Patsy Brumfield 5/13/09
Patsy Brumfield 6/17/09
Lloyd Gray 6/17/09
Khayat building legacy:
* Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College
* Overby Center for Southern Journalism amp& Politics
* Gertrude Ford Center for the Performing Arts
* Paris-Yates Chapel, Peddle Bell Tower
* Business amp& Accountancy Complex
* Athletics indoor practice field
* Vaught-Hemingway Stadium expansion
* FedEx Academic Support Center
* Inn at Ole Miss expansion
* Tupelo Advanced Education Center
* Law Center
* Residential college
* Natural products research center expansion
* Research park
* Baseball stadium expansion
* Center for Manufacturing Excellence
* Basketball practice facility
Khayat builds respect with campus facility improvements
* His legacy in construction totals nearly $750 million.
By Patsy R. Brumfield
If the University of Mississippi ever presented an honorary degree, Robert Khayat should get one in engineering.
He’s a born builder.
Through his 14 years as its chancellor, Khayat – an attorney by trade – oversaw more than $535 million invested in physical facilities on the Oxford and Jackson campuses.
That total doesn’t include the $210-plus million in construction projects under way on the Oxford campus.
According to the former baseball and football player’s 1997 Game Plan developed after a series of town meetings, his No. 6 of 21 success factors was “Enhance the quality of campus facilities.”
When the Moss Point native came to his alma mater’s helm in the summer of 1995, he found it was broken and its buildings in disrepair.
He staked his legacy on recasting the school’s image, which immediately included facilities and grounds.
“My entire life seems to have prepared me for this job, at this time, in his place,” he said during his job interview before the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning.
Khayat knew it was time to call on the people who loved Ole Miss the most.
His first chance at re-engineering campus facilities came during his inauguration speech – he announced the $5.4 million gift from alumni Jim and Sally Barksdale for an honors college.
Seventeen months later, alum Jerry Abdalla provided a gift equivalent to a $60 million endowment to rehab the old Y Building into the Croft Institute for International Studies.
In the nation’s capital, a star-studded gala raised $13 million to establish the Lott Leadership Institute, named for alumnus and then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott.
Meanwhile, Khayat enlisted his old friend Larry Martindale of Atlanta to support a campus beautification program, which has reaped national reputation rewards, including a 2002 award for campus maintenance. Television anchors who come to campus for various purposes always comment on its beauty.
The J.D. Williams Library was expanded and renovated, along with the old gym into the Martindale Student Services Center. The beautification and rehab fever spread into the hearts of well-financed Ole Miss lovers, during a time when the stock market was roaring.
Tupelo’s advanced Education Center and major programs at the Med Center in Jackson came to fruition.
And the Oxford campus’ celebrated Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, which graces the old entrance to campus just east of the former rail line, was a key factor in choosing Ole Miss for 2008’s first Presidential Debate.
“Robert Khayat was the agent who transformed the University of Mississippi,” said historian Dr. David Sansing.
Bringing up building standards was the physical embodiment of what Khayat wanted for his university: beauty, quality and respect.
Marking the fifth year of his chancellorship, Khayat announced a whopping $529 million had been raised through the university’s Commitment to Excellence campaign. That weekend, he helped dedicate its new Paris-Yates Chapel and rededicated its beloved and restored Lyceum.
Nine years later, the building has not let up.
Current construction projects on campus include a new law center, to be named for Khayat, and an innovative residential college, which will get a twin sister shortly, for a community-style living space for students.
But to those who know the Ole Miss-Khayat story, it isn’t just about construction.
The facilities were one key element in his strategy to bring more students, retain excellent faculty and make everyone proud.
“I’ve always believed that this university had not only the responsibility but the ability to help lift the state,” he said. “I guess if I had an overriding objective as chancellor, it was to enhance our self-perception and enhance the way we are perceived by others.”
With the campus, Khayat believed it started at the front door.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield a (662) 678-1596 or email@example.com.