The name “Farrington” has always been synonymous with “Ole Miss.” Even people who do not know the couple personally know of their generosity and love for the university. “Neither of us can remember our first contribution to the university,” said Jan. “Supporting Ole Miss has been a part of our lives for a very, very long time.”
The Farrington’s support of the UM School of Business Administration has come in so many forms that there is an unwavering sense of respect and gratitude to and for them. “Lawrence got involved with the business school in the mid-90s as a member of the business advisory board,” Jan continued. “I became interested after I was asked to be on the board of Innovate Mississippi, then known as the Mississippi Technology Alliance.”
Through their involvement in the business school, and their investing in businesses in the state, the Farringtons came to know many of the school’s professors and came to learn about their research and projects.
FNC to CoreLogic
In 1994, Professors Bill Rayburn, Dennis Tosh, Bob Dorsey and John Johnson were working on a real estate appraisal software startup and approached Lawrence about investing. The company was under the umbrella of the university and housed in Holman Hall, the business school building.
Initially, Lawrence turned them down, not feeling that he had enough knowledge of the proposed company called Financial Neural Computing (FNC, Inc.), a software development company that provided collateral appraisals of real estate for banks and other financial institutions.
Tosh gave it some time, and in the interim, Lawrence learned more about FNC and the professors. When Tosh approached him again about an investment, he agreed that he and Jan would join a couple of other investors to provide funding for the company. They both liked the concept and had great confidence in the four founders. The professors’ diversity in different areas of expertise struck the couple as the right combination of talent to build a successful company.
In 1999, FNC. Inc. delivered their first solutions, and in 2000, they spun off from the university. The Farringtons saw the success of a company incubated through the university and became more involved with seed money for startups and other forms of support.
In December 2015, CoreLogic, a real estate data firm in Irving, California, acquired FNC, Inc. for $475 million.
Gillespie Business Plan Competition and Farrington Entrepreneur of the Year
In 2004, the business school established the Gillespie Business Plan Competition. The Farringtons were immediately interested and supportive of this new program. Jan had helped with various business competitions through her work with Innovate Mississippi, and she and Lawrence had become involved with an angel fund established by that organization.
Since 2004, many bright, innovative, young students have participated in this competition.
In 2018, Shortwork, LLC, conceived by Will Tribble and Sam Harres, won the contest, receiving $10,000 and office space for a year. Shortwork is a tutoring app for high schoolers looking for solutions to homework questions.
“Jan and Lawrence are great folks, and both have great entrepreneurial minds. It is amazing what they have done for Ole Miss and entrepreneurship across Mississippi.”
–Clark Love, CEO of Brighter Health Network
The Farringtons have also helped the school in efforts to support startups that could ultimately become thriving businesses in Mississippi. Eventually, Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration, approached the Farringtons about sponsoring an award for entrepreneurship called “The Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneur Award.”
This award is given each year to an alumnus or alumna of the school who has shown exceptional success as an entrepreneur and innovator. It is presented at the conclusion of the Gillespie Competition.
Previous winners include Hunter Carpenter of Redbird Capital (2017), William Yates, III of Yates Construction (2016), Henry Jones co-founder of Kopis Mobile (2014), Matt Hedges, founder of Vino Del Sol (2013), and Stephen Johnston of SmartSynch (2012). The founding four of FNC, Inc. received the prize in 2011.
“Jan and Lawrence are great folks, and both have great entrepreneurial minds, “said Clark Love, the 2015 recipient of the prize, who was overseeing MortgageTrade (now called MTrade) at the time, and is currently the CEO of Brighter Health Network, a Mississippi-based healthcare technology business. “It is amazing what they have done for Ole Miss and entrepreneurship across Mississippi.”
Women in Business
In 2018, Gail Pittman received the award. Pittman, of Jackson, Miss., is the largest manufacturer of hand-painted pottery in the United States.
“There was no school of entrepreneurship when I started out 36 years ago,” Pittman said “Entrepreneurship is a journey full of ups and downs, and exciting opportunities that can ultimately bring reward both personally and financially.”
“This year was special, because the award was presented to our first woman recipient, “said Jan. “Gail is a creative designer, a successful business person, a generous philanthropist and a fantastic role model for our students.”
“All of the recipients have been very successful and have truly shown a great entrepreneurial spirit,” said Lawrence. “We have been amazed at what these talented people have accomplished and what they continue to do.”
“Jan and Lawrence have been amazing supporters and ambassadors for Ole Miss and the entrepreneurship program in the business school,” said Dean Cyree. “They have been great friends to the state and the region through their impact in starting and investing in businesses in Mississippi.”
Lawrence, through a partnership with the business advisory board, has helped establish a new program called “Business Connect,” and the school will be hiring someone to direct this effort soon. The program is designed to connect students with Ole Miss alumni throughout the country to help students find internships and jobs. “This is a way to help students, to reconnect our alumni with the business school, and to give them an opportunity to be involved,” said Lawrence.
“Jan and Lawrence Farrington are driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to helping others succeed,” said Then-Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. “I am inspired by their dedication to the university and how actively engaged they are in our success.”
The business school, and the university as a whole, have received so much from this unique couple. Certainly, there has been financial support for the school, but they have given their time and energy to support the faculty, staff, mentor students, and lend a hand to help the university in its mission to innovate, educate and produce graduates of the highest caliber.