UM Honors Family Contributions by Renaming Old Chemistry Building for Brevards

April 2011 By

OXFORD, Miss. - The landmark Old Chemistry Building at the University of Mississippi officially became Brevard Hall Friday afternoon (April 1) with a dedication ceremony in the building's lecture hall, where thousands of Ole Miss alumni took freshman chemistry classes.

The event was attended by more than 400 people, including state and university officials, current and former School of Engineering faculty, members of the Brevard family and engineering school alumni.

The overflow crowd spilled out of the building's Comer Auditorium and into the lobby.

Known for decades as Old Chemistry, the building was renamed in honor of Henry Brevard, a 1943 alumnus, and his family, whose donations helped pay for renovating it. Brevard Hall houses the administrative offices of the School of Engineering.

"Today is about recognizing some of our best and brightest of our past and present," said Alex Cheng, UM engineering dean. "It's about recognizing student success, distinguished alumni and community partners. Quite simply, this dedication and other events are about celebrating 110 years of excellence in engineering here at the University of Mississippi."

UM Chancellor Dan Jones agreed, saying, "Today is also about a family that has given and continues to give so much to our university. Today is about expressing our appreciation to them. Without them, this beautiful renovation would not have been possible."

The Brevards have a long history of service to the Tupelo community, the university and the entire region, he said.

"The Brevard family has been instrumental in transforming this state for more than 60 years, and we can see the results of their work in communities all across north Mississippi," Jones said. "Serving one's community is a cornerstone of the Brevard family, and Henry and Beth Brevard instilled that principle in their children by example."

The Old Chemistry Building originally opened in the spring of 1923, housing the Department of Chemistry and the School of Pharmacy. The School of Engineering was founded in 1900 and is the state's oldest engineering school.

Henry Brevard spent much of his time at Ole Miss studying and learning the discipline in the Old Chemistry Building, although the engineering school at that time was primarily housed in the north wing of the Lyceum. Upon graduation and after a stint in the armed forces, Brevard and his late father-in-law, Riley Boozer, founded B&B Concrete, a ready-mix concrete company, in 1949 in Tupelo. More than 60 years later, B&B is one of north Mississippi's strongest businesses.

His son, David Brevard, a 1978 Ole Miss liberal arts honor graduate, is the company's CEO. He works closely with the engineering school on scholarship planning and civil engineering student training.

Brevard said the family's financial and professional involvement with Ole Miss began slowly.

"But I guess about 20 years ago we decided we wanted to give credit to the university that we believe is responsible for our personal and professional growth," Brevard said. "I still remember the encouragement I received as a student. No financial donation can repay the mentoring I received here. I wouldn't - we wouldn't - be the family we are today if not for Ole Miss."

David Brevard agreed: "We are excited to give back to our university in this small way. Ole Miss engineering has evolved into a well-rounded school that offers the best analytical education, partnered with the best liberal arts environment. We are pleased to be a part of this great American public university."

Joshua Waggoner, engineering school development officer, said the Brevard's family commitment to Ole Miss, and specifically the School of Engineering, is extensive.

"Henry Brevard was one of the first members of the Woods Order, a giving program established in the 1970s to specifically support engineering student activities," Waggoner said. "And David is a past president of the Alumni Association, plus he was a member of the Commitment to Excellence Campaign steering committee."

In 1991, Brevard committed $1 million to endow the Brevard Family Scholarship program, which has allowed more than 500 students to attend Ole Miss. In 2003, a $100,000 gift from David, his wife, Shawn, and his sister, Elise Brevard Smith, created the Elizabeth B. Brevard Council Scholarship, in honor of their mother.

"The Ole Miss School of Engineering has made excellent progress over the past few decades and is poised to make even greater progress in the coming years," Henry Brevard said.

"We have always thought that our scholarship endowment was important to help the school increase the caliber of our already gifted student body and to help increase enrollment. Our second purpose has been to make engineering education possible for deserving and talented students who might otherwise not have the means necessary to pursue higher education."

In addition to the evening dedication, which included an open house and reception, other anniversary events included a barbeque and blues concert, and the annual Excellence in Engineering reception and banquet honoring outstanding students, faculty and alumni.

Notable guests attending the ceremony included Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Rep. Steve Holland, IHL board members Dr. Stacey Davidson and Aubrey Patterson, former engineering dean Kai-Fong Lee and Clark McCarrell, senior vice president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

For more information about the School of Engineering, visit the School of Engineering Website.