Brookhaven natives Bob and Tom Pittman award $100K grant to MSA

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Pittman Family Foundation has awarded a $100,000 matching grant to the Mississippi School of the Arts.

The Pittman brothers — Bob and Tom — were raised in Brookhaven and are Brookhaven High School graduates. Bob became a visionary in the world of technology, arts and entertainment as the CEO and co-founder of MTV: Music Television; the former president and chief operating officer of America Online Inc. (AOL); served as chair of the Board of the New York Public Theater and as a board member of the New York City Ballet; and is co-founder, chair and CEO of iHeartMedia.

Tom was president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi; has chaired the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers; serves on Entergy Mississippi’s advisory board; and is a director of Mississippi Today. He was also a charter board member for the DeSoto Arts Council.

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The matching grant calls on donors to match 1-to-1 by December 2023, with the goal of building a substantial base of support to enhance the programming at MSA. The Pittmans’ hope is that the donation will encourage others to financially support the state’s only residential arts school — which is celebrating its 20th year of operations this year. MSA is one of only a handful of residential high school art schools in the nation, and has contributed to the growth of the Brookhaven downtown area through more than 50 performances, events and guest artist residencies annually.

“Brookhaven gave us many opportunities and a supportive environment for growing up during our critical high school years,” said both Bob and Tom. “We appreciate the creativity and vibrancy that the Mississippi School of the Arts has brought to downtown Brookhaven, and the uplifting influences that its students have on the community.”

The grant from the Pittman Family Foundation will help MSA prepare its students — who come from across the entire state — to be productive citizens in society through career readiness, and will also allow MSA to continue and expand the program.

“MSA creates artists who are confident in their own voices,” said MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch. “Through this support, we will enhance our offerings that prepare these young artists to contribute to the rich artistic legacy for which Mississippi is known. Through career readiness seminars, guest artist residencies and college preparatory programming, our students will leave high school ready for the arts industry as well as the workforce.”

Students are provided a multitude of opportunities to build a future for themselves through MSA. The school consistently ranks in the top 3 ACT scores in the state and is presently No. 2. The accomplishments of the students — not only on the ACT but also in national and state recognition they receive in their art areas — translate into scholarship money for college. More than 80 percent of MSA graduates receive scholarships for college.

Hirsch attributes the high ACT scores and scholarship offers to several factors, including the total staff commitment and the emphasis MSA puts into preparation for the ACT, college and career through its arts training, rigorous academic programs and Junior/Senior Seminar classes.

To match a contribution toward the $100,000 match, visit and make a donation in the school store. Checks can also be mailed to the MSA Foundation, P. O. Box 229, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0229.

“Thank you for supporting the future of the arts in our state!” Hirsch said.