2023 Holiday Keepsake – 175th Anniversary of The University of Mississippi and The Champion Catalpa Tree


The 2023 keepsake celebrates the 175th anniversary of the University of Mississippi. The Mississippi Legislature chartered the University on Feb. 24, 1844, and the first classes were held Nov. 6, 1848. What began as a handful of programs and only four professors in 1848 grew to more than 120 programs of study across six campuses and a medical center.

The 175th anniversary celebration is themed “A Legacy of Calling”, a partial reference to Dave Isay’s book “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work”, which details the role that passions and occupations play in leading a fulfilling life. Since the founding of the University of Mississippi, thousands of students have found their calling through their attendance at the University. Among the university’s alumni are five U.S. senators, 10 governors, scores of state representatives and elected officials, lauded singers, songwriters, artists, and actors, groundbreaking researchers, and men and women from across the globe.

2023 Keepsake Ornament on a holiday background


The subject of the 2023 keepsake highlights the Northern Catalpa tree, one of two champion trees on the University of Mississippi’s campus. The beloved tree is situated adjacent to the Student Union and the Grove, where its gnarled and unique appearance make it a prominent feature at the heart of campus. Many may assume that this tree has earned the title of “Champion” due to its age, which is believed to be as old as the University, or for its proximity to the Walk of Champions. However, the title of “Champion” is bestowed upon any tree which is the largest of its species in a state.

The University’s Catalpa was last measured with a height of 76’, a circumference of 22’ 7’, and a crown of 68’. The Northern Catalpa can grow to 100’ tall but averages between 60 and 80’. It bears heart-shaped leaves and white bell-shaped flowers covering the tree in late spring to early summer. The common name of “cigar tree” is due to the tree’s seedpods which grow 10 to 24” and turn brown once they mature in the fall.

To purchase a 2023 Keepsake from The University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses you may visit the UM Museum Store. To order a keepsake for shipping, please call UM Museum Store at 662-915-7073. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday 10am-4pm.  Each 2023 ornament is $25 and can be shipped within the contiguous United States for $10. Sales tax is required for all sales shipped within Mississippi. 

Are you a member of the UM Museum? Members receive a 10% discount on all Museum Store purchases, including keepsakes! Please visit museum.olemiss.edu/join-the-museum for more information!


Museum’s Holiday Keepsake Honors University’s 175th Anniversary