USM Receives $2.3 million from Lamar W. Powell to Establish Scholarships

Published 1:34 pm Saturday, April 3, 2021

During a trip home to Mississippi for a family reunion, a relative told Chief Warrant Officer (U.S. Army Retired) Lamar W. Powell the story of Oseola McCarty and her unprecedented gift to support students at The University of Southern Mississippi. Powell called the USM Foundation soon after returning home, and a few weeks later, a check arrived for $30,000. That was the beginning of an amazing friendship between Mr. Powell and USM.

His hope was that, with higher education, young and eager students would continue to make Mississippi and the United States a great place to live.

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Mr. Powell passed away at the age of 97 on Dec. 30, 2015. In a remarkable gift of philanthropy, Southern Miss and South Carolina State University were made the remainder beneficiaries of his trust. Cumulatively, USM has received $3.1 million, with the largest portion of $2.9 million coming from Mr. Powell’s estate and trust. This distribution creates scholarship opportunities for students with financial need, as his desire was for students “to get an education, strive for the top, save all you can save, and give back when you can.”

The Lamar W. Powell Scholarship Endowment provides incoming freshmen a four-year scholarship to include the JUMP program, which is an early-start curriculum. The first cohort of freshmen will begin this fall. As the program matures, Powell’s philanthropy will grow to provide scholarships for 80 students per year. The program will also include unique opportunities for peer engagement, academic support and skill development.

“Mr. Powell will long be remembered for his service to our country and his vision for higher education in Mississippi,” said Stace Mercier, executive director of the USM Foundation.

“His generosity is astounding, and to learn how Ms. McCarty inspired him is such a beautiful story. These were two individuals who never attended Southern Miss, yet were so passionate about contributing to its mission.”

Powell was born on Jan. 4, 1918, in the Jerusalem Community outside of Liberty, Miss. One of seven children, he was raised on the 80-acre farm passed down through two generations of his family. The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was the catalyst for his enlistment in the Civilian Conservation Corp and later the United States Army.

Powell served in multiple war arenas, including the Pacific Theatre in WWII and Okinawa during the Korean War. Throughout his military career, he took correspondence business courses at the University of Chicago, which sparked his interest to dabble in the stock market. This led to constant and consistent investments in the market over time, slowly accumulating into financial success.

He retired from the Army after a 23-year career and continued to serve with distinction as an employee with the United States Department of State. He was an avid believer in giving back as well as an advocate for higher education.

Founded in 1959, the USM Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to serving the University community by overseeing fundraising efforts to raise private support for scholarships and other academic needs at Southern Miss.

For more information on supporting The University of Southern Mississippi, call the USM Foundation at 601.266.5210 or visit