One hundred years ago, The University of Southern Mississippi had few friends and no alumni. Tuesday’s announcement regarding the progress of two campaigns of the university’s Advancement Division provided an immense amount of evidence of the institution’s growth over a century.
At a luncheon held in conjunction with Centennial Celebration Day activities on the university’s Hattiesburg campus, Acting Vice President for Advancement Bob Pierce updated members of the university community on the progress of both the Southern Miss Alumni Association’s 20,000 in 2010 Membership Campaign and The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation’s Centennial Scholarship Campaign.
As of March 30, a total 20,459 members have made the association’s campaign a success with three months remaining in the membership year, Pierce announced, while $2,700,509 has been raised in support of university scholarships at the midpoint of the foundation’s campaign.
“The success of these campaigns once again demonstrates characteristics of Southern Miss alumni and friends that should not surprise anyone,” Pierce said. “They are generous, and they are loyal. When these campaigns were launched, the state of the economy was at best, uncertain. Nevertheless, alumni and friends of the university have responded like never before.”
The membership total not only sets a record for the association, but also surpasses a goal of 20,000 members established in 2008, when the campaign was launched. The 20,459 members include Southern Miss alumni and friends who were part of the association during the nine-month period from July 1, 2009, to the day of the announcement, March 30, 2010, the 100th anniversary of the legislative founding of The University of Southern Mississippi.
The membership total also represents a participation percentage of more than 20 percent, well above the national average for participation in the top alumni associations across the country, according to figures from the Council for Alumni Association Executives. At the conclusion of the fiscal year on June 30, the association will announce a final membership count for the campaign.
Pierce said that the demographic and geographic diversity of the association’s membership is an indication of the success of the University.
“This announcement is further evidence that Southern Miss has come a long way since its days as Mississippi Normal College. We have grown from a small teachers college to a premier research university of the Gulf South. Decades ago, students came to south Mississippi from Philadelphia and Louisville, Mississippi; today they come to Southern Miss not only from Philadelphia and Louisville, Mississippi, but from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Louisville, Kentucky, and from nations and continents around the world.”
The Centennial Scholarship Campaign, which will continue through March 30, 2011, is aimed at ensuring the future lifeblood of the institution by increasing the availability of unrestricted, endowed scholarship support. The campaign was announced in 2009, along with a lead gift of $100,000 from former Hattiesburg Mayor Bobby Chain and his wife, Betty. Since then, alumni and friends have responded in large numbers, including a major gift of $100,000 from Raymond and Michelle VanNorman of Madison. Raymond currently serves as vice president of the USM Foundation’s Board of Directors, while Michelle is a member of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.
“Michelle and I attended Southern Miss because of the scholarships that were offered to us,” Raymond VanNorman said. “Hopefully, our gift will help others with their decisions to attend Southern Miss. The Centennial Scholarship is attractive to us because there has always been a need for unrestricted funds for the university to direct where they see the possibilities of attracting better students in all fields of study.”
For more information or to make a gift to the Centennial Scholarship Campaign, contact the USM Foundation at 601.266.5602. To join the Alumni Association, visit SouthernMissAlumni.com or call 601.266.5013.
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.