Cumberland University Receives Largest Gift in School’s 180-Year History

School of Humanities, Education and the Arts to be named after Millard and J.J. Oakley

Millard V. Oakley, 91, from Livingston, Tennessee who claims “I wasn’t a very good student” when he attended Cumberland University, has made a gift along with his wife J.J. to the Lebanon school that is recognized as the single largest financial contribution ever in the 180-year history of the University.

Oakley graduated from Livingston Academy in 1947 and his first entrepreneurial job was shining shoes at a shoe shine shop on the square in his hometown of Livingston. 

The Oakleys have generously committed $5 million to Cumberland University, the largest single gift in university history. This gift will be used to name the School of Humanities, Education and the Arts, fund an expansion to the entrance of the Memorial Hall building and to fund the needs of the school for years to come.

“We are so very proud of Millard Oakley, his accomplishments as an attorney, businessman, entrepreneur, and public servant and honored to list him as a graduate of our university,” said Cumberland University President Dr. Paul C. Stumb. “We are most appreciative of this truly transformative gift to which he and J.J. have committed.”

“Millard has told me that we should put more into society than we take out, and that is exactly how he lives his life,” continued Stumb. “Thanks to this generous gift from Millard and J.J., our largest school, the School of Humanities, Education and the Arts will be named the Millard and J.J. Oakley School of Humanities, Education and the Arts and improve the educational experience for generations to come.” 

Oakley is a 1951 graduate of the Cumberland University Law School and practiced law in Livingston and the Upper Cumberland area from 1953 for many years. He was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention the following year in 1952 and thereafter served several terms in the State Legislature ending in 1963. He served as General Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Small Business from 1971-1973 and served as Insurance Commissioner for the State of Tennessee from 1975-1979. Since 1980, Oakley has been engaged in business investments and real estate ventures. His wife, J.J., holds a bachelor of science in nursing from West Virginia University and both a masters of nursing and a law degree from the University of Tennessee. The couple married in 1986 and reside in Overton County, Tennessee.

“I am honored to be in a position to give back to Cumberland University,” said Millard Oakley. “Cumberland provided me with a sound education and made it possible for me to develop lasting and impactful relationships. My wife, J.J., and I believe in the importance of higher education, and are grateful to be able to give back to future generations of Cumberland students.”

Millard Oakley was recently on campus along with former Vice President Al Gore, participating as a speaker in the Peace Forum kickoff event in honor of former U.S. Secretary of State and Cumberland Alumnus Cordell Hull. Oakley spoke about his time at Cumberland, and the importance of hard work, determination and developing personal relationships. 

The School of Humanities, Education and the Arts is the last of Cumberland’s three schools to be named by a donor. Cumberland’s Labry School of Science, Technology and Business was named in 2002 by Edward Labry and the Rudy School of Nursing and Health Professions was named in 1991 by Jeanette C. Rudy.

For more information on Cumberland University’s Millard and J.J. Oakley School of Humanities, Education and the Arts, visit

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