Sarah “Sally” Weems McDonnell Barksdale, a philanthropist and education advocate, died on Dec. 8 from cancer. She was 60.
Barksdale graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Mississippi. She married James Love Barksdale, an Internet pioneer and the former CEO of Netscape, and raised three children.
In 2000, the Barksdales created a $100 million endowment to establish the Barksdale Reading Institute, an organization focused on improving the reading skills of young children. It was the largest private gift to early childhood literacy in U.S. history. They gave $5.4 million to the University of Mississippi to establish the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College, and funded full medical scholarships for African-American students attending the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
For her charitable efforts, Barksdale was awarded the University of Mississippi Humanitarian Award, and the Friends of Education Award by the Mississippi Association of School Administrators.