Wealthy Ole Miss donor pulls $5.3 million gift after controversy over social media posts believed to be racially tinged

Published 5:13 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

A $5.3 million gift to the University of Mississippi has been withdrawn and will be given to the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, per court documents.

Ed Meek, along with is wife Becky, had a series of negotiations from 2007-09 with UM and the University of Mississippi Foundation (UMF) pertaining to a gift totaling $5.3 million. The money was to establish the Ed and Becky Meek Quasi-Endowment Fund and under the terms of the Quasi-Endowment, the University was to establish the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

On April 22, Meek filed a petition to modify restrictions of the Quasi-Endowment under The Mississippi Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act. In the petition, it states the Meeks requested on Nov. 1, 2018 that the University and the UMF liquidate the present value of the Quasi-Endowment. On or around Nov. 2, 2018, according to the petition, the UMF Board of Directors authorized the management of UMF to work with the University and the Meeks to terminate and liquidate the Quasi-Endowment.

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The Meeks stated their intention to transfer the liquid assets of the Quasi-Endowment to a donor-directed fund at CREATE.

These events come after Meek’s name was removed from the University’s School of Journalism and New Media last December. Meek requested his name be removed from the building on Sept. 22, 2018 after backlash from a controversial Facebook post Meek made earlier that month.

In an affidavit filed to the Lafayette County Chancery Court on July 15, Meek stated his reasoning for wanting to withdraw the funds and relocate them.

“As a consequence of a long series of events, summarized in the Petition and Motion to Interplead, it is now impossible for the Gift to be used as once intended,” Meek stated. “My wife and I now desire the Gift be re-directed.”

On July 30, an Order and Judgement was filed to the Chancery Court, granting the transfer of funds. The order stated “the Court finds that the particular charitable purpose or a restriction contained in the original Gift instrument has become impracticable or impossible to achieve.”

Due to interest accrued, the Meeks will have $6.4 million returned to them. The amount transferred back to the Meeks reflects the accrued $1.1 million in interest as well as minus prior distributions made from the Meek endowment, according to Rod Guajardo, the University’s associate director of strategic communications.

Guajardo also confirmed to The EAGLE  that the UMF transferred the $6.4 million to the registry of the Chancery Court. Within the next 30 days, the Foundation will pay the residual amount of the Meek endowment to the registry. The Court will manage any further distribution of the funds.

Established in 1972 by George and Anna McLean, CREATE is the oldest community foundation in Mississippi. CREATE became the sole stockholder of the Journal Publishing Company, Inc. upon the deaths of the McLeans. The Foundation serves as the financial administrator for nonprofit organizations and community projects in 16 north Mississippi counties, including Lafayette.

Attempts by The EAGLE to contact CREATE president Mike Clayborne have been unsuccessful as of this time.