serving our growing student demand for these courses on our campus, but they also enable us to compete with other top universities across the country in attracting top faculty and students in the STEM disciplines,” he continued.
Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Waddell Mashburn has fond memories of his days at Ole Miss, where he made many lifelong friends on campus and through fraternity affiliation.
Upon graduation, Mashburn joined the Army and upon discharge, joined Merrill Lynch in Dallas where he settled.
Mashburn later became interested in the commercial real estate industry, discovering a career to which he would dedicate most of his professional life.
“I hope my gift will contribute to students being able to take advantage of a facility like that and encourage them to pursue careers in those areas,” Waddell Mashburn, adding, “The technological detail that is being implemented in the construction of the STEM facility is beyond anything I have seen.”
Other private support for the building includes a $25 million gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, a longtime donor to Ole Miss. The university sought state and federal funding and additional private support to help fund the $175 million project.
The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation Fund is open to gifts from organizations and individuals. To make a gift, click here or send a check with the fund name in the memo line to UM Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.
For more information on providing support for the STEM facility, contact Delia Childers, director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, at email@example.com or 662-915-3086.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation