The Mississippi Delta has long been the poorest corner of the poorest state in the Union. Now an alumnus of the University of Mississippi, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, wants to help young people from that area become the first in their families to earn a college degree. With degrees in hand, he hopes they’ll be able to “change the world” for the better.

William Richardson III has committed a total of $50,000 to establish the William M. Richardson III Endowment at Ole Miss. The scholarship will provide first-generation freshman students from the Mississippi Delta with support for tuition, room and board for four years.

“I recognize there are many students who may not have financial support but could do amazing things in the world if only they are given the opportunity,” said Richardson, who graduated magna cum laude from Ole Miss in 2000 with a degree in marketing and now lives in San Francisco. He’s the CEO of Richardson Financial, Wealth Management and Insurance Services.

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“I believe education is the key to solving the challenges of our time and beyond,” Richardson added. “If we can help people get access to a great education, it will pay dividends for many generations to come.”

Brett Barefoot, UM’s senior director of development for parent and family leadership, expressed appreciation to Richardson. “We’re very grateful for this gift from Will because the financial support of scholarship endowments like his, combined with the academic and social programs we have at Ole Miss—such as StudentsFIRST and the First-Gen Network—will create so many opportunities for our state’s first-generation students,” Barefoot said.

A 2021 campus climate survey showed that nearly a third of the Ole Miss student body was composed of first-generation college students.

“Being the first people from their families to attend college, many of our students are great examples of resiliency,” said Michael Smith, academic adviser at the university’s Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience and StudentsFIRST program coordinator. “They have to be highly motivated to face the challenges ahead of them.”

Richardson said he’s excited about the part his endowment will play in the lives of future students. “Ole Miss was a great place to learn and connect for me,” he said. “I want to do my part in helping others benefit from receiving a great education from the university and making lifelong friends like I was able to do while there.”

“This scholarship can alter the trajectory of its recipients,” he added, “and I’m humbled and honored to be able to play a role in helping Ole Miss empower students to change the world!”

This article has been edited and condensed from the original version appearing on the University of Mississippi website.

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