Phil Hardin Foundation

The 2020 Winter-Reed Partnership Award was presented to the Phil Hardin Foundation during a virtual tribute event on Oct. 20.



Phil Hardin was an innovative and visionary businessman whose success never caused him to lose sight of his own humble beginnings. Hardin valued education as the most important ingredient for success in his life and knew that better educational opportunities for all would not only benefit individuals but would also make Mississippi's communities stronger and more prosperous.

MAPE launched the Winter-Reed Partnership Award in 2007 to honor former Gov. William Winter and the late Tupelo businessman Jack Reed Sr. for their lifelong contributions to public education and to provide ongoing recognition for Mississippi's outstanding education leaders.

"The Phil Hardin Foundation over the years has supported programs and organizations that improve educational opportunities for children and lift up communities," said MAPE President Sandi Beason. "The Foundation truly exhibits the spirit of the Winter-Reed Award."

Acting on the belief that education is the most important ingredient for success, Phil Hardin decided in 1964 to use the wealth he had created as the owner of the Meridian-based Hardin's Bakeries to "improve the education of Mississippians," and the Phil Hardin Foundation was born.

More than half a century later, Mr. Hardin's vision of an excellent education as the norm for all Mississippians continues to find expression in the work of the foundation he established. The Phil Hardin Foundation works as a catalyst for educational opportunity and community improvement in Mississippi. Its mission is to improve educational and life outcomes for Mississippi children, with a special emphasis on Meridian and Lauderdale County, and to expand access to high-quality educational opportunities.

Over 56 years of existence, the foundation has awarded more than $60 million in grants to improve student achievement; make educational and enrichment opportunities more available and equitable; increase understanding of Mississippi arts, culture and history; and build community and state educational and philanthropic capacity.

The Hardin Foundation remains a principal leader in philanthropic efforts to overcome our state's historic legacy of poverty and discrimination that makes sustainable educational improvement such a daunting challenge. The Hardin Foundation has a history of being a catalyst in building philanthropic and nonprofit capacity and networks in Mississippi and in helping to lead collaborative efforts. It has also sought to help bridge divisions and forge consensus on education policy and best practices in local communities and statewide.


Thank you to the event sponsors! 

Delta State University, Entergy, Merit Health, Mississippi Development Authority, Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Professional Educators, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, the Phil Hardin Foundation, University of Mississippi, and Woodward Hines Education Foundation.