HIGHLIGHTS CAREER FROM
POLYMER SCIENTIST TO UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT
- Dr. Shelby Thames insists he never set out to become president
of The University of Southern Mississippi. In fact, he did not plan
many of the accomplishments in his illustrious career.
focus, hard work and sheer determination, Thames said he has been
able to meet every challenge in his 38-year career as a student,
scientist, educator and administrator.
thought I'd be president," Thames told a standing-room-only
crowd Wednesday during the Hattiesburg Clinic's 2003 Lecture Series
in the Sciences. "Actually, I never planned anything. I just
went from one thing to the other. But one thing I always tried was
to do the best I could with what's at hand."
He added, "If
you do that, you'll be successful."
A native of
Richburg, a small community about five miles outside of Hattiesburg,
Thames began his career at Southern Miss, where he earned bachelor
of science and master of science degrees in chemistry and organic
Thames had set out to become a medical doctor, he said, but his
inability to pay for medical school put him on the first of many
different career paths.
no money, so I went into chemistry," he said. Venturing outside
of the Pine Belt for the first time, Thames moved with his wife
and two children to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. There
he earned a doctorate in organic chemistry.
to Southern Miss to teach, Thames soon identified the necessity
for a new branch of chemical science that would address industries'
need for well-trained students entering the work force.
involved polymers, and by 1970 he had become the sole faculty member
of the newly created Department of Polymer Science.
if I could train students in school for the things they'd need rather
than the industry having to train them for two years when they entered
the job market, then they'd come to Hattiesburg knocking the doors
down for our graduates," Thames said.
By 1996, Thames
had made good on his promise. U.S. News and World Report named the
university's polymer science program the nation's third best, and
since then, it has remained in the top 10 nationally. Renamed the
School of Polymers and High Performance Materials in 1999, the program
was the first in the United States to offer bachelor's, master's
and doctoral polymer science degrees.
Also the first
engineering program at Southern Miss, it is the only Mississippi
university to have a program ranked nationally in the top 10.
economic development and job opportunities for polymer graduates,
Thames said he wants to make Mississippi the "polymer capital
of the world."
want our students to have to leave the state to find jobs that they
can find here," he said.
As dean of
the College of Science, Thames secured funds from the State Legislature
to construct the Bobby Chain Technology Building. Thames said, "I
never planned on being an administrator, either, but there I could
look after the new program."
In 1998, Thames
oversaw the completion of a new 100,000-square-foot polymer science
center named in his honor. Thames' research team also was instrumental
in the creation of American Pride paint, marketed by Southern Diversified
Products in partnership with Southern Miss. American Pride is an
agricultural-based paint developed by Southern Miss's School of
Polymers and High Performance Materials that some have called the
top recent innovation in the industry.
that is just one example of the type of economic rewards Southern
Miss can produce. "Universities in Mississippi are the best
economic machines we have, full of intelligent, creative minds,"
he said. "During my tenure, I'd like to see 10 millionaires
from the faculty created through their research and hard work."
to teaching and research, Thames served as vice-president for administration
and regional campuses, and executive vice-president. He became the
eighth president of Southern Miss in 2002.
creation of the polymer science department and his rise to the university's
top post, Thames said, "From humble beginnings, things will
turn out right if you keep your focus."
PHOTOGRAPHER TO LEAD WORKSHOP, PRESENTATION MARCH 10
-- Award-winning wildlife photographer Tom Ulrich will lead
two photographic events at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory on
Wednesday, March 10.
He will present
a nature photography workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then
a talk and slide show called "Wildlife Images 2003" at
7 p.m., both at The University of Southern Mississippi GCRL.
the evening event is free and will be held in the Caylor Auditorium
at GCRL. The veteran photographer will feature photos from his 2003
photographic safaris abroad and in North America. He will answer
questions and sign his books during the reception following his
fee for the all-day workshop is $50 per person, payable to GCRL.
Registration includes a continental breakfast, light lunch and snacks.
Participation is limited to 20. Though the workshop is geared toward
beginners, Ulrich tailors the experience to meet needs for all degrees
will definitely benefit from the workshop, but I always help the
more advanced get something out of it also," Ulrich said. "I
lead many photo trips and always find a wide range of levels."
participants do not need to bring their photographic equipment unless
they need an explanation about some aspect of their equipment.
a brief review of the principles of photography, relationships between
shutter and aperture settings, fundamental elements of composition,
use and timing of fill-in flash, digital versus film photography,
techniques of close-up photography, and a brief discussion of slide
etiquette, the photography business and marketing.
up in South Chicago, graduated with a degree in biology from Southern
Illinois University and taught for four years before launching his
career as a freelance photographer. He has supported himself with
nature photography for the past 29 years.
of more than 300,000 transparencies includes birds and mammals from
all over the world. His photographs have been featured in publications
such as National Wildlife, Audubon, National Geographic, Montana
Outdoors and Life.
He has published
six nature books, including Mammals of the Rockies, Birds of the
Northern Rockies, Once Upon a Frame and his 2002 release, Photo
Pantanal. Dr. William E. Hawkins, GCRL executive director, said
Ulrich brings the scientific and artistic worlds together.
his living photographing wildlife all over the world," Hawkins
sad. "He is an outstanding observer and a biologist. His approach
to photography is to capture his subjects exhibiting their natural
The GCRL is
home to the university's Department of Coastal Sciences, the Center
for Fisheries Research and Development, and the Gulf Coast Geospatial
Center. The J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium is also
a unit of the laboratory. The GCRL is part of the Southern Miss
College of Science and Technology. For more information, call the
laboratory at (228) 872-4200.