Nearly 100 years ago, a barbed wire fence was installed to keep cows from roaming onto the campus of what was then called Mississippi Normal College. A century later, the Centennial Gateway will serve as a much more impressive and dignified entrance to The University of Southern Mississippi.
University President Martha Saunders and the leadership of the Centennial Celebration Steering Committee announced today that an anonymous donor has pledged $200,000 to fund the building of the gateway, a more than 125-foot wide brick and cast stone structure that will welcome students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends and visitors at the main entrance to the Hattiesburg campus on Hardy Street.
“It is with tremendous joy that the Lord has enabled me to make this commitment to my alma mater at a time when the university’s economic difficulties would have precluded this from being possible,” said the donor in a prepared statement. “The Centennial Gateway will be one of the most dramatic entrances to any university campus and distinguishes Southern Miss as the exemplary university it is.”
The anonymous gift is in addition to a $17,777.77 contribution from The Gold Leaf, a secret society that has helped support a number of Southern Miss projects in recent years. Among other gifts, The Gold Leaf has made contributions to dedicate a room in the Thad Cochran Center, and to the restoration and expansion of the Ogletree House.
“It is important to The Gold Leaf that we play a role in the celebration of the university’s centennial in 2010,” a letter addressed to Saunders said. “Because we believe in this project, we are willing to make a $17,777.77 contribution toward the construction of a new sign.”
With the All-American Rose Garden to the east and the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building as its backdrop, the gateway promises to immediately become one of the most recognizable physical structures on the Hattiesburg campus when it is dedicated on March 30, 2010, the 100th anniversary of the university’s founding. The structure was designed by Albert & Associates Architects of Hattiesburg, and construction on the project is being conducted by B.W. Sullivan Building Contractor Inc. of Hattiesburg.
“The momentous occasion that is the celebration of the University’s Centennial deserves a significant physical monument recognizing its occurrence, and we are pleased that the Centennial Gateway’s construction can move forward as a result of this contribution,” Saunders said. “We are so very grateful to the donors who have recognized the progress our institution has made over its first 100 years, and have demonstrated their love for Southern Miss with these gifts.”
The gateway is one of the most significant initiatives of the University’s Centennial Celebration of 2010. Extending from the east side of West Memorial Drive to the west side of East Memorial Drive, the 62-foot wide middle section of the gateway features the name and seal of the institution, as well as urns replicated from the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building. Four-foot wide gateposts on opposite sides of the streets will feature the year of the university’s legislative founding in 1910. At its lowest height the wall is 6-feet, 8-inches tall, and is 10-feet high at its center, where the University seal is located.
“The challenge for this design was to get the location of the gateway the right distance from Hardy Street and to the right scale signifying the entrance to a prestigious university in the state,” project architect Larry Albert said.
The dedication of the gateway on March 30, 2010 will be a part of the yearlong Centennial Celebration, which is being guided by a 50-member steering committee led by co-chairs Dr. Alvin Williams, former dean of the University’s College of Business, and Rex Kelly, a former Mississippi Power executive.
Events begin Jan. 29 in Jackson, with the “Voice of the Century” concert featuring opera star Renée Fleming, and will continue throughout the calendar year 2010. Other cornerstone events include a Centennial Founders’ Week Celebration March 26-30, 2010, and Homecoming 2010, Oct. 15-16, 2010. A full list of events can be found at usm.edu/centennial.
“The Centennial Gateway will be a lasting, physical reminder of our first 100 years,” Centennial Celebration Steering Committee Honorary Chair Dr. Aubrey Lucas said. “Decades from now, much of what we have done and accomplished from 1910 through 2010 might be but a distant memory if not for the gateway’s daily reminder of who we once were and what we have become.”
Architect’s depiction of the Centennial Gateway at Southern Miss. The Centennial Gateway is a brick and mortar project that will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the university and enhance the main entrance to its Hattiesburg campus. (Southern Miss photo by Steve Rouse)
Southern Miss officials and invited dignitaries take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Centennial Gateway Friday morning on the university’s Hattiesburg campus. Pictured from left are John Brown, assistant to the mayor of the city of Hattiesburg; Rex Kelly and Alvin Williams, co-chairs of the university’s Centennial Committee; Southern Miss President Martha Saunders; Aubrey Lucas, honorary chair of the Centennial Committee; Hattiesburg architect Larry Albert; and Centennial Celebration Coordinator Jennifer Payne. (Southern Miss photo by Steve Rouse)
About The University of Southern MississippiThe 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.