Be the Change: Support the Donald Cole Scholarship
For 50 years, Dr. Donald Cole has made an impact at every stage of the University of Mississippi experience – as an undergraduate and graduate student, faculty member, administrator, mentor and advocate. With your help, the Don Cole Catalyst for Change Scholarship will honor his lifetime commitment to Ole Miss.
Dr. Ethel Young Scurlock, the director of the African American Studies program and Senior Faculty Fellow of Luckyday Residential College, is the driving force behind the effort to fund scholarships in Cole’s honor and said she’s amazed at the power of Cole’s 50-year legacy at Ole Miss.
“Every time he’s been here, he’s been a difference maker,” Young-Scurlock said. “He’s been able to organically create change and to build friendships throughout the state. That kind of leadership is rare, and we hope that will be a model for what our students will do in the 21st century.”
The Cole scholarship will help fund students majoring in African American Studies and encourage them to pursue a double major, get involved in the University and pursue progressive change across Mississippi, just as Cole did.
Cole arrived on the University of Mississippi as a freshman in 1968, just six years after James Meredith integrated the University with intervention from federal troops. In 1968, the campus environment for African American students was still daunting. Cole, as he did throughout his life, jumped in to make a difference. As a result of his activism – which culminated in his arrest in 1970 for staging a protest during a campus concert – the University expelled Cole along with seven others.
After such an experience, many people would have abandoned Ole Miss forever. But Cole knew the University could be better and aimed to help it get there. Fifteen years after his expulsion, he came back to UM to earn his Ph.D. in mathematics in the mid-1980s. After working in the private sector and as a professor, he came back to UM again in 1993 as the assistant dean in the Graduate School and associate professor of mathematics.
During the tenure of Chancellor Robert Khayat, Cole served as assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. When he retired in January 2019, he was assistant provost and an associate professor of mathematics.
Vice Chancellor Emerita Gloria Kellum worked closely with Cole in her 43 years at UM and said he advocated for all students, finding scholarship money and working to attract and retain diverse students and faculty members.
“He wanted to show the world that this University is serious about wanting to provide everyone with opportunity,” Kellum said. “I watched him really open that door for a lot of people. He understood what it was like not to have justice as a civil right.”
The Cole scholarship will attract the best and the brightest: young people who
seek an African American Studies background, understand socio-political engagement, and will go on to careers in business, politics, medicine, law, education, public and international policy and beyond. Each recipient will take a course on the civil rights history of the University, where they will learn about the man who paved the way for them.
By giving to the Don Cole Catalyst for Change Scholarship, we can continue Cole’s work in perpetuity, providing opportunities and support for students for decades to come.
Please contribute to enshrine Dr. Donald Cole’s legacy at the University of Mississippi!
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Honor Cole's 25 Years at UM
Dr. Don Cole served as a respected professor and administrator for 25 years at the University of Mississippi, touching the lives of students, faculty and staff.
James Meredith bravely enrolled as the University of Mississippi's first African-American student in October 1962. When Don Cole arrived on campus as a freshman six years later, further progress was needed. Thankfully, Dr. Cole helped lead the way, as a student, a graduate student, a professor and administrator, and a champion of programs and opportunities serving African- American students, economically disadvantaged students, and indeed, every student enrolled at UM.
As a young campus activist with the Black Student Union, Don Cole and other UM students staged a protest at a Fulton Chapel concert in February 1970. Their modest demands included more opportunities for black students and staff and the hiring of black faculty members. In response, Cole and seven others -- the Ole Miss Eight -- were expelled from the university. Their leadership sparked change at UM. In the years since, nearly all the demands of the students were met by the University.
As director of the Ronald E. McNair Program at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Cole mentored 177 outstanding students through intensive research projects in all fields of study. The program aims to prepare disadvantaged college students for graduate school and prepare them to become future Ph.D.s.
Dr. Cole and his wife, Marcia, who serves as director of internships and community engagement in the UM School of Applied Sciences, raised three children in Oxford. Donald Cole II, Mariah Cole Williams and William Cole, all three of whom attended the University of Mississippi.
For African-American students, the nine fraternities and sororities of the National Pan-Hellenic Council offer a sense of belonging and a shared mission that extends well beyond four years of college. If you give $900 in honor of the Divine 9, you will fund the Don Cole Scholarship for one freshman student for one year. Supporting education is the founding principle of every Greek-letter organization in the NPHC.
"First of all, servants of all, we shall transcend all." Dr. Cole's membership in Alpha Phi Alpha has been an important part of his service to African-American students over the years. From his time as an advisor to the UM chapter while earning his Ph.D. in the 1980s to his current leadership and mentorship, we honor his commitment with a gift that recognizes the year Alpha Phi Alpha was founded at Cornell University.
Fund the Donald Cole Scholarship for one student through all four years of his/her undergraduate pursuits at the University of Mississippi. This deserving student will major in African American Studies and possibly complete a double major as well. As part of their course of study, they will learn the civil rights history of UM, of which Dr. Cole played an integral part.