Gift continues foundation’s support of university, names classroom in new facility
A $1 million gift from the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable & Educational Fund will name a large first-floor classroom in the Patterson School of Accountancy‘s new building at the University of Mississippi.
“The Bancroft Charitable Fund has been a longtime supporter of the Patterson School, and I’m a 1969 accountancy graduate,” said Gerald Abdalla, president and CEO of Croft LLC and the fund’s chair.
“Additionally, I have had a relationship with former accounting professor Dr. Jimmy Davis for many years and I have great respect for the work Dr. Morris Stocks (professor and Don Jones Chair of Accountancy) and Dean Mark Wilder are doing. So that’s why we wanted to make this gift in support of the school’s new home.”
The growth in student enrollment is driving plans for the 110,000-square-foot building with a cost of $70 million-plus, and its location will be the corner of University Avenue and Grove Loop overlooking the iconic Grove – prime campus real estate. The school is a national powerhouse, ranked No. 8 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC by Big4AccountingFirms.org.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce expressed appreciation for the Bancroft Fund’s longtime devotion to the university.
“We are incredibly proud to have Mr. Abdalla as one of our esteemed graduates and are extremely grateful for the generous support he has directed to the Patterson School through the Bancroft Fund,” Boyce said. “This latest gift will help with construction costs of our new facility, which will place our school in a strong position to serve generations of accountancy students.
“The Bancroft Fund is helping to elevate our quality of education and student experiences, which is so important to our program.”
The UM accountancy school is nationally ranked among the Top 10 for the 10th consecutive year. In 2021, the school awarded a record 588 degrees, with 253 being master’s degrees.
Over the past three years, the school eight recipients of the Elijah Watts Sells Award – the most prestigious CPA exam distinction worldwide. Over the 2020-22 time period, this ranks Ole Miss easily No. 1 in the SEC in number of Sells Award recipients and tied for fourth nationally.
The new four-story facility will feature tiered auditoriums and classrooms, study areas, conference rooms, administrative and faculty office suites, and outdoor balconies and terraces.
Abdalla noted that the space will strengthen the accountancy program.
“It will be a great addition to the Ole Miss campus – a landmark building that will attract many new students to the program,” he said.
The construction of a building that will more than double the space devoted to accountancy education at the university is a cause that aligned with the Bancroft Fund’s history of philanthropy.
“Our mission is to continue supporting the university in many different ways,” Abdalla said.
Wilder expressed gratitude for the Bancroft Fund’s numerous contributions to the school.
“This is the most recent of many generous gifts the Patterson School has received from the Bancroft Fund,” he said. “We are exceptionally grateful to Mr. Abdalla for his desire to support our new facility which will ensure that our students continue to receive the top-tier education in accountancy that has enabled our school to gain national prestige.”
A native of McComb, Abdalla graduated from the UM School of Law in 1973, earned a master’s degree in taxation from New York University and joined Croft Metals as corporate counsel after five years in private practice. In 1996, he was promoted to lead Croft LLC, a manufacturer of vinyl and aluminum windows and doors founded by Joseph C. Bancroft.
Upon Bancroft’s death the same year, the nonprofit Bancroft Fund was established with the intention of supporting charitable and educational programs by offering financial support, leadership and guidance to qualifying organizations within Mississippi. It is headquartered in McComb.
In 1997, the fund’s $60 million gift – the largest in UM history – established the Croft Institute for International Studies. Responsible for the undergraduate major in international studies, the Croft Institute prepares students who want to develop and strengthen an outward orientation while learning about the world beyond U.S. borders.
The institute’s rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to give Croft students the tools to meet America’s global challenges.
The accountancy school and Croft Institute partnered several years ago to create a dual-degree program, offering students an opportunity to earn both an accountancy degree and one in international studies.
“This program is very attractive to students and employers alike,” Wilder said.
The support from the Bancroft Fund goes toward Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss, an initiative to secure $1.5 billion in private gifts to strengthen the university for generations to come.
By Bill Dabney