Crystal Woodard hasn’t let health challenges or economic hardships stand in the way of her pursuit of a degree. A University of Southern Mississippi senior elementary education major from Forest, Woodard has been a devoted scholar and community volunteer despite battling multiple sclerosis since her freshman year.
At Tuesday’s Founder’s Day Ceremony during the university’s Centennial Celebration, her dedication and endurance was recognized when she was named recipient of one of the university’s top student awards, the Judge R.J. Bishop Mississippian Award.
Candice White, a forensic science major from Meridian, earned the university’s other top honor, the Phi Kappa Silver Bowl Award, the highest scholastic honor given at Southern Miss. It is presented to the student with a 4.0 grade point average and the highest number of total credit hours from the university.
Presented annually for the past 25 years, the Bishop Award honors a Southern Miss senior who exemplifies the struggle to pursue an education despite physical, financial or family hardships, and includes a monetary gift.
“I’m so honored,” said Woodard. “I credit the support of my family, friends and professors and the Luckyday staff for helping me through my college career. “With their help, I haven’t let this disease get in the way of reaching my goals.”
The first in her family to earn a college degree, Woodard is a Luckyday Scholar at Southern Miss. She has been actively involved with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Southern Pines Animal Shelter, the DuBard School for Children with Language Disorders and the Harper-Wallin Family Education Center in Hattiesburg.
“She has risen above her circumstances and challenges through hard work and perseverance, and as a result has encouraged all who know her to believe in the drive and resiliency that the human spirit is capable of,” said Larry Sparkman, director of the university’s Luckyday Foundation Citizenship Scholars Program.
Also a Luckyday Scholar, White is a student in the Southern Miss Honors College and is president of the Forensic Science Society. She is a member of Gamma Beta Phi and the Golden Key International Honors Society, and is a Luckyday Scholar mentor and Honors College Ambassador.
White “has made every effort to succeed both in and out of the classroom,” said Southern Miss Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul.
After graduation in May, White plans to pursue a master’s degree in teaching with an emphasis in chemistry from Southern Miss.
“Given the opportunity to go to many other colleges and universities in and out of the state, I’ve never once regretted my decision to come to Southern Miss,” White said. “This is the best university I could have chosen.”
Chosen in campus elections held in February, Southern Miss Student Government Association executive officers were sworn in during the ceremony. They include Kasey Mitchell of Picayune, Miss., president; Lance Logan of Vicksburg, Miss., vice president; Vernon Smith of Lorman, Miss., Attorney General; Brett Haro of New Orleans, treasurer; and Kyle Nixon of Picayune, Miss., election commissioner.
Mitchell said it was the “little things” that make Southern Miss great, including the friendships, camaraderie and sense of family that pervade the institution. “It’s those little things that will help carry the university forward into the next century,” she said.
Other student honorees recognized at the Founder’s Day Ceremony included Kelley M. Rooney, a senior from Fair Oaks, Calif., named recipient of the Leave It Better Than You Found It Award; Mercedes Le of Tupelo, Miss., Most Outstanding Freshman Female; Davontae Washington of New Augusta, Most Outstanding Freshman Male; Whitney Blakely of Shubuta, Miss., Best Female Citizen; and Bentley Anderson of Hattiesburg, Best Male Citizen.
Southern Miss Student Hall of Fame inductees at Founder’s Day included: Sarah Ali of Hattiesburg; Zoe Beckham of Mandeville, La.; Ken Busby of Mobile, Ala.; Samone Faulkner of Hattiesburg; Jennifer Lamb of Brandon, Miss.; Stuart Lovinggood of Metairie, La.; Elizabeth Maloy of Long Beach, Miss.; Jayson Newell of Ridgeland, Miss.; and J.R. Robinson of Bolton, Miss.
Crystal Woodard, a Southern Miss senior from Forrest, Miss. receives one of the university’s top awards, the Judge R.J. Bishop Mississippian Award during the university’s Founder’s Day Ceremony Tuesday on the Hattiesburg campus. The award is presented annually to a student who has overcome adversity in pursuit of a degree at the university. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)
Candice White, a Southern Miss senior from Meridian, Miss. receives the Phi Kappa Silver Bowl Award during the university’s Founder’s Day Ceremony Tuesday on the Hattiesburg campus. The highest scholastic honor given at Southern Miss, it is given to the student with a 4.0 grade point average and the highest number of total credit hours from the university. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)
New Southern Miss Student Government Associate President Kasey Mitchell of Picayune, Miss. addresses the crowd gathered for the Founder’s Day Ceremony on the Hattiesburg campus Tuesday. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)
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.