Following recommendations by a search committee and endorsement of key constituent groups, University of Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders today announced two appointments to the university’s leadership team which will help maximize philanthropic giving and strengthen USM’s leadership role in research across the Gulf South.
Bob Pierce, Southern Miss Alumni Association executive director, has been named Vice President for Advancement, and Dr. Denis Wiesenburg, dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been named Vice President for Research. Both appointments are effective July 1.
Pierce, the Alumni Association’s director since 1998, has served as the acting vice president for Advancement since February. He replaces Dr. David Wolf, who left the university earlier this year. Pierce received strong endorsement from the USM Foundation, the Alumni Association and the Executive Cabinet, said Saunders.
“I can think of no one better suited to lead this critical effort than Bob Pierce. He has proved his abilities many times over in his role as alumni director,” said Saunders. “The Ogletree House project is one of his numerous successes. He will move this university’s development efforts forward.”
Saunders said the search for a new Alumni Association executive director will begin immediately. A committee charged with guiding the search, to be chaired by the association’s president-elect, Randy Pope, is in the process of being formed.
Since July 2004, Wiesenburg has served as dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, overseeing a research enterprise comprising 65 faculty, 80 research and support staff and 135 graduate students spread over 13 locations throughout Alaska. In the last fiscal year, the school received more than $25 million in new research funding, 20 percent of the university total.
“Dr. Wiesenburg emerged from the national search process with the strongest recommendation of the campus search and screen committee. He will bring to the vice presidency a unique combination of administrative experience, research accomplishments, and a familiarity with our university. We are very happy to welcome him home.”
Pierce instrumental in Alumni Association growth
As executive director of the Alumni Association, Pierce led the effort to raise $3 million for the restoration and expansion of the Ogletree House, the home of the association’s operations on the Hattiesburg campus. The successful effort, which finished with $3.26 million in contributions, doubled the size of the facility and completely restored the historic structure.
Pierce also oversaw the successful 20,000 in 2010 Membership Campaign, an effort to increase membership by approximately 25 percent by the university’s Centennial Celebration of 2010. Through March, the association’s membership for the fiscal year that will end on June 30 stood at 20,459.
“The Alumni Association and the people connected to it have been a major part of my daily life for almost a dozen years -- an administrator could not hope for a better staff and volunteers,” Pierce said. “I am going to miss the day-to-day operations of that organization, but I am also looking forward to this new challenge. The opportunities with the USM Foundation are vast. The university is in a strong position with superb leadership, and by maximizing our fundraising potential, the USM Foundation can play a greater role in the growth of the institution.“
Pierce, a 1991 Southern Miss graduate and former athletic fund-raiser for Southern Miss, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with honors. He completed a master’s degree in advertising and public relations at the University of Alabama in 2003 and was selected as the program’s outstanding graduate student for the period of study.
Following a stint as manager of operations for the Sigma Chi Fraternity International Headquarters in Evanston, Ill., Pierce was named to the position of Alumni Association executive director in August 1998. In 2008, the Mississippi Business Journal recognized him as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” business leaders in the state.
A native of Petal, Pierce was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame and served as president of Sigma Chi Fraternity.
He is married to the former Kristi Muench of Ocean Springs, also a Southern Miss graduate and fellow employee at the university. They have two children, Sarah and Drew.
Wiesenburg a seasoned researcher, administrator
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Wiesenburg was part of a team that developed a successful $199.5 million proposal to the National Science Foundation for the construction and operation of an Arctic research vessel that is now under construction in Marinette, Wis. The 254-foot Research Vessel Sikuliaq will be able to break up to 2.5 feet of ice and will take up to 26 scientists on studies of ice-covered waters. In Alaska, Wiesenburg also received a $5 million grant from the Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation to reinvigorate the fisheries degree programs at the university.
A seasoned researcher in oceanography, Wiesenburg has been personally involved as a principal investigator on 10 separate research projects accounting for more than $213.5 million in funding since 2002. Among his numerous professional activities, he also has more than 130 publications, reports and presentations to his credit.
From 1994 to 2004, Wiesenburg was chair of the Department of Marine Science at Southern Miss where he was instrumental in working with the U.S. Navy to develop the master’s degree in hydrographic science and his research in chemical oceanography involved studies of nutrient dynamics on the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. He also was instrumental in obtaining funding for the Southern Miss Hydrographic Science Research Center based at the Stennis Space Center.
“As a native of Pascagoula, I am pleased to be returning to Mississippi and being able to contribute to the continued success of this great university,” said Wiesenburg. “I look forward to working with an outstanding faculty to meet the challenge of increasing research productivity at USM.”
A 1970 graduate of Duke University, Wiesenburg earned a master’s degree in oceanography from Old Dominion University in 1975. He completed his doctorate in oceanography at Texas A&M University in 1980 and served as associate director of the university’s Geochemical and Environmental Research Group from 1988-1994 in College Station, Texas. He previously was an oceanographer with the Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity at Stennis Space Center from 1981-1988.
He is married to Jean Wiesenburg and they have two grown children, Vanessa and Heath.
Dr. Denis Wiesenburg
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.