- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - University of Mississippi supporters are seeking to raise $1.5 million to honor outgoing Chancellor Dan Jones.

Sanda Guest, vice president of the university’s foundation, said Tuesday that the push was announced last week at a board meeting of the fundraising body.

She said more than $300,000 has already been pledged toward creating an endowed chair that would help supplement the salary of a professor on the Oxford campus. Guest said a number of campus groups are working together, and that separate online fund drives are being run for alumni, faculty and staff.

“So many people jumped on board that I can’t even tell you,” said Susan Thames of Jackson, a foundation board member.

Guest said supporters approached her about finding a way to express their appreciation for Jones, who is being forced to step down after the end of the summer after the College Board refused to renew his contract. Student, alumni, faculty and staff groups all opposed the College Board’s decision, but Jones said he would step down after he and board members were unable to agree on a renewal.

“We don’t want to carry on any vindictiveness that’s gone on in the past,” Thames said. “The consensus with this is we just want to honor Dr. Jones.”

She said many donors have expressed interest beyond officials pledges already received.

The chair will not be designated for any one department or academic discipline. Instead, university officials will choose beneficiaries, who could change over time.

It would be the 25th endowed chair on the Oxford campus, Guest said. Ole Miss has 23,000 students at all its campuses, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Guest said supporters felt it was the best way to honor Jones because his initial priority when he became chancellor six years ago was to increase faculty support. Jones spent 24 years before heading the university working at and leading UMMC.

Graduating seniors raised $26,000 to provide scholarships to future students in Jones’ name, while the Ole Miss Staff Council created an award in Jones’ name recognizing service through teamwork and shared vision.

In a statement, Jones said “nothing could please me more” than the endowed chair.

“The outpouring of support for us makes us feel loved and affirmed,” he said on behalf of himself and his wife, Lydia.

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Online: University of Mississippi Foundation: https://bit.ly/1PvPFIi

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Follow Jeff Amy at https://twitter.com/jeffamy

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