July 14, 2024

The Fred Smith Family Makes Historic Donation to Memphis

Fireworks ignite as Memphis scores a TD! - Photo Credits - Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography
Fireworks ignite as Memphis scores a TD! – Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

 In a historic move, the Frederick W. Smith Family, led by FedEx’s founder and executive chairman, has pledged a $50 million challenge gift to the University of Memphis for renovations to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. This monumental commitment marks the largest gift the University has ever received.

Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, the home field of Memphis Tiger Football, stands to benefit from the potential influx of funding. In addition to the Smith Family’s gift, a Memphis City Councilman has proposed a resolution to appropriate $120 million in State grant funding for the stadium’s renovation. The resolution also includes a provision for transferring the stadium’s ownership to the University of Memphis Auxiliary Services Foundation. If approved, these changes will take effect on December 30, 2023.

To match the significant contribution from the Smith Family, Memphis Athletics has announced the launch of a $50 million capital campaign, with the leadership phase commencing immediately.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

Mayor Jim Strickland, a UofM graduate and an avid Tiger fan, expressed his enthusiasm for the development. Throughout the process, he lauded the state’s contribution and the cooperation from the UofM and Grizzlies teams. The mayor believes these renovations will position the University favorably as it aspires to join a Power Five conference.

As a Tiger fan and UofM graduate, I could not be happier that we are able to make this happen,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “With these renovations, the stadium will receive much-needed upgrades, and this puts the University in an excellent position as they continue to work towards entrance into a Power Five conference. Thanks to the State of Tennessee for its contribution, and thanks to both the UofM and Grizzlies teams for their cooperation as we have worked through this process.”

Richard W. Smith, representing the Smith Family, underscored the importance of upgrading the FedEx Forum and Liberty Bowl to the future of Memphis, FedEx’s headquarters city. He emphasized the role of these venues in enhancing Memphis as an entertainment destination, thus contributing to the city’s economic growth and employment. The family firmly believes in the interconnected success of Memphis and these sports venues. Smith would have the following to say

Photo Credits – Madison Pemke – Madison Penke Photoagraphy

The University of Memphis President, Dr. Bill Hardgrave, expressed his gratitude to the Smith Family for their commitment to the University and the city. He acknowledged the substantial gift as a game-changer for the entire university, propelling it toward national recognition.

Laird Veatch, University of Memphis Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, also expressed his appreciation for the Smiths’ philanthropic leadership and shared vision. He highlighted the importance of the stadium project to the football program, University, and city. Below are the quotes from Veatch.

We are immensely grateful to the Smiths for their incredible philanthropic leadership and for sharing our vision to elevate our football program, our University, and our City,

We are confident that a generational gift of this magnitude will inspire others in Tiger Nation to match their energy and commitment.

The University eagerly awaits the City Council’s vote on the resolution, with additional details on stadium renovation plans to be announced later.

Photo Credits – Madison Penke – Madison Penke Photography

Further reading

Twitter feed is not available at the moment.

Subscribe to Podcast