March 7, 2017
by Jim Seavey, Massachusetts Maritime Director of Sports Information and Intercollegiate Scheduling Coordinator / CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame Committee member
Dr. Robert Khayat, who helped transform the University of Mississippi into one of the world's elite institutions of higher learning during his 14-year tenure as the school's Chancellor, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Dick Enberg Award which is presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
The Dick Enberg Award, named for the world renowned and legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster, is presented annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America Teams Program and/or the student-athlete while promoting the values of education and academics.
The award was created in part to recognize Enberg's passion and support of the Academic All-America program, and more importantly, his dedication to education for more than four decades.
Khayat will receive the honor at the eighth annual CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame Ceremony on Sunday, June 11 at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Fla., site of CoSIDA's annual convention. The CoSIDA Convention takes place in conjunction the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) convention for the fifth straight year.
"Robert Khayat has been a champion for change throughout his distinguished career in higher education," Enberg said of this year's recipient. "The decisions he made for the future of the University of Mississippi were difficult, but time has shown that his passion, character and courage were rewarded in building a world class institution that embodies so many life changing student opportunities.
"Chancellor Khayat is widely respected among his peers as one of the outstanding educators of our time, and I'm extremely honored that he has accepted this year's Enberg Award," Enberg continued. "He truly has been a 'Rebel with a cause'!"
As the 21st recipient of the Enberg Award, Khayat joins a select group that includes a United States President, the winningest Division I coaches ever in the sports of football, men's basketball and women's basketball, several Olympic medalists and a member of the United States Cabinet.
"As a lifetime admirer of Dick Enberg, I am pleased beyond measure to receive this award," noted Khayat. "Through his integrity and charismatic ability to communicate effectively and eloquently, he has been a positive force in our society, and his commitment to education has been unwavering. After seeing the prior recipients of this award, I am truly humbled to now be among them."
A native son of Mississippi, Khayat has been part of the Oxford landscape for most of his life. He earned Academic All-America honors on the gridiron as an offensive tackle for the Rebels in 1959 and was a two-time all-Southeastern Conference selection as a catcher for the Ole Miss baseball team.
After excelling in his undergraduate studies and earning a degree in history, he was taken in the sixth round of the National Football League draft by the Cleveland Browns, who later traded him to the Washington Redskins. Khayat was a placekicker for four seasons in the nation's Capitol and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl during his rookie campaign of 1960.
Khayat undoubtedly made a large impact on the NFL's landscape during his four year tenure in Washington, as he was the 1998 recipient of the league's Alumni Career Achievement Award, an honor also bestowed upon previous Enberg Award recipients Roger Staubach and Alan Page as well as Academic All-America Hall of Famers Byron White and Merlin Olsen.
Additionally, Robert received the National Football Foundation's Distinguished American Award in 2003 that is presented annually to an individual exhibiting superior qualities of scholarship, citizenship and leadership. Past recipients of the Distinguished American Award include Enberg Award honorees Page, Father Theodore Hesburgh, Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne along with Academic All-America Hall of Famers Jim Swink and Pat Tillman.
After retiring from the NFL in 1963, Khayat returned to Oxford and earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1965. Four years later, he joined the Ole Miss law faculty and embarked on a career to shape the leaders of tomorrow, including a young law student by the name of John Grisham who, to this day, considers Khayat a mentor. Along the way, Khayat received a Sterling Fellowship that enabled him to pursue a doctorate from the Yale University Law School in 1980. He continued to teach at his alma mater before accepting the Chancellor's position in 1995.
The university that existed at the time of his appointment in 1995 would not be the one Khayat left upon his retirement in 2009. Faced with declining enrollment and an uncertain future due to public perception, he was determined to build his alma mater into a world class institution of higher learning that embraced a university co-curricular experience. After a conversation with then-Ole Miss football coach Tommy Tuberville who told him that "he couldn't recruit against the rebel flag," Khayat commissioned a public relations firm to conduct an in-depth study on the public perceptions of Ole Miss and made the difficult decision to do away with that longstanding school tradition.
Khayat's best-selling memoir, "The Education of a Lifetime," describes in detail the decision process, its aftermath and subsequent acceptance that played a key role in the University's transformation. Less than a year after that conversation with Tuberville sparked a change in perception of the institution, Khayat's vision of keeping the best and brightest students in the state of Mississippi took shape with the creation of an Honors College made possible by a $5.4 million gift from Netscape President Jim Barksdale and his wife, Sally, both Ole Miss alumni. This largest private donation in school history proved to be a key building block in Khayat's overall foundation for success, and he steadfastly held the belief that establishing a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on the Ole Miss campus was a crucial component in building both the institution's enrollment and esteem.
That became a reality on April 6, 2001 when the University of Mississippi chapter was chartered and Ole Miss joined an elite group of fewer than 300 colleges and universities in the nation that hold a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.
Communication and trust were staples of Khayat's leadership during his tenure as Chancellor, and those qualities helped him earn the trust of students, faculty, alumni and leaders around the state, country and world. A defining moment of his term came in 2008 when the University of Mississippi was selected to host a Presidential debate between candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, an event Khayat himself could not have envisioned taking place just a decade earlier.
After retiring from the Chancellor's position in 2009, Khayat remains an active member of the Ole Miss community. He and his wife, Margaret, reside in Oxford and have two children and three grandchildren.
Among his Ole Miss honors, Khayat is a member of the Ole Miss Football Team of the Century, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame and the Student Hall of Fame at the University of Mississippi. He holds an honorary membership from Phi Beta Kappa and was selected as Law Alumnus of the Year in 2014.