Focused on the Center

Austin Lafferty’s recent gift to the University of Mississippi will help School of Business Administration students participating in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). 

The Kingfisher, Oklahoma, resident’s $50,000 gift establishes the Lafferty Family CIE Endowment.

The CIE’s mission is to inspire UM students to create innovative businesses through excellent teaching, exceptional service and world-class research. 

“Overall, our purpose is to provide students with the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to become successful entrepreneurs who create innovative companies that provide valuable services, products and employment,” said co-director for the CIE, chair of entrepreneurial excellence and professor of management Clay Dibrell.

A longtime donor to the university, Lafferty said he wanted to support an area of greatest need with the business school. 

“Hopefully, this will help enhance the likelihood of attracting bright and forward-looking students into the program,” said Lafferty, who earned a bachelor’s degree in managerial finance from the school in 1988 followed by a master’s degree in business administration in 1989.

“If students see something that’s brought them into the program like this, maybe when they leave they’ll have an entrepreneurial focus that allows them to grow financially and hopefully return the favor,” he continued. 

Dibrell expressed gratitude for Lafferty’s gift.

“We are fortunate to have alumni and friends like Austin who have a vision for the future of the CIE and an interest in the work we’re doing with our students, preparing them to make a transformative impact on our world as future business leaders,” the director said.

Lafferty is co-CEO of his family business, Wheeler Brothers Grain Co., founded in 1917 in Watonga, Oklahoma, by his great-grandfather. Lafferty and his brothers, Todd and Ladd, are fourth-generation executives of the company. 

Lafferty is chairman of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association board of directors. At Ole Miss, he was an active member of Sigma Chi fraternity and the Wesley Foundation.

The Lafferty Family Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Endowment is open to support from businesses and individuals. Gifts can be made by sending a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the fund’s name noted on the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or by giving online at

For more information about supporting the School of Business Administration, contact Patrick Salter, associate director of development, at psalter@olemiss.eduor 662-915-2712.

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