Ole Miss is a family tradition for one Jacksonville native


Michael Cassidy thinking about the past. Photo by Kaelyn Sreenan.

Kaelyn Sreenan
Oxford Stories

For many University of Mississippi students, attending Ole Miss is a family tradition. Students come from all over the United States to carry on their family’s academic legacy.

Florida native Michael Cassidy is one. Cassidy, who has a quiet demeanor and many fond childhood memories, grew up in Jacksonville. He remembers riding a mile from his home to St. Marks elementary school with his brother, Robert, and father.

Some days, they stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts before school. While his dad ordered coffee, Cassidy and his brother ate donut holes. Today, many of his classmates and neighbors still live near the school in the Florida community.

Cassidy grew up the youngest of four brothers. They often rode bikes around the neighborhood and were very close with their cousins who lived nearby. Once Cassidy hurt his knee while riding his bike after his cousin, Will, threw a dog bowl at him. It hit his kneecap and began to bleed. “I hated stitches, but I had to go to the hospital and get them,” he said.


Cassidy giggles while talking about his brothers. Photo by Kaelyn Sreenan.

Most of his childhood memories happened at Christmas. His godfather, Mr. Evans, did something special for Cassidy and his brothers each Christmas, and Cassidy beamed sharing the story.

As the youngest in the family, Cassidy believed in Santa long after everyone else. Each year, Cassidy said he was so excited Christmas morning, he couldn’t sleep. His parents told him that if Santa saw him, he wouldn’t come. He had to be asleep. However, Cassidy couldn’t sleep, so he patiently awaited Santa’s arrival.

Each year, Mr. Evans filled a bag full of gifts for the boys and threw it on top of their garage roof. The boys knew the gifts would be on the roof Christmas morning, and they were told Santa did it. Even when the older brothers realized it was not Santa, they went along with it for their youngest brother.


Interviewing Michael Cassidy on a beautiful day. Photo by Kaelyn Sreenan.

Cassidy also enjoyed family reunions. “Our reunions were huge,” he said. The large Cassidy family got together almost every year for a week at different Florida beaches. Family from Mississippi and all parts of Florida were reunited. The adults ate, drank and danced, and the kids played in the ocean until it was dark.

Attending the University of Mississippi is also a family tradition. Cassidy is the third brother in his family to become an Ole Miss student.

Friend Jane Anne Darken said Cassidy is a genuine person. “He really is such a great person, and so down to earth and always there for you,” she said.  Darken described Cassidy as “shy, but goodhearted and a great friend.”

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