Mississippi College

Bob Dole Sponsorship Banquet Nears $200,000 Goal

March 11, 2008

Mississippi College is close to reaching its goal of raising $200,000 for a spring scholarship banquet attracting former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole as the keynote speaker.

New reports show MC supporters have contributed more than $175,000 as the March 31 event approaches. One donation of $50,000 and two donations of $25,000 each top the list for the 6 p.m. program to welcome Dole to the Clinton campus.

The V.I.P. reception for Dole and banquet to follow is a key component of MC's $65 million "Growing the Vision" campaign to enhance scholarships, academic programs and building projects. So far, the campaign announced in fall 2006 has generated $58 million, and is on track to exceed its goal, leaders predict.

Bringing Dole to the Christian university is good timing for MC and should make for an interesting evening as an American political legend touches on the lively race for the White House speeding toward a November finish.

"We expect a good turnout in this political season as we gather to hear one of America's most highly regarded senior statesmen," President Lee Royce said.

"Few American political leaders have been as influential as Senator Dole over the past 25 years in shaping national policy," said Ron Howard, vice president for academic affairs. "As senator and majority leader and as a presidential candidate, Dole has always been a strong friend and advocate for improving American education. It is an honor to have him at MC to speak at our scholarship endowment banquet."

Dole's decades of service on Capitol Hill and sacrifices as a soldier on the front lines during World War II motivated some MC supporters to enhance scholarships at the 4,600-student university, key donors say.

Dole "is everything Mississippi likes - he's a war hero and a great guy," said Hattiesburg businessman Bobby Chain. A former Hattiesburg mayor, Chain was among the state's leaders backing Dole's quest for the White House. He also was a delegate at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego when the Kansas senator was chosen his party's presidential nominee.

A member of Mississippi College's Foundation Board, Chain still considers himself a fan of Dole, who remains a well-respected advocate when it comes to promoting causes of America's military veterans. Chain was among the three donors who each contributed $25,000 to the event later this month.

Giving to MC's campaign is something special for Chain. The former state College Board member has longstanding roots at MC. He attended Mississippi College from 1947 through 1949 before leaving school to join the Mississippi National Guard. Stationed for guard duty in Brookhaven, Chain later earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. Two of Chain's uncles attended Mississippi College.

Chain joins about 500 guests anticipated for Dole's visit to MC, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. Dole is also making time for the media with a 4:30 p.m. press conference at MC. The former Kansas is half of a very visible and highly respected Washington power couple. Dole's wife is North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Hanford Dole, the former head of the American Red Cross. Bob Dole currently is special counsel at a Washington, D.C. law firm.

In 2007, President Bush named Dole as co-chair of a national commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical center in Washington. Twice decorated for heroism, the former Kansas senator received two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained during World War II.

Some of the other big givers to the MC dinner are fans of the Kansan, but also say they're drawn to the event because it's a good vehicle to support MC scholarships. Tuition at MC is a little more than $12,000 per-year.

"As a businessman for 40 years, I never have made a better investment than helping provide a scholarship for some young person to attend Mississippi College," said MC trustee Wayne Parker of Ridgeland.

Parker is the president and chairman of the Jackson-based LifeShare Foundation. His non-profit foundation contributed $50,000 to the scholarship banquet. "There is great person satisfaction in knowing that an MC graduate will go out into the world with the education and values received in four years at this Christian university."

Another large donor, Dr. Sharon Martin of Jackson, contributed $25,000 to the scholarship dinner. She's looking forward to Dole's visit. "Senator Dole is a highly respected public servant, and it is our privilege to have him," Dr. Martin said. She's the mother of MC Student Government Association President Aaron Graham with another son, Caleb, enrolled as an MC sophomore. Dr. Martin's oldest son, Jacob Graham, is 2007 MC graduate and now a first-year student at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine.

Recent reports show there were plenty of other big donors. There were at least 13 making donations of $5,000 to the Dole event, and ten chipping in with $1,000 gifts. Tickets are $125 per person and sponsorship packages are available at many levels.

Dole's visit won't all be about politics and scholarships. At one reception, award-winning twin sisters from Bosnia, Darka and Tanja Miric, both December 2007 MC graduates, will entertain the crowd with classical guitar selections.

Dole is expected to receive a number of MC gifts during his trip, including a copy of the new book "Mississippi College With Pride." Published last fall, the book tells the story of the institution founded in 1826 as Hampstead Academy and takes readers from the turbulence of the Civil War days through the rapid growth of recent years. MC is the nation's second oldest Baptist college and the state's oldest institution of higher learning.

For more information on the spring scholarship banquet event, call 601-925-3201 or send an email to Amy Rowan at rowan@mc.edu

PHOTO (courtesy of Union University): Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole

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