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6/21/2012 - Jackson, Miss.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning recently announced a renewed emphasis on fundraising efforts to acquire the private donations necessary to fully fund the Ayers Private Endowment Fund. Proposed as part of the settlement agreement in 2004, the Ayers Private Endowment Fund provides interest income that can be used by the three historically black public universities in Mississippi to increase other-race presence and to enhance academic programs.

“While any fundraising efforts may be an uphill battle in the current economic climate, we believe it is time to renew with vigor the focus on seeking donors for the Ayers Private Endowment Fund,” said Ed Blakeslee of Gulfport, President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. “Our universities need additional resources now more than ever. It is important that we explore every possible avenue to help them succeed and we intend to do that with regard to the Ayers Private Endowment Fund.”

Previous fundraising attempts have yielded a $1 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal proposed in the settlement agreement is $35 million.

“Recruiting students and enhancing academic programs are critical issues for all universities,” said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education. “This endowment fund can help provide our historically black universities with additional resources to address these issues.”

The Ayers Private Endowment Fund supplements the public endowment of $70 million that is funded over 14 years at $5 million per year. The endowment principal can never be invaded, but the endowment income is used for the same purposes as the private endowment.

“As we look to the future, we know that additional resources will be needed to grow enrollment and expand academic opportunities for students,” said Dr. Carolyn Meyers, President of Jackson State University. “Fully funding the Ayers Private Endowment Fund will be tremendously helpful to us as we work to increase our student body and continue to provide excellent academic offerings.”

President Blakeslee has appointed Trustee Bob Owens of Jackson, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, as chair of the Ayers Private Endowment Fund Committee. Other Trustees who will serve on the committee include Ed Blakeslee of Gulfport, Robin Robinson of Laurel and C.D. Smith of Meridian. Other committee members will be appointed soon and will represent a cross-section of business leaders, university personnel, alumni and elected officials.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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