By LaJuan Tallo
Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation once said, “Giving is not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference.”
If you get to know Northwest Mississippi Community College alumnus and scholarship donor Norris Faust, you will see that Calvin’s philosophy is right in line with his own. The Sledge native attended Northwest from 1969-1971 on a football scholarship, and Northwest has remained a vital part of his own story. “I may be a bit biased, but I think we may have one of the best colleges in the country,” Faust says, smiling. “It is not just what it has done for me, it is the trickle-down effect it has on others, on the community and on our state.”
Faust and his two siblings were the children of Norris Faust, Sr., a hard-working farmer and his wife Mary Katherine Aldison Faust. Faust, his sister Polly Ann Faust Borland, who now lives in the Dallas area and his brother Terry, of Cartersville, Georgia all attended Northwest and Delta State University.
Faust graduated from Sledge High School with a graduating class of 15 students. He wanted to attend Delta State University and was recruited by both Northwest and Mississippi State University. “Northwest came calling and it was the best thing I have ever done. I got established here to prepare me for the next step in life,” Faust said. “I think back and realize that if I had not gone to Northwest, I would probably not have been prepared to go to Ole Miss or Delta State. Here the instructors were one-on-one with the students. It was a small school, and they took time with their students.”
At Northwest he played halfback for Coach Billy Joe “Bear” Cox. He lived in the old Panola dorm with the other football players and remembers fondly President Reese McLendon, Dr. Jack Butts and Howard Carpenter. “Mr. Carpenter was partial to those of us who played sports. He had a prison ministry in Quitman County, and he let me be his driver,” Faust said. “Bobby King was a fun teacher, and Mrs. Tipton was a really tough biology teacher. In the summers I helped pull the wires with Rupert Houston when they built Northwest’s radio station,” Faust remembered. Faust was also a member of the Northwest track team during his time at the school.
Faust said he hears people talk about the Northwest family, but he knows it firsthand. “I made lifelong friends at Northwest. I sat on the back of the football bus with Darrell Logan, and we are friends to this day. I am still friends with my fellow players Pete Nelson, Jerry Barrett and Jerry Holt. The relationships we made there have continued throughout the years,” he said.
After leaving Northwest, he went on to Delta State earning a Bachelor of Science in education with a minor in history. He had always wanted to be a football coach, and he took a job coaching football and track and teaching at Quitman County High School. “I was there for one year, and my father asked me to come and work with him on the farm,” Faust said. His father was expanding the small family farm, which would eventually end up being 8,000 acres. He farmed alongside his father from 1974 until his father passed away in 2007. They initially grew cotton, soybeans and wheat and later switched to all grains, growing soybeans and rice, Faust said.
During these years, he served for 10 years on the Quitman County Board of Supervisors. In the middle of his third term, he resigned and took a job as the first director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Mississippi from 1993-1996. In this capacity, he was over agriculture for the whole state of Mississippi. “My father’s health began to fail, so I decided to come back to the farm full time to help him,” Faust said.
“Neither of my parents were able to go to college, but they really wanted their children to be able to do so. They wanted to give us something they were not able to have,” Faust said. Because of his parent’s dedication to their education, he established the Faust Farms Endowment in 2010. “My dad was all about helping people, and that is what we are here for— to help others. It is such a blessing to have the opportunity to give back because I have been blessed many times by the Lord. We are supposed to give back with what we are blessed with,” Faust said.
Faust made the tough decision to sell the family farm and retire in 2012, after having heart surgery and cancer himself. He retired to Oxford and spends time in the summers helping his son-in-law farm and also works on some hunting land he still owns in Panola County. He is the father of two daughters, Jennifer Eddins and Erica Stevenson, who both attended Northwest. He has one grandson, Rob, who attends Magnolia Heights School.
Faust is very moved by the letters he receives from his scholarship recipients. “What more could you ask for? You are honoring your parents, and that legacy will go on honoring them after I leave this world,” Faust said. “This is the reason I established the scholarship, and it is the reason I continue to give to this day.” He has even set up an estate gift in the amount of $150,000 to ensure that the scholarship will continue to grow.
“Mr. Faust is an alumnus whose genuine love for Northwest shines through in conversation. We are sincerely grateful for not only his generosity in this estate gift, but also his consistent and unselfish giving since 2010,” said Patti Gordon, executive director of Institutional Advancement.
He encourages anyone who has graduated from Northwest to look back and remember what it has meant to them and give back. “One of the best ways to give back is through an endowment. When you give back, you are rewarded many times over. Our recipients will affect others in their families, their careers and in their communities. It is really a domino effect,” Faust said.
“In the end, Northwest has been a blessing to me. I had two wonderful parents, and their legacy and the legacy of Faust Farms lives on through our endowment,” Faust said.