Wanda Poole has been involved with the University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford since attending Ole Miss in the 1940s.
Her husband, Ray Smith Poole, died April 2, 2008, from cancer. He was an all-star athlete who later coached football, golf and baseball at Ole Miss. She continues to carry the love her husband had for the school and students he coached.
“All of the Poole family went to Ole Miss to play sports, and they were all-star athletes,” Poole said. “I came because I grew up in a small town, and it was where everyone went, so I just followed the crowd.”
After they both graduated from college, Ray Smith Poole played professional football for five years. The couple moved back to Oxford 1955 after he was offered a coaching position at Ole Miss.
“He had been offered to coach here at the school from playing for the New York Giants,” Poole said. “We were very excited to be moving back here.”
As a result of her husband’s success and the reputation of the family, Poole Drive on campus was named after them. They were the biggest family to ever attend the school with 50 University of Mississippi athletic letters, representing three generations.
“It was such an honor to be a part of the family and get to experience that moment, because I knew right then that we were staying here for good,” Poole said.
All generations of the Poole family have stayed in Oxford and attended Ole Miss, including Poole’s great niece Caroline Church.
“Oxford is all I know since I was born and raised here,” she said. “It just runs in the family to attend the university, but I am not complaining because it is a beautiful place to be.”
Wanda Poole has always welcomed her home in Oxford to friends and other students who needed a home away from home, including family friend Rickey Hicks.
“I was over at their house every day to eat a home cooked meal, to hang out with her son, or to just talk to Mrs. Poole,” Hicks said. “I always knew I was welcomed in the house. She was like my second mom.”
Every year, she contributes money to the school and volunteers in the community with activities involving her church, Oxford United Methodist.
“I try to do as much as I can for my town and school because it is home,” Poole said. “I love this town because of how close the community is and how everyone knows everyone.”