Alumna Commits Major Gift to Honors College

Pilko announces $1.5 million gift on Giving Day

Two men and a woman stand at a banquet hall. The woman holds an engraved crystal award.

OXFORD, Miss. – Janet Jones Pilko, of Houston, Texas, and Park City, Utah, is investing a $1.5 million planned gift in the future of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi.

Pilko, with her husband, George, announced their planned gift on the first day of the April 9-10 Giving Day event, which is an annual online, social media-driven fundraising campaign. The fifth Ole Miss Giving Day lasts one day, eight hours and 48 minutes, in honor of the university's founding year of 1848.

"The Honors College is the goal toward which the university has been striving for decades – starting with the University Scholars program, the Honors Program and, finally, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, thanks to the generosity of the Jim Barksdale family," said Jan Pilko, a 1975 graduate in mathematics and English.

"The Honors College helps the university attract the best and brightest students, faculty and staff, benefiting the university as a whole. A rising tide raises all ships, and the Honors College is our rising tide."

The estate gift is directed to the Excellence in STEM Scholarship Endowment that Pilko previously established with a $100,000 gift. The endowment is designed to assist students pursuing degrees in the areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.


A UM student explains her research during the Honors College Undergraduate Research Symposium and Honors Spring Convocation earlier this spring. A new $1.5 million gift to the Honors College by Ole Miss alumna Janet Jones Pilko will provide scholarships for honors students majoring in STEM fields. Photo by Srijita Chattopadhyay/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Eligible recipients must be members of the Honors College whose background, achievements and experience demonstrate a commitment to contributing to the advancement of women in STEM, regardless of the recipients' gender or gender identity.

"I was blessed to receive a Carrier Scholarship as an incoming freshman, allowing me to pursue a four-year degree at Ole Miss," Pilko said. "My education was outstanding, of course, but also the opportunity to gain leadership and social skills was simply priceless.

"I want more young Mississippians to have the same incredible opportunity that a degree from the University of Mississippi provides and do not want financial issues to be what stops a gifted young scholar from achieving that goal."

Ethel Scurlock, dean of the Honors College, thanked the Pilkos for their legacy gift.

"The Pilkos' investment in our program will help us recruit and retain some of the brightest students in the nation and play a key role in preparing students to excel in meaningful STEM careers," Scurlock said.

"In addition to their resources, they have devoted untold hours to co-chairing the Honors College steering committee for Now & Ever: The Campaign for Ole Miss, which has a goal of securing $1.5 billion for the university's future. They are tireless, transformative leaders who are strengthening our university and our Honors College."

Any residual from the estate gift will go to the Honors College Endowment.

"My greatest hope is that the Honors College is endowed for future generations of citizen scholars," Pilko said.

The alumna, who enjoyed a career in the banking and title insurance fields, retired in 2022 from Old Republic National Title Insurance. She and her husband previously served as regional co-chairs for the University of Michigan's $5 billion campaign.

George Pilko earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and an MBA from Michigan. He is the founder and chair of Pilko & Associates, an adviser to senior leaders in energy, chemical and related industries.

"I grew up in Meridian and my mother was born in Houston, Mississippi, both hotbeds of Ole Miss Rebel fans," Pilko said. "So many aunts, uncles and cousins are University of Mississippi grads.

"As a child, I remember listening to Ole Miss football games and treasuring my Ole Miss jacket. Then in high school, I came to the university for several journalism workshops and fell even more in love with the school and its beautiful campus."

To make a gift to the Excellence in STEM Scholarship, mail a check with the fund's name written in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, or give online here.

For more information on supporting the Honors College, contact Brady Bramlett, director of development, at or 662-915-3081.


Tina H. Hahn



April 09, 2024