$5.5M Gift by UofM Alum Billy Dunavant’s Estate Creates Endowed Chairs in Research Focus Areas 

Oct. 3, 2022 — Five new endowed chairs and professorships have been established at the University of Memphis thanks to a $5.5 million gift from the estate of alumnus William B. “Billy” Dunavant (’54). This will endow three Dunavant Chairs in supply chain management and one in agritech & regenerative agriculture. It also establishes the Laura Butler Ford Chair in nursing. 

A portion of the gift, which was received via the William B. “Billy” Dunavant Foundation, will be matched from the $50 million endowment commitment from the state to sustain research activity at the University of Memphis. 

“This generous gift allows the university to strategically build on our strengths by investing in disciplines where we have significant research potential,” said UofM President Bill Hardgrave. “Endowed chairs allow us to attract and retain faculty who will provide leadership for the development and implementation of major research initiatives. Investments like this are vital to our future as a top research University.”

Dunavant, a world-renowned revolutionary Memphis cotton merchant, passed away at the age of 88 on Sept. 11, 2021.

“Billy would be thrilled that his gift is not only supporting outstanding faculty at his alma mater, but is also being amplified by the match from the State of Tennessee,” said his wife, Tommie Dunavant. 

Donors who are interested in leveraging the State of Tennessee match by investing in endowed professorships, chairs, graduate fellowships and research institutes or centers are invited to contact Joanna Curtis, vice president for Advancement, at jecurtis@memphis.edu to learn more. 

In addition to creating the endowed chairs, a portion of the Dunavant gift will go to athletics for the Leftwich Tennis Center and the Time to Shine football campaign.