“Dan” McGeary left
to follow his dream of
becoming a pilot, but he
never once forgot his connection
to his home state or
his alma mater, Mississippi
The last surviving member
of a prominent Delta
family, McGeary willed
Sidon Plantation in Leflore
County to Mississippi State
University. The bequest
includes 2,069 acres of
farmland and 568 additional
acres around Sidon
Plantation near Greenwood,
as well as one of the oldest
homes in Leflore County.
McGeary died in 2011 at
age 91. The $8 million
bequest of real estate, the largest in university history, is designated
“unrestricted,” meaning agricultural lease proceeds from the
property will provide an annual source of revenue for MSU as part
of its Bulldog Properties program.
“Row crops are still grown on the farmland – cotton, corn and
soybeans – and we are proud to say our efforts are prosperous
each year,” says John Doty Porter, the property’s tenant farmer,
whose family has farmed the property since the early 1970s.
Although McGeary deeply appreciated agriculture, he had aspirations
outside of farming. He decided at the age of 10 to become
a pilot. His dream led him to then-Mississippi State College,
where he earned an aeronautical engineering degree in 1940.
After graduation, McGeary was employed with several aircraft
manufacturing companies as an engineer before joining the U.S.
Army Air Corps. He became an aircraft commander, flying missions
in Europe during World War II. He was awarded the
Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, McGeary returned to
Mississippi and managed the family plantation. He later became a
captain for American Airlines for 29 years. In later years, he lived
in Marina Del Rey, Calif.
Although his adventures took him away from Mississippi,
McGeary wanted to sustain his legacy in his home state.
“My husband wanted to leave the plantation and farmland to
MSU because he felt the university would be good stewards of the
property and because of his genuine fondness and appreciation for
the school,” says Joy Andresen McGeary, his wife of nearly
“Mississippi State University is extremely grateful to Willis
McGeary for allowing us to transform his treasured possession
into a valuable resource for the students, faculty and programs of
the university,” says Jud Skelton, director of real estate giving for
“The gift is remarkable, not only for the level of generosity, but
also for the investment in future generations and the demonstration
of confidence he placed in Mississippi State.”