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J. D. Williams Library receives $1 million surpise donation

The new year is off to a good start for the University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library.
The estates of a recently deceased couple from Northport, Ala., has provided a $1 million donation to the library, according to a press release.
Ole Miss alumnus Oscar Ainsworth, who received his bachelor’s degree in 1945 and master’s degree in 1946, spent approximately 36 years as a member of the math department faculty at the University of Alabama.
Ainsworth met his wife, Edith, while studying post-grad at the University of California at Berkley. Edith also taught math at Alabama.
The million dollar donation came as a complete surprise to the library staff.
“I wish that we had known more about them,” said Julia Rholes, dean of libraries at Ole Miss. “I would have personally liked to have thanked them.”
Rholes said the couple had no children or beneficiaries.
“Some of the money will go into an endowment, that way it will keep gaining interest, but we’re keeping some of it out for more possible immediate needs,” Rholes said. “Because the Ainsworths were both teachers their whole lives, I felt like they would be very interested in the education and the student’s enrichment.”
The plans for the money include upgrading technology on the first floor of the library.
“New computers, televisions for study rooms, scanners, whatever the students need,” Rholes said. “We also want to name a portion of the library on the first floor for the Ainsworths.”
Clay Willcoxon, a liberal arts sophomore from Atlanta, said he thinks the donation is wonderful.
“Honestly, that’s just so awesome,” he said. “Obviously they’ll put the money toward whatever they need, whether it’s computers or books. Either way, it’s a big donation, and the library can use it, I’m sure.”  
Michael Upton, associate director of development for the University Museum and Historic Houses, said both Ainsworths cared for Oscar’s alma mater.
“It was an unexpected gift,” he said. “They had not made us aware of their plan, and it was a wonderful surprise. We’re so grateful for it, and it is a significant impact on the library. The endowment will provide services for students now and future students.”
Rholes first heard of the Ainsworth donation the Monday after Alabama beat Ole Miss in football this past season.
“We think (Oscar) might have had a connection to the library, and that’s why he donated it here to J.D. Williams rather than the math department,” she said. “We don’t have the records from when he was here, but we think he might have been a student worker. We like to employ students, especially freshmen, and have them work for us all four years.”
The library has tried to reach out and find any family members or relatives of the Ainsworths to thank, but the search has not turned up anything so far, Rholes said.
“It was a wonderful way for the things they had collected over the years to build up and have a great impact for us,” Rholes said.