MSU announces plans to construct Jim and Thomas Duff Center

Contact: Addie Mayfield

Jim and Tommy Duff
Thomas and Jim Duff (Photo submitted)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University will soon begin construction on a new, centralized home for the university’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic (ADDC), Disability Resource Center and Department of Kinesiology thanks to a cornerstone commitment from brothers Jim and Tommy Duff of Columbia.

Support from the $15 million gift will enhance disability services and related educational studies at MSU through the establishment of The Jim and Thomas Duff Center, named in honor of the Duff family’s generous philanthropy. The 100,000-square-foot facility will provide state-of-the-art offices, classrooms and laboratories that enable increased hands-on training in the areas of physical and developmental disabilities, as well as kinesiology.

In bringing the three critical MSU programs together under one roof, The Jim and Thomas Duff Center will foster a cohesive learning environment to benefit students and practitioners and serve as a vital resource for Mississippi children and families.

“The new Jim and Thomas Duff Center will be a hub of innovative learning, research and outreach that will be transformational on our campus. This visionary investment that the Duff brothers are making in our university will benefit generations of our students, as well as the many children and families we will be able to better serve with expanded facilities, services and resources,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “The Duffs’ generosity and leadership are making a true difference here at Mississippi State and in communities across Mississippi. We appreciate their support, and we are grateful for the opportunity to work with them to help move our state forward.”

Final approval for the development project was granted by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning today [Oct. 20]. With construction slated to begin in 2023, the center will be located at the campus core near the MSU Drill Field. Its footprint and adjacent quadrangle will replace McCarthy Gymnasium, current home of the Department of Kinesiology.

Known for their entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirits, Jim and Thomas Duff are the owners of Duff Capital Investors (DCI), a privately owned company headquartered in Columbia. Comprised of over 20 businesses from trucking, tires and automotive to construction, energy and insurance, it is the largest collective enterprise in the state. DCI provides more than 13,000 employment opportunities across the nation and generates just under $4 billion in total revenues.

Many of the DCI companies have distinguished themselves as leaders in their respective industries, including Southern Tire Mart, the largest commercial tire dealer and retread manufacturer in North America, and KLLM Transport Services, the second largest temperature-controlled carrier in the U.S.

The brothers give to a wide variety of organizations and charities and are especially committed supporters of communities in which their Southern Tire Mart stores operate and the higher education system across Mississippi.

“Mississippi State is really doing good things for the state, and we want to be a part of that. It’s important to us to give back because it makes a difference for a lot of people,” said Jim Duff.

As someone who experiences dyslexia, Jim Duff understands first-hand the difficulties of a learning disability and hopes this new center will be an essential source of support for students in need of assistance.

“I didn’t do well in school, and I’ve competed my whole adult life with people who are very educated. So, to me, education is very important,” said Jim Duff. “It brings me great satisfaction to be able to help this program and to invest in our state’s wonderful universities that are changing people’s lives every day.”

Tommy Duff saw the negative effect his brother’s experience had on his time as a student. As a result, he wants their investments to help others see and experience education as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

“Education should bring out the best in everyone,” said Tommy Duff. “We hope this gift will enable a center where students can grow their skills and self-confidence. There are a lot of bright kids in our state and at MSU, and we want them to have the ability to realize their potential to compete and succeed regardless of their means.”

MSU’s Department of Kinesiology, housed in the College of Education, has the largest enrollment of any university department. Offering five distinctive concentration programs for undergraduate kinesiology majors, as well as specialized master’s and doctoral-level graduate training, the department supports the activities of a wide range of academic and research studies.

Also housed within MSU’s College of Education is the ADDC, an outreach service, training and research clinic under the direction of the college’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations. Acting as the flagship clinic of the School Psychology Services Center, ADDC officially opened its doors in 2014 with a mission to provide high quality clinical services to the community, train future professionals, and engage in research to enhance understanding of autism spectrum and developmental disorders.

When the clinic first started, it was serving five children. Now, clinic personnel meet with approximately 100 children every week, helping to fill the growing need for clinical services in North Mississippi. Additionally, the clinic runs the Autism Liaison program that provides services to degree-seeking MSU students with Autism, a service that is unique to the university.

“With the establishment of The Jim and Thomas Duff Center, Jim and Tommy have forever changed the landscape of support for individuals with disabilities in the state of Mississippi,” said Dan Gadke, associate dean for research in the College of Education and ADDC director. “Not only will this center serve to support direct interventions and long-term life outcomes for individuals with a wide variety of needs, but it will also offer a lifeline for families, professionals, educators and trainees throughout our state.” 

Gadke continued, “Most notably, this generous gift grants the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic the opportunity to train future professionals who will continue to advance psychological, behavioral and educational needs in Mississippi. By having a state-of-the-art center, we become even more competitive for research grants benefiting disability work and recruiting high quality students to advance our state. Jim and Thomas’s impact will resonate throughout Mississippi far past our lifetime and we are so very thankful for their generosity.”

For more information on The Jim and Thomas Duff Center development contact Les Potts, MSU’s associate vice president for administration at (662) 325-5864.

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