Community Foundation of Mississippi Announces Creation of the Friends of Andrew Bucci Fund

Andrew Bucci

The late Andrew Bucci left a creative legacy as one of Mississippi’s most celebrated and prolific visual artists. To honor his memory and the centennial anniversary of his birth, the Friends of Andrew Bucci Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi was recently created to help Mississippi public, parochial and private school art teachers acquire supplies that support visual arts instruction for grades PreK-12.

“Andrew Bucci always credited his early art teachers for recognizing and encouraging his talent, namely Mary Clare Sherwood in Vicksburg and Marie Hull in Jackson,” said Margaret Bucci, Bucci’s niece and manager of his estate. “To cultivate new generations of artists in Mississippi, it’s important to increase access to arts education and make sure teachers have the tools and resources they need to provide enriching learning experiences for students.”

Andrew Bucci paints in his studio.
Andrew Bucci paints in his Maryland studio in 1990.

The estate of Andrew Bucci was interested in supporting visual arts education in Mississippi, and Margaret said the Community Foundation for Mississippi provided the perfect solution for establishing an impactful program to benefit PreK-12 art teachers and students.

“We’re excited about partnering with CFM to help teachers enhance visual arts instruction and learning about student projects made possible with support from the Friends of Andrew Bucci Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi,” she said.

Grant requests are now being accepted by the Advisors of the Friends of Andrew Bucci Fund Selection Committee. Interested teachers may apply for a grant from the Friends of Andrew Bucci Fund. Grant awards of up to $500 each are for the acquisition of art supplies such as paper, paint, paint brushes, pencils, markers, clay and other materials that provide hands-on opportunities for students to create artworks using a variety of media. Applications can be accessed and submitted here. The deadline to apply is July 31, 2022.

Bucci was born on January 12, 1922, in Vicksburg and graduated from St. Aloysius High School. After earning a degree in architectural engineering from Louisiana State University, he was trained as a weather officer and served on air bases in Scotland and England during World War II. While stationed near Paris at the war’s end, Bucci studied life drawing at the Académie Julian. He earned a BFA and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

After moving to the Washington, D.C. area in 1956 to work for the National Weather Service, Bucci continued painting, exhibiting art, and maintaining close ties with the Mississippi arts community. He resettled in Vicksburg shortly before his death on Nov. 16, 2014.

In recognition of his contributions to the arts and the centennial of his birth, the Mississippi Senate designated Jan. 12, 2022 “Andrew Bucci Day” in Mississippi.  Bucci was the recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission 2009 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts for lifetime achievement in the visual arts and the 2012 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement award. Bucci’s painting, “Figure in Green,” was chosen by the USA International Ballet Competition as the signature image for the 2014 commemorative poster and program.

More information about Bucci, including an illustrated biography and schedule of centennial exhibitions, is available at andrewbucci.com.

Members of the community are also encouraged to contribute to the Friends of Andrew Bucci Fund through CFM’s website. Gifts in memory of Bucci can be made here.

Smith Robertson Museum To Celebrate Juneteenth With Dinner and New Fund Kickoff

Front of Smith Robertson Museum.
Smith Robertson Museum. Photo courtesy City of Jackson.

The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center hosts its first-ever Victory Celebration Dinner in honor of the Juneteenth national holiday on Friday, June 17 at 6:30 p.m. This event kicks off support for the Friends of the Smith Robertson Museum Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi, where donations directly support the museum’s mission of preserving and showcasing African-American culture and history.

“We are incredibly grateful and excited to be able to host this event at Smith Robertson Museum and hope that it will be a time to bring our community together to serve a great cause,” Manager of the Smith Robertson Museum Gwendolyn Harmon said. 

The victory dinner honors those who sacrificed their time, efforts, and lives to pursue freedom, justice, and equality. Honored guests in attendance are Civil Rights figures Hezekiah Watkins and James Meredith, as well as the late Richard Wright, in a special tribute and portrait unveiling by local artist Reshonda Perryman. The event is sponsored by Visit Jackson, Cathead Distillery, and the Jackson Bicentennial campaign.

“The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is an important piece of the fabric in Jackson,” said Jane Alexander, CEO and President of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. “The stories it tells weave an important narrative about past, present, and future for our city. We are thrilled to be the home for Smith Robertson’s fund and a catalyst for them to build a stronger future, forever.”

“With [the building’s] storied history as Jackson’s first African-American public school, and Smith Robertson Museum’s continued efforts to highlight achievements in the state’s black and African-American communities, we are proud to help sponsor this event to celebrate Juneteenth,” Visit Jackson President and CEO Rickey Thigpen said. 

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. It is also often observed to celebrate African-American culture. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865. To donate to the Friends of Smith Robertson Museum Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi, click here. For more information on the Smith Robertson Museum, click here.

Keath Killebrew Charisma Award honors legacy and passion for agriculture

Three men stand together before a piece of machinery in a field.
Keath Killebrew and brother Heath worked together on Killebrew Cotton Company in Tchula, Mississippi.

Keath Killebrew, co-owner and farmer with the Killebrew Cotton Company in Tchula, Mississippi, dreamed about farming and ranching as a young boy. His family says he accomplished everything he ever dreamed of because he was dedicated to waking up every day and hitting his knees to pray. He then used the hands, big heart and brilliant mind God gave him. Killebrew’s greatest passion was agriculture, living his motto to “never give up.”

“He was a hard-working farmer that was happy to get his hands dirty in the soil. His passion was to educate those who wanted to learn to be able to plant and take care of their families,” said his wife, Dr. Alyssa Ellis Killebrew. Tragically, his life was cut short when he passed away in December of 2021. “He died living his passion to the fullest and educating others how to live off their land in another country.”

Keath Killebrew, Dr. Alyssa Killebrew and daughter, Vivian

The Killebrew family has set up an award fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi in his name called the Keath Killebrew Charisma Award, created for the purpose of supporting education for young men and women interested in agriculture. This scholarship will be given to young people who are passionate about agriculture and helping others in this field, using principles important to Keath such as integrity, grace, timeliness, honesty and respect.

This award fund invites Mississippians who have a proven work history, who are passionate about agriculture and helping others, and who will be majoring in agriculture or a related field to apply. The deadline is June 15, 2022. Award recipients will be notified and honored during a special ceremony during the 2022 Mississippi State Fair. The minimum award will be $1,000 per recipient. Multiple awards will be given.

His legacy also lives on in the lives of his family who have made it their mission to continue his life’s work. Keath and his twin brother, Heath, have 17,000 acres of row crop farms spread throughout 6 counties in Mississippi. Additionally, they farm cattle and bees.

Reflecting on her late husband, Alyssa said Keath used his spiritual grace, knowledge of agriculture, love of people, sense of adventure and passion to make the world a better place by being a vessel to share God’s love and grace. The fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi seeks to continue his life’s work by helping a young person who is passionate about agriculture and serving people through their future career.

To support Keath’s legacy through the fund or apply for a scholarship, visit killebrewfoundation.org.

The Community Foundation for Mississippi Has the Blues – The Central Mississippi Blues Society Endowment Fund

Blues artist Dexter Allen and bassist Jonah Nelson perform during the Blue Monday Blues Jam by the Central Mississippi Blues Society at Hal and Mal's club in Jackson, MS.
Blues artist Dexter Allen and bassist Jonah Nelson perform during the Blue Monday Blues Jam by the Central Mississippi Blues Society at Hal and Mal’s in Jackson, MS. Photo courtesy Bill Steber.

Any frequenter of Hal and Mal’s knows that Mondays are for the Blues – the Central Mississippi Blues Society (CMBS) – to be exact. Formed in 2006 by Blues enthusiasts and musicians, CMBS is a driving force for the promotion of the music genre in Central Mississippi.

“It is our mission to keep the Blues alive and promote the culture of the Blues,” said Malcolm Shepherd, current CMBS president.

To continue the mission of the organization and ensure stability for the future, CMBS recently created an endowment fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi. Shepherd said he surveyed options for sustainability and CFM’s unique experience and ability to create and manage endowment funds with an eye toward sustainable growth, controlled risk and professional oversight, was incredibly reassuring.

“What is unique about the Community Foundation for Mississippi is that CFM works with organizations so that they can build up financial resources to be used within that organization,” said Shepherd.

As a past grant recipient through CFM funds, Shepherd was touched that CFM not only supports nonprofits with specific needs but holistically supports organizations to continue good work.

“Out of all the grants sources that we had been talking to and submitting grants, nobody had an option like CFM’s to set up an endowment,” he said.

While CMBS has brought the Blues to the community for over 15 years through live music, the organization also has a keen eye for supporting current musicians and up-and-coming artists.

Programs such as Blues in the Schools are important community builders for CMBS, not only now, but for future generations. Past projects include partnering with Hardy Middle School to instruct students on how to play the harmonica. At the end of the school year, students were gifted the harmonicas to continue their musical journeys. Other efforts have included restoring and restringing guitars for children to learn basic guitar skills.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CMBS also supported struggling Blues musicians supplement income lost due to canceled performances. Shepherd says he hopes the fund at CFM will help them continue community education projects and support the development of Blues musicians in Central Mississippi.

To support the Central Mississippi Blues Society Endowment Fund, click here.

Leland R. Speed Scholarship for JROTC Top Cadets Announces 2022 Recipients

A group stands together in the gym at Murrah High School during an awards ceremony. Two of the students hold up enlarged checks with their names on them for $5,000.
From left to right: Jane Alexander, President & CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi; Cadet Elizabeth Hawkins; William VanDevender; Cadet Brandon Brown; Stuart Speed; Warren Speed; Ashby Foote, Ward 1 Jackson City Council Member.

The Leland R. Speed Scholarship for JROTC Top Cadets is proud to announce the 2022 recipients, Cadet Elizabeth Hawkins and Cadet Brandon Brown, both of Murrah High School. The two were honored at Murrah High School’s Senior Showcase and Award Ceremony on May 19.

The Leland R. Speed Scholarship for JROTC Top Cadets is awarded each year for the Jackson Public Schools JROTC Overall Top Cadet and the Murrah High School JROTC Top Cadet.

Established by William VanDevender, a graduate of Murrah High School, the scholarship and fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi honors of the late Leland R. Speed, a Jackson leader who served his state and country.

“Our family was inspired to award a college scholarship in Leland Speed’s name because of his passion for continuing the education of high school students in Mississippi. He felt that the JROTC program produced the best and brightest candidates because of their scholastics, character, and leadership qualities,” said VanDevender.

“Leland was a mentor, close friend, and neighbor of mine for over 25 years. He was the best example of the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi ‘preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words’ of anyone that I have known. While he could be serious and intellectual, his sense of humor and his clever way of making a point made him so likable and a good friend.”

Each cadet will receive a $5,000 Leland R. Speed Scholarship for JROTC Top Cadets, which will be payable to his or her community college, college or university. Hawkins plans to continue her education this fall at Millsaps College and Brown plans to attend Mississippi State University.

Participating in this year’s presentation were Community Foundation for Mississippi President & CEO Jane Alexander; William VanDevender, primary donor of the scholarships; Warren and Stuart Speed, sons of Leland Speed; and Ashby Foote, Jackson city council member who facilitates support for JPS JROTC.

Working Together Works: Leveraging Funding for Community-Led Change

Image of Melody Moody Thortis
Moody Thortis

What paves the way for new trails and sidewalks in communities? Many meetings, partners and sweat equity. Melody Moody Thortis, Director of Strategic Impact at the Community Foundation for Mississippi, knows this firsthand working over the last decade as part of a coalition of partners bringing the Museum Trail to life. As part of Bike to Work Week, Melody reflects on the work it took to create the 2.5-mile multi-use path connecting downtown Jackson to Lakeland Drive, which spans two city parks and connects visitors to five different museums and the Mississippi’s Farmer’s Market.

If you build it they will come

More and more, communities are starting to realize that building multi-use paths and bike trails are about so much more than recreation and are now seeing that these investments have been proven to increase economic development, property value, tourism, connectivity, public health and quality of life. Communities that invest in biking and walking infrastructure tend to succeed in the race to retain young talent and often find that amenities like these are often a draw for families who both live in or want to move to places that value livability and connectivity.

Leveraging impact with collaborative funding and partnerships

The majority of funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure comes from a sub-section of the Federal Transportation bill called Transportation Alternatives, a grant program managed by and distributed through MDOT and local MPOs to cities and towns that want to build bike trails, paths or sidewalks. This funding, while widely available, comes with a 20% required local match – which means that while many urban and rural communities across the state need these connector paths, or if they want to build a sidewalk to increase safety for their children – if they can’t meet the match required, they could be faced with watching the opportunity slip through their fingers. If communities can’t supply or raise the funds, they may be forced to walk away from available funding even with community demand.

What people may not know about Jackson’s Museum Trail is that its very creation is a unique and national success story of community collaboration, a decade-long effort led by citizen advocates, lifted up by the local business community and supported at the federal, state and local levels. In fact, bicycle advocates across the country have used the story of the Museum Trail again and again as an example of what private sector fundraising and local philanthropic support can do to come together and allow projects to cross the finish line.

A group of people stand at the edge of a bridge on the Museum Trail in Jackson, Mississippi.
(Left to right) David Pharr (current CFM Grants Committee Chair), Melody Moody Thortis (current CFM Director of Strategic Impact), Dr. Clay Hays (Jackson Heart Foundation), Ward 7 Jackson City Council Member Virgi Lindsay, and Cynthia Buchanan (current CFM Vice President of Operations) stand together during the ribbon cutting for the Museum Trail on January 13, 2021.

Community-driven change

Thirteen years ago, a team of people, including CFM board member, lawyer and community visionary, David Pharr alongside Dr. Clay Hays, a Jackson cardiologist and local health advocate, both having served as past chairs of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, began to dream together about the transformation of the former GM&O Railroad into a centralized multi-use path for people of all ages to enjoy in the capital city. As fate would have it, they also assembled a team that included two future CFM staff members, our VP of Operations, Cynthia Buchanan (then Executive VP at the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership) and future CFM Director of Strategic Impact, Melody Moody Thortis (then Director at Bike Walk Mississippi) alongside the Jackson Heart Foundation, Neel-Schaffer, the Greater Belhaven Foundation and many other community leaders and engaged volunteers.

While the team worked with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the City of Jackson to obtain the first phase of funding, the match still had to be found. Over the years, unforeseen barriers including six administration changes, massive water line repairs and cost increases presented further barriers along the way.  But, trail advocates were undeterred and got to work; citizens rallied and began organizing regular trail clean-up days, businesses like Blue Cross and Blue Shield, NuCore Steel contributed resources, Jackson Heart Foundation started a fund, Entergy employees built a trail-head, the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation donated the use of its land and philanthropists across the metro heeded the call.

Philanthropy can fill gaps and break barriers

Because community foundations are focused on place-based investments, they are unique in their ability to listen deeply to the needs expressed in the communities they serve and can respond by meeting a need, filling a gap or breaking a barrier. The Community Foundation for Mississippi stepped in with a six-figure donation from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund to fill the funding gap needed to complete the project and break ground! Because of its contribution helping meet the required match, the fund removed even more barriers, allowing organizers to unlock additional funds from public and private sources.

Donors of all types and across sectors came together to pave a new future and truly remind us all of the power of what philanthropy and partnerships can do! The Museum Trail opened in 2021 and stands as a testament to the community, commitment, and collaboration; plans are also currently underway for its expansion, connecting it across the city and the region. I encourage you to celebrate national Bike Month this May by taking a stroll or a ride on the Museum Trail knowing that this community asset was built by the people!

The Power of Museums: International Museum Day

Museums have the power to transform the world around us. As incomparable places of discovery, they teach us about our past and open our minds to new ideas — two essential steps in building a better future.

The Community Foundation for Mississippi is proud to support and partner with museums around the state in many ways. On International Museums Day, take a look at just a few museums (and their funds!) close to our hearts. Perhaps you will even get out and discover them for yourself, learning more about our great state.

Opening day at the Two Mississippi Museums. Myrlie Evers stands with a crowd clapping with the Community Foundation for Mississippi Gallery in the background.
A crowd, including Myrlie Evers (center), claps during the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums. The Community Foundation for Mississippi Gallery at the Museum of Mississippi History can be seen in the background.

Two Mississippi Museums: Museum of Mississippi History

The Community Foundation for Mississippi made a $750,000 contribution to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Two Mississippi Museums project. The gift, made possible by a bequest from John F. and Lucy Shackelford, sponsored the permanent exhibit gallery at the Museum of Mississippi History, now known as the Community Foundation for Mississippi Gallery.

“There could be no more appropriate sponsor for the permanent exhibit gallery of the state history museum than the Community Foundation for Mississippi, and we are deeply grateful to the Shackelford family who made that gift possible,” said MDAH director Katie Blount at the time. “Both the Community Foundation and the Shackelford gift embody what the museum is all about: One Mississippi, Many Stories.”

Image of the Oaks House Museum with the Oaks House Museum sign prominently in the front.

The Oaks House Museum

Just a short drive from the Two Mississippi Museums, the Oaks House Museum is a Greek Revival-style cottage built in 1853 on four acres of land located near the center of Mississippi’s capital city. A Mississippi Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Oaks House is one of Jackson’s oldest dwellings. 

From 2018 to 2020, gifts from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi have assisted the museum with repairs to HVAC, foundation, a brick walkway and handrails. Funds have also helped the museum begin long-range planning.

Front of Smith Robertson Museum.
Smith Robertson Museum. Photo courtesy City of Jackson.

Friends of Smith Robertson Museum Fund

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity awaits you inside the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. Located a stone’s throw from the State Capitol building, it’s just within walking distance of principal businesses and attractions in downtown Jackson. This fund was established to support the programs and operations of Smith Robertson Museum, a restored building housing art exhibits, photos & artifacts exploring local African-American history. Located in Jackson’s first public school building for African-Americans, this museum, named after a former slave who went on to become the first African-American alderman in Jackson, chronicles the everyday lives and culture of people of African decent living in the South during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Before you head to the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, start here. You can support the fund online here.

Image of the Delta Blues Museum Blues Marker sign as people walk behind to the entrance of the Delta Blues Museum
The Delta Blues Museum is also home to a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker. Photo courtesy Visit Clarksdale.

Delta Blues Museum Fund

The Delta Blues Museum is dedicated to creating a welcoming place where visitors find meaning, value and perspective by exploring the history and heritage of the unique American musical art form of the blues. Since its creation, the Delta Blues Museum has preserved, interpreted, and encouraged a deep interest in the story of the blues. Established in 1979 by the Carnegie Public Library Board of Trustees and re-organized as a stand-alone museum in 1999, the Delta Blues Museum is the state’s oldest music museum. The Delta Blues Museum Fund at the Community Foundation helps operate the museum, keeping the story of the blues alive in the Mississippi Delta. Support the museum here.

A child sits at an interactive crane at the Mississippi Children's Museum.

Mississippi Children’s Museum Endowment Fund

At the Mississippi Children’s Museum, they take fun seriously! The mission of MCM is to create unparalleled experiences to inspire excellence and a lifelong joy of learning.

They accomplish this mission through hands-on, engaging exhibits and programs focusing on literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), and health and nutrition–the keys to helping our children mature into healthy and productive adult learners.

Their fund at the Community Foundation helps keep the museum sustainable, keeping the doors open for many years to come! Support them today with their fund here.

A young girl stands face to face with a robotic dinosaur with her arm outstretched. Children look on in the background.

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Foundation Endowment Fund

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is tucked within historic LeFleur’s Bluff State Park next to its LeFleur Museum District neighbor, the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The museum’s vast expanses of glass overlook a 300-acre natural landscape, an open-air amphitheater, and 2.5 miles of nature trails. Inside, meet over 200 living species in our 100,000-gallon aquarium network and explore 73,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibits which include deer, waterfowl, fossils, and Mississippi’s endangered species!

The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Foundation’s endowment fund helps ensure that Mississippians will be able to learn about the state’s natural resources for many generations. You can support their fund online here.

The Long and Winding Path to Realizing the Museum Trail

It would not be an exaggeration to call the path to realizing the Museum Trail in Jackson as long and winding. More than a decade ago, David Pharr introduced research demonstrating the health and economic impact a multi-use trail could have on Jackson and surrounding communities. The project, which according to Pharr would serve to “tie the communities together and fill in the doughnut,” brought together an unlikely coterie of champions, including elected officials with seemingly competing interests.

However, the succession of six mayors in Jackson and slow economic recovery greatly impeded the progress of the trail. Time passed, costs increased, and city officials had to be reengaged — and re-convinced — to allocate resources and offer support for the project. The community members and organizations who started this journey back in 2009, including the Jackson Heart Foundation and the leadership of Clay Hays, MD, remained undeterred during that time, working to raise the funds needed to bring the project to life.

A six-figure donation from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi was essential in filling in the funding gap needed to complete the project, because it unlocked additional funds from public and private sources. The Museum Trail officially opened in early 2021, connecting five museums and two city parks through three miles of trailway. Today, the trail stands as a testament to community, commitment, and constancy — hallmarks of the Community Foundation.

Read more from our Annual Report here.

Rick Ross Madison Avenue Upper Elementary Scholarship Fund Honors 2022 Recipients

Image of Rick Ross, Cooper McMillin, Camille Boles and Dr. Kim Brewer.
Pictured from left to right: Rick Ross, Cooper McMillin, Camille Boles and Dr. Kim Brewer.
The Rick Ross Madison Avenue Upper Elementary Scholarship is awarded to outstanding Madison Central High School seniors who have attended Madison County schools throughout their K-12 career, including Madison Avenue Upper Elementary.
 
Congratulations to Cooper McMillin and Camille Boles for receiving the 2022 award! The award fund was established at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to honor long-time Madison Avenue Upper Elementary principal Rick Ross by that school’s Parent Teacher Organization in 2011. Pictured from left to right are Rick Ross, Cooper McMillin, Camille Boles and Dr. Kim Brewer during the high school’s recent Class Day.

Robert E. Luckett Scholarship Fund at CFM Recognizes 2022 Recipients

Robert E. Luckett Scholarship recipients Kaygan Harrison (left) and Destiny Lesh (right) stand with Jeanne Luckett (middle) at Richland High School Senior Awards Night.
Robert E. Luckett Scholarship recipients Kaygan Harrison (left) and Destiny Lesh (right) stand with Jeanne Luckett (middle) at Richland High School Senior Awards Night.

For Robert Luckett, education and encouraging young people was the passion of a lifetime.

“Education was always it for him,” his wife, Jeanne, recalled. “He always knew he was going to teach.”

The eighth of ten children in a Kentucky farming family, he was the first to graduate from college. A basketball scholarship to St. Leo College in Florida helped him get the first two years of college he needed before being recruited to transfer to Millsaps College.

Much of his tenure was spent as a principal – from Jim Hill High School to St. Joseph High School and for many years, Richland High School – where he touched the lives of countless students. Throughout his career, Robert was always focused on those that did not have much.

“He was all about inclusion, particularly those that had the least, helping them have opportunities,” Jeanne said. “He had a break and opportunities when he had nothing. That is what the scholarship is all about.”

In 2000, Robert was diagnosed with cancer, passing away two years later at the age of 57. Over the course of his illness, donations came in to support the family. What to do with the heartfelt gifts from his community? Jeanne and her son, Robby, decided to create a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to honor his lifelong dedication to education and children.

“Robby and I decided the best thing would be to take that money and establish a scholarship fund. We started out with just one scholarship and then the money at the Foundation grew so wonderfully.”

Why create a fund at CFM? “I loved what the Community Foundation stood for. We felt like we wanted the money to be close and local,” Jeanne said. “We didn’t want it to be with a bank. We wanted it to be some place where the money would generate some good as well.”

This year, Destiny Lesh and Kaygan Harrison heard Jeanne announce their names from the Senior Awards Night stage at Richland High School for the Robert E. Luckett Scholarship. Both graduating seniors will attend Hinds Community College in the fall. The $500 awards are based on a combination of merit, need and teacher recommendation.

When looking at the impact Luckett had on the Richland community, there’s never more than one degree of separation. Richland High School counselor Michelle Cresap, who facilitates the scholarship selection process, had Robert as her principal.

“He was an incredible person,” she said on stage before announcing the award recipients. “We all remember him.”

Thinking back to recipients over the years, Jeanne says she is so impressed by those receiving the award. “They have sent the nicest thank you notes. You cannot imagine,” she said. “I keep in touch.”

For Jeanne, the fund and award are a full circle moment each year, seeing the impact her late husband had on the community.

“He loved kids and wanted to encourage them to further their education and pursue college. Through this fund, we help them do just that.”