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Ole Miss renames basketball arena for Madison couple

OXFORD — Ole Miss’ basketball arena is getting a new name.

The Pavilion has officially been renamed the Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss in recognition of a $10 million gift from the Madison couple.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board approved the naming on Thursday. The arena had been known simply as “The Pavilion at Ole Miss” since it opened in 2014.

Longtime supporters of Ole Miss, the Blacks said they’ve been fortunate financially and wanted to make a gift they could enjoy with their family.

“We’re fortunate that we’re able to do something like this and leave a legacy so to speak,” said John Black, a retired certified public accountant and entrepreneur. “We decided to respond with a gift that we could be proud of and have our kids and grandkids take a look from time to time as they happen to pass by this facility.”

The Blacks’ latest gift is their third major contribution in six years to the Vaught Society, the philanthropic leadership group of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation.

In 2015, the Blacks made an $11 million gift to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Since then, the Blacks also made a major gift to renovate the guest house at the chancellor’s home on the Oxford campus.

In 2019, Sandy Black made a $500,000 gift, essentially purchasing all of William Faulkner’s furniture from the Nobel Prize-winning author’s extended family with the understanding that the pieces would remain permanently on display at Rowan Oak — Faulkner’s historic Oxford home.

John Black, a University of Mississippi Foundation board member, earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the university in 1961 and a master’s degree in accountancy in 1962. He met Sandy at a fraternity party at Ole Miss and the couple was married in 1963.

After college, John Black joined the accountancy firm Peat Marwick, now KPMG, as a CPA in Jackson. After several years, he founded HCM Inc., which operated 53 locations of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in seven southeastern states.

In 1981, he sold the business to Beverly Enterprises, the largest company in the field, and continued to find success as an investor both in stocks and real estate. At one time, he owned all Courthouse Racquet & Fitness locations in the Jackson area, which he later gifted to UMMC to promote wellness.

“John and Sandy are two of the most gracious people I’ve had the honor of knowing. Their loyalty to the university is as wide as it is deep — reaching broadly into not only athletics but also academics and the many facets of our medical center,” Ole Miss chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “This couple’s legacy will touch generations of students, alumni and friends because they keep abreast of our needs and are committed to helping meet them with crucial support. We are extremely grateful to John and Sandy for their extraordinary generosity.”