Billy and Robin Orgel Commit $1M to University Schools at the University of Memphis

Dec. 8, 2021 — Longtime UofM donors Billy and Robin Orgel have committed $1 million to the middle and high school programs at the University of Memphis. In recognition of this most recent gift and their years of support, the renovated complex that is the current home of University Middle and the future home of the proposed University High School will be named the Orgel Educational Center.

It was approved at the UofM Board of Trustees meeting at the Madison Academic Magnet High School adjacent to the UofM Lambuth Campus in Jackson, Tenn., on Wednesday.

University High School will be the latest addition to the UofM’s growing school compendium, rounding out the longstanding Lipman Early Learning & Research Center; Blue Ribbon-designated Campus School; University Middle; and a state-of-the-art early childhood center scheduled to open in Orange Mound in partnership with Porter-Leath this winter. Together, these schools will extend the University’s reach from birth to graduation, with a projected total University Schools enrollment of 1,600 students.

“Robin and I are excited to be a part of the ongoing, successful efforts to educate the children in our community,” said Billy Orgel. “The University of Memphis is making a difference in the lives of the students and their families.”

“The Orgels have a long-standing commitment to education in the Memphis community which made them perfect partners for the expansion of the University Schools program into middle and high school,” said Joanna Curtis, vice-president for advancement at the University of Memphis. “Our students and their teachers will benefit greatly from having resources to support the updated needs of 21st-century students.”

Established in 2019, University Middle shares the University High vision of being a school that reflects the demands of today’s dynamic, high-tech, diverse world. Both schools were designed to teach students to take ownership of their learning through projects they are passionate about with results they can touch, display, market, broadcast or give back to the community.

“University High will be a totally new kind of school where education starts in classrooms, but ultimately ends up in the real world,” said Dr. Sally G. Parish, UofM associate vice president for educational initiatives. “By partnering with local and national experts, we’ve envisioned a high school that implements innovative cutting-edge research and infuses it into our curriculum. We will provide a collaborative education with an entrepreneurial focus and an emphasis on dual enrollment and college/career preparation.”

Students at both University Middle and University High will have access to university resources and college-level academic experiences. University High graduates will earn up to 36 hours of college credit; the equivalent of three semesters of college courses.

University High School recently secured board approval from Shelby County Schools to function as the UofM’s latest public-school partnership, with a projected opening date of fall 2022. The high school hopes to enroll 400 students, with many enrolling directly from University Middle and the surrounding campus community.