Businessman redirects millions from Ole Miss to nonprofit

TUPELO, Miss. — A businessman is pulling his $5.3 million donation, plus interest, from the University of Mississippi and giving the money to a nonprofit group that does community work and owns a newspaper.

Ed Meek’s action comes months after the university removed his name from its School of Journalism and New Media after Meek commented on a Facebook photo of two young African American women wearing short dresses, suggesting they exemplified problems that threatened the economy of Oxford, where the university is located. Meek later apologized.

News outlets report Meek filed papers in July transferring his money to the CREATE Foundation, which does work in 17 counties and owns the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal .

Meek told the Daily Journal on Friday that he was treated unfairly by the university and “roundly labeled as a racist” after his September 2018 Facebook post.

“I’m disappointed. I love Ole Miss,” Meek said. “We had major plans for the university. I’m disappointed in the way the school treated me — very unfairly, I think. But, I love the university.”

Meek asked the university to remove his name from the journalism school amid the backlash over the post. Trustees of the state College Board approved the request within weeks.

Meek led Ole Miss public relations for 37 years, starting in 1964, and has had other publishing businesses. The school was named for Meek after he and his wife donated the $5.3 million in 2009.

His Facebook post was made during the aftermath of a monthslong controversy over efforts to limit underage drinking in Oxford. Some opponents said versions of those regulations were unfairly aimed at a downtown music hall that sometimes hosts performers popular among African Americans.

The women pictured in Meek’s post were Ole Miss students who said they dressed up after a football game to go out and have fun with friends. Both called his post demeaning and offensive. Jeffrey Vitter, who was the university’s chancellor at the time, condemned Meek’s Facebook post within hours.

Documents filed in Lafayette County Chancery Court show that Meek’s initial donation to the university has accumulated more than $1 million in interest, making the total endowment $6.4 million. “As a consequence of a long series of events . it is now impossible for the gift to be used as once intended, and my wife and I now desire that the gift be redirected as contemplated in the original letter describing the gift,” the court document says.

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