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.”

Community Foundation for Mississippi Hires Sophie McNeil Wolf as Director of Communications

Sophie McNeil Wolf

The Community Foundation for Mississippi (CFM) announces the hiring of Sophie McNeil Wolf as Director of Communications. Wolf will oversee content development for the non-profit organization, as well as implement an integrated communications strategy and enhance brand development.

Wolf brings more than 15 years of communications experience to CFM, and previously worked for Visit Jackson, Millsaps College, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. She was also the co-owner and editor of Find It In Fondren with her husband, Paul Wolf.

She is a content creator with skills in writing, photography, video, social media management and graphic design.

“Sophie’s skill set will enable the Community Foundation for Mississippi to accurately tell its story, and how it is positively impacting communities across Mississippi,” said Jane Alexander, President and CEO. “We want to educate and inform our stakeholders and the public of our various programs, and the meaningful change CFM is making in our state.”

Wolf earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis in news/editorial from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication from the University of Mississippi.

She serves on the board for the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, Central Chapter and is a former board member of Leadership Greater Jackson.

Four New Hires Added to Advance Organization’s Mission

Community Foundation for Mississippi Eyes Growth
Four New Hires Added to Advance Organization’s Mission

They join Jane Alexander, President and CEO, and Theresa Erickson, Vice President of Philanthropy, as part of CFM core team tasked with enhancing CFM’s operations and services to support community foundations across the state, to meet community needs while implementing the giving priorities of generous donors. CFM will continue its history of support and coordination with the nonprofit community.

“The Community Foundation for Mississippi is truly excited to add these seasoned, community-driven members to our team,” said Will Crossley, board chair. “They come to our organization from a variety of endeavors and will bring new, fresh ideas and thinking that will help us to continue our strong growth and achieve our mission of bringing positive change to our state.”

Buchanan, in her role as vice president of operations, will work closely with Alexander to coordinate all Foundation functions. For the past 15 years she served as executive vice president of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership and promoted businesses and a better quality of life in the community. She provided strategic leadership and coordinated community-wide activities and was charged with overseeing a 30-member Board of Directors. She earned degrees in Bachelor of Business Administration and Marketing, and Master of Business Administration, from Jackson State University.

Wiandt brings to the CFM more than 25 years of experience in accounting with not-for-profit and heath care organizations, including 21 as a director. A licensed Certified Public Accountant, he joins CFM from Reformed Theological Seminary where he has worked for 24 years. He coordinated and monitored an investment portfolio of approximately $100 million, oversaw key monthly reports concerning gifts and tuition and enhanced the organization’s financial reporting package. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Union University and a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Reformed Theological Seminary.

Thortis draws from a wide-ranging wealth of related work experience in her role as Director of Strategic Impact. She has conducted more than 100 workshops, been engaged in strategic planning for 16 years and worked in fundraising and grants for 16 years. Thortis spent the last four years at the Mississippi Arts Commission as Director of Arts Based Community Development and later as Director of Grants. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Art at Belhaven University and a Master of Arts in International Development, Advocacy and Human Rights at Eastern University.

Quinn has 10 years of experience in administration and office management in various professional environments. She served as an Assistant Director for Early Childhood and an after-school program for seven years. She attended Belhaven University and Jackson State University.

The four new employees will work closely with Alexander and Erickson. Alexander has served as President and CEO for nearly 10 years, and during that time the Community Foundation has tripled its assets. Erickson joined CFM in January 2020 as Vice President for Philanthropy, and previously served in executive leadership at Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and The Pinebelt Foundation.

“Our team is well rounded, experienced in strategic planning and finance and understands the importance of working together to benefit all of our stakeholders,” said Alexander. “They are committed to working for the betterment of our community and our generous donors who want to make a meaningful impact on Mississippi. The Foundation conducted a thorough and exhaustive search to find the right person to fill each of these critical positions, and believe we have the team to achieve unparalleled success and create lasting good.”

About Community Foundation for Mississippi

Community Foundation for Mississippi serves donors who establish charitable giving funds.
Grants awarded by these funds support the work of charitable, educational, and religious
organizations important to them. CFM strengthens nonprofit partners and local nonprofit
organizations by holding and managing their endowments to build sustainability. CFM
supports the development and improvement of the communities it serves, holding over 270
charitable funds and endowments. These funds have invested more than $55.7 million in
grants over the past 25 years.

Media Contact:
Jane Alexander, President and CEO |

Four New Hires Added to Advance Organization’s Mission

CFM announces largest Shackelford Fund to date for Planetarium

Board members and staff of the Community Foundation For Mississippi and representatives of the City of Jackson (including Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, second from left) and the planetarium's Mike Williams (fourth from right) accept a ceremonial check on March 1, 2022 at the Jackson Planetarium.
Board members and staff of the Community Foundation For Mississippi and representatives of the City of Jackson (including Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, second from left) and the planetarium’s Mike Williams (fourth from right) accept a ceremonial check on March 1, 2022 at the Jackson Planetarium.

In March 2022, the Community Foundation for Mississippi announced the largest gift to date from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund with a gift of $1 million to The Friends of the Planetarium to support the ongoing renovation of the Planetarium. This gift also includes a quarter matching gift from former Jackson Mayor Kane Ditto.

“The Friends of the Planetarium group and its supporters have been instrumental in the development of this project, whose core commitment is delivering on our educational mission directive to students of the state of Mississippi, the City of Jackson and her visitors,” said Planetarium Director, Mike Williams. “Mississippi struggles to produce technology graduates at a rate that keeps up with the number of available STEM jobs in our great state. Mississippi aerospace and technology industries have created jobs that can start at around $70k a year, but those jobs have been difficult to fill with homegrown talent. The new planetarium will use its broad and unique platform to expand access to these opportunities in STEM, and to illuminate the path to these high-paying jobs for all Mississippians. And it’s also going to be extremely cool.”

The project is a keystone initiative of Jackson’s Bicentennial in its continuing efforts to deliver a renewed and revitalized planetarium to the capitol city, state of Mississippi and her visitors. The facility, which first opened in 1979, is the only public planetarium in the State of Mississippi.

A full reimagining of the planetarium is underway with a total redesign of every space and a brand-new atrium addition to tie it all together. The planetarium is working with exhibit designers who have created award-winning exhibits for NASA Kennedy Space Center and National Geographic museums to create a fun and interactive educational experience like none ever seen before in Mississippi, or in any other regional or national planetarium facility.

“Our goal is to share and highlight Mississippi’s rich space science history and to create pride points for Mississippians who may not know what a vital role their state has played in the development of the world’s space program,” said David Lewis, the deputy director of Human and Cultural Services for the City of Jackson. “The Community Foundation for Mississippi has long supported the capital city and state, and this gift further underscores their commitment to the success of the places and people that they serve.”

See a preview of the new Arts Center and Planetarium Atrium below, courtesy of CDFL – Architects + Engineers

Peggy Mize Fund for the International Ballet Company