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Released December 6, 2004

LONG BEACH -An eligible Gulfport student will be able to pursue educational goals at The University of Southern Mississippi in memory of a dedicated Gulfport physician. Family and friends of the late Dr. Thomas Benefield Jr. have established the Thomas Benefield, M.D., Memorial Endowment at Southern Miss.

"My brothers and I knew that the scholarship was the perfect way to honor our father's life," said the Rev. Rachel Benefield-Pfaff, Benefield's daughter, who is a Southern Miss graduate along with her brothers, Drs. Don and Boyd Benefield, all of Gulfport. "He had a passion for learning, and he definitely believed that it is one of the keys to freedom. Through his education at Southern Miss, he was empowered to be successful not only in medicine but also in life. I have no doubt that Dad is thrilled about the creation of this endowment."

Benefield, who died Aug. 27, 2004, at age 74, is also survived by his wife, Elinor. He completed his premedicine degree from Southern Miss in 1953 and fulfilled his dream to become a doctor at Tulane University School of Medicine. In 1959, he returned to his hometown of Gulfport and established the Benefield Clinic, where he practiced family medicine for 43 years. He retired in 2002.

An active alumnus and longtime supporter of Southern Miss, Benefield was a founding member of the athletic committee, past president of the Southern Miss alumni chapter for Harrison County and a member of the Eagle Club. He was a President's Circle member of the USM Foundation, where he also served on its board of directors. In 1989, Benefield was inducted into the university's Alumni Hall of Fame.

"Dr. Benefield was Southern Miss through and through," said Dr. Shelby F. Thames, Southern Miss president. "Throughout his life, he was a catalyst for action when it came to his alma mater. He served as a volunteer for many years and continued to give back to Southern Miss throughout his career. We greatly appreciate family and friends wanting to continue Dr. Benefield's name through a scholarship."

The scholarship will support an incoming freshman from Gulfport to attend Southern Miss either on the Gulf Park or Hattiesburg campus with a major in the College of Science and Technology. The recipient must have a 3.0 grade point average and demonstrate financial need.

To make a donation to the Thomas Benefield, M.D., Memorial Endowment, please send it to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, 118 College Drive #10026, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001.

The USM Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that serves as a fiduciary of private funds donated to Southern Miss.

For more information about this endowment or other giving opportunities at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park campus, please call Dave Estorge, development officer, at (228) 865-4522.


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January 19, 2005 3:36 PM