HATTIESBURG, Miss. – When the expansion of the home for Southern Miss alumni on the Hattiesburg campus is complete, it will feature an important link to the university’s operations on the Gulf Coast.
A tree grown from an acorn of the Friendship Oak at the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach has been donated to the Southern Miss Alumni Association by alumnus Mark Graham ’03, and will be featured at the site of the Ogletree House when the planned restoration and expansion of that facility is complete in 2009.
In December, the Alumni Association announced the success of the $3 million Ogletree House Campaign, an effort to restore and expand the nearly 100-year-old structure on the university’s Hattiesburg campus that houses the Association’s operations.
“The Friendship Oak is a prominent symbol of Southern Miss history as we move into our second century as an institution,” said Alumni Association Executive Director Bob Pierce. “Mark’s gift will create a lasting physical connection between the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses.”
The Friendship Oak was a sapling at the time that Christopher Columbus first discovered the New World. Legend has it that those who enter the shade of its branches will remain friends.
Graham, a Hattiesburg-area realtor with Realty Executives Inc., said he and his wife, Wendi, and their sons, Jackson and Eli, collected several acorns from the Friendship Oak on a visit to the Gulf Park campus a few years ago. The Graham Oak now stands approximately five feet tall.
“I had visited the Friendship Oak before and wanted to take my sons to see it,”
Graham said. “We grabbed a few handfuls of acorns, put them in pots, and began to grow them. Obviously, the university can go to a nursery and buy a tree that is older and larger, but I think the link to the Friendship Oak is important.”
The Graham Oak is one of several that will replace seven trees, most of which are diseased or rotting, that will be removed from the site during construction.
Pierce said the Association reached the decision to replace the seven trees after consulting with University President Martha Saunders, representatives of the university’s Physical Plant, landscape architect Sally Hughes of Albert & Associates Architects and certified arborist Mark Anderson of Karnes Landscapes.
“Obviously, our goal is to protect as many trees as possible during construction of the house; we certainly are not anxious to cut down trees that are so important to the beauty of the Hattiesburg campus,” Pierce said. “For the most part these are trees that have reached the end of their life cycle.”
Named for longtime director of the Alumni Association, Powell Ogletree, the Ogletree House is one of the five original buildings on the Hattiesburg campus. An Albert & Associates Architects’ design, the construction of which will be conducted by DC General Contractors of Hattiesburg, will greatly expand the size of the existing structure from 6,500 square feet to almost 12,800.
In addition, the restoration effort will help to restore the facility to its original glory. Construction is expected to be complete in the summer of 2009, in time for the university’s Centennial Celebration in 2010.
All alumni and friends of Southern Miss are invited to attend the Ogletree House groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. The ceremony will be held in The District on the Hattiesburg campus at the corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street. Alumni and friends who plan to attend should RSVP to René Trigg at 601.266.5691 or
by Wednesday, Jan. 16.
More information about the campaign can be found in the Ogletree House Campaign section of SouthernMissAlumni.com.
This tree grown from an acorn of the Friendship Oak at the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach has been donated to the Southern Miss Alumni Association by alumnus Mark Graham ’03 to be added to the Ogletree House landscaping when the restoration and expansion of that facility is complete in 2009. Pictured are Graham’s sons, Jackson, left, and Eli. (Southern Miss Alumni Association Photo)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.