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$100,000 Donation Launches J. Austin Baker III MILE Endowed Fund

For release:  December 12, 2011

Dr. Robert Taylor and Austin BakerA $100,000 commitment by a local philanthropic organization has given rise to a new endowment for the Fogelman College of Business & Economics, the J. Austin Baker III MILE Endowed Fund. The endowment will ensure that the college’s MILE Program — an effort that prepares FCBE students to become future city leaders through leadership development programs and mentoring — remains financially sustainable for the long term.

The fund is named after FCBE alumnus J. Austin Baker III (BBA ’04). Baker, co-founder and president of the executive advisory board for the Memphis Institute for Leadership Education (MILE) Program, founded the program and has remained active in helping it grow. He serves on the Fogelman College Alumni Chapter board and is a lifetime member of the Alumni Association and a member of the Society of the Shield. He also was named 2010 Fogelman College Entrepreneur of the Year.

The idea to create the MILE Program grew out of a meeting between Baker and Dr. Robert Taylor in spring 2006. The program, in which upper division students and select master’s students are paired with mentors from the professional community, launched in fall 2007. Austin Baker’s father, Jim Baker, and his association with a philanthropic organization has led not only to this most recent commitment of $100,000, but also to gifts that helped launch and maintain the program.

Jim Baker, owner of Memphis restaurant Owen Brennan’s, has been an active part of the university family for many years.  He is an alumnus and advisory board member of the U of M College of Arts & Sciences, where he has supported the College both financially and with his time. Baker is a member of the university’s  Society of the Shield, Centennial Circle and Brister Society. To date, his group has given more than $150,000 to the MILE Program and more than $245,000 to the University of Memphis.

“Because the MILE has become a successful program for the U of M, the decision was made to endow the program to ensure its continued success into perpetuity,” Jim Baker said. “It is the hope of the foundation that this endowment will attract other donors to … continue to build on its success.”

Endowments are valuable to the university because they create an ongoing source of income, enhance its stability and prestige and allow for important program expansion, said Kenneth “Ziggy” Siegfried, FCBE Director of Development. “Because endowed gifts provide a permanent stream of income, they ensure that funding is secure to grow for generations to come. The MILE Program is very beneficial for our students, the Fogelman College and the entire university. I am excited that the J. Austin Baker, III MILE Endowed Fund will be around forever.”

For more information or to support the J. Austin Baker III MILE Endowed Fund, please contact Siegfried at 901-678-3068 or ksiegfrd@memphis.edu.

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