Founded in 1844, though not admitting students for another 4 years, The University of Mississippi was the only comprehensive institute of higher learning in the state of Mississippi for 110 years. With the main campus located in the small North-Central Mississippi town of Oxford, MS, Ole Miss is the flagship school for the state of Mississippi with a total enrollment of 19,546 for the 2010-2011 academic year, including all campuses (Oxford, Jackson (medical), Southaven, Tupelo, Grenada, and Booneville), with about 15,800 of those on the main Oxford campus. The University of Mississippi is also home to the only School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Dentistry, and School of Health Related Sciences, mostly headquartered at the Jackson, MS campus. The medical program also boasts both the first lung (1963) and heart (1964) transplants ever performed on a living person. After starting with just 80 students, The University of Mississippi now offers over 100 programs of study.
In the 1930’s, the then governor of Mississippi attempted to move the main campus of Ole Miss to Jackson, as it is the social, political, and economic capital of the state. Chancellor Alfred Hume fought this tooth and nail and eventually won out. His strategy? Giving Mississippi legislators a grand tour of the Ole Miss campus and of the surrounding town of Oxford. The legislators were so impressed and enamored that the move was defeated.
The mascot for the University of Mississippi is the Rebel, and the school colors are Red and Blue. In 2003, “Colonel Reb,” a classic Southern gentleman in a hat and coattails, was removed from sideline action at all sporting events by university administration. Over concerns that he was too controversial and conjured up images of the Old South, he was replaced in 2010 by the “Rebel Black Bear” after a student and alumni vote. As of this writing, there is a political action committee (PAC) attempting to garner the signatures required to put the issue up for a statewide vote on the upcoming 2012 election ballot. If successful, Colonel Reb would be the official and only mascot of the University of Mississippi by state law.
One major tradition form Ole Miss from days gone by is dressing to the nines for football games, even in the stifling summer heat. This apparently stems form the days when there was a rail system on campus. Many people from around the state would take the train on Saturday to go cheer for the Rebels, but the train required one to be dressed presentably. As time has gone by, students have kept this tradition and it creates a very classy, very Southern atmosphere; one that every SEC fan should witness at least once.
Like many Southern universities, the outbreak of the American Civil War had a major impact on The University of Mississippi. When the Civil War began, the university had to close its doors because the entire student body and many of the faculty enlisted. The School of Medicine, originally located at the east gate to campus, and the medical facilities became a hospital for both Confederate and Union soldiers. The soldiers who died in this make-shift hospital are buried in a mass grave at what is now the northeast corner of the Coliseum. The students that enlisted in the Confederate Army’s 11th Infantry became known as the University Greys. Even though these soldiers penetrated farther into Union territory than any other company, they suffered 100% casualty; not a single soldier walked away unharmed. When the university re-opened, only 1 student was able to return.
Today, The University of Mississippi is a beacon of education and an excellent mix of the traditional South and the modern world.