The University of Mississippi has announced that the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation is adding $5 million to a previously announced $20 million gift in support of a new science building on the university's Oxford, Mississippi, campus.
When completed, the 200,000-square-foot facility will contribute to economic development in the state by boosting the general science literacy of Mississippians and preparing more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates as well as K-12 teachers in those subjects. In addition to the new building, the $135 million project includes plans for a walkway, Gertrude C. Ford Way, that will serve as the major artery through the university's Science District and lead to the site of a commemorative area created to honor author William Faulkner. Work on Ford Way and the science building is slated to begin in the spring of 2016.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, the Ford Foundation had announced a $20 million gift in support of the project at the end of October 2014. But when the Mississippi College Board ousted UM chancellor Dan Jones in March, the foundation threatened to rescind its gift if Jones wasn't reinstated. Jones was told in November that his contract would not be renewed by the university because the board felt he had not done enough to improve the financial management of the university's medical center in Jackson. Now, however, the foundation has not only decided to donate the money but add another $5 million to the original gift. "We thought if they're going to mistreat Dr. Jones, then we'll just withhold our gift," said foundation board member Cheryle Sims. "We still believe the IHL was unfair to Dr. Jones, but that's neither here nor there. We can't control it."
"The Ford Foundation board members have demonstrated a tremendous commitment to helping meet the needs of our university, with the overarching mission of making a significant impact throughout our state and far beyond," said the university's acting chancellor, Morris Stocks. "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."