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Netscape President/CEO, Wife Give Alma Mater Ole Miss $5.4 Million for 'High Tech' Honors College; Largest private gift in University's 148 year history.

UNIVERSITY, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 11, 1996--Netscape President and Chief Executive James L. Barksdale and his wife, Sally McDonnell Barksdale, have made the largest private gift ever to The University of Mississippi -- $5.4 million -- to fund a unique honors college aimed at keeping the state's brightest students in state.

The McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College, as it will be named, will be established in the 1996-97 academic year and based on the main Oxford, Miss., campus, providing "people of extraordinary ability extraordinary opportunities," said Ole Miss Chancellor Robert C. Khayat.

Khayat announced the gift from the Barksdales, both of whom are Ole Miss alumni, during his inaugural address today.

California-based Netscape Communications Corporation is the largest U.S. maker of World Wide Web software, with more than eight million customers.

The Barksdale endowment will provide a permanent Honors College building, complete with high-technology classrooms and laboratories. It will also fund independent research and public service programs for honors students, plus four $24,000 scholarships and study abroad stipends.

"Jim and Sally Barksdale are successful, compassionate people who care deeply about Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi," said Khayat. "By offering students a superlative educational experience, we hope to help ensure that Mississippi can attract and retain a talented professional workforce."

Out of the country at the time of the inauguration, James Barksdale said prior to the Chancellor's announcement, "My dream is for The University of Mississippi to offer the richest educational experience available, which will enable it to attract the brightest students. In turn, I hope its graduates will be a positive force that will impact Mississippi's educational, economic and cultural life as they invest, create and produce in the context of their native state."

The new Honors College will upgrade the University's current honors program, which has an enrollment of 240 students, according to Dr. Carolyn Ellis Staton, acting associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The new Honors College, for example, will feature five classrooms connected to the University's local area computer network (LAN) and enhanced with multimedia presentation facilities.

One classroom will facilitate interactive computer instruction and many types of group decision-making. Another classroom will be part of a distance-learning system allowing real-time, interactive communication throughout the state, nation and world. From the Honors College, students using notebook computers will be able to access the Internet and all of the University's on-line resources. These facilities will enable faculty to integrate hands-on computer experience into courses and permit them to take full advantage of advances in multimedia instruction, said Staton.

Honors students will study interdisciplinary courses not offered elsewhere in the University -- classes that expose them to the highest form of critical thinking in the sciences, humanities, arts, mathematics and social sciences. Because learning also often occurs during the actual application of knowledge, State said the program will give senior honors students the opportunity to assist as preceptors in introductory honors courses.

The new program calls for premier faculty to work with juniors on research projects, encouraging them to present at professional conferences and co-author any resulting publications. Seniors will be required to conduct a major research project, a thesis, or a creative/artistic endeavor, and to defend this work before a faculty panel.

A combined bachelor's/master's degree program will be offered. "In time of great financial concerns," said Station, "talented students will have the option of pursuing both degrees within a four- to five-year program."

The McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College also will require sophomores, juniors and seniors to perform 20 hours of public service each year.

"Through these contributions, students will return immediate benefits to Mississippi and its citizens," said Staton. "And students giving of themselves will better understand the values that underlie public service.

"This Honors College has the potential to change the face of academics at this University, enabling Ole Miss to compete with the best -- and most costly -- private colleges for exceptional students," Staton said.

"We studied more than 50 honors programs throughout the country while planning this Honors College," said the Ole Miss administrator. "None of those we examined had all three components of instruction, research and public service. The program offered at Ole Miss will be an educational experience, second to none, in providing students with the intellectual breadth and depth important to them as they pursue their professions and their lives."

The Barksdale gift will help to satisfy one of the five criteria required to attract a Phi Beta Kappa chapter: increasing the number of high-ability students enrolled. Hoping to become the first public institution of higher learning in the state to be selected for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, an Ole Miss faculty committee is preparing an application to submit to the prestigious academic honorary. Other factors considered include the University's endowment, library holdings, technological resources, and teaching quality/academic freedom.

CONTACT: Mike Fay (212)614-4559 or

Peter Himler (212) 614-4082
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Apr 11, 1996
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