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Released February 23, 2004

SCHOLARSHIP AT SOUTHERN MISS TO HONOR HOUSE SPEAKER McCOY'S PARENTS

JACKSON, Miss. -- Surrounded by state representatives and senators, along with House Speaker Billy McCoy, Mississippi State Auditor Phil Bryant announced today the creation of The Elmer E. and Susie B. McCoy Education Scholarship Fund at The University of Southern Mississippi.

"This scholarship will continue the McCoys' legacy in education and will allow other Mississippians to pursue their dream of a degree in the field of education," said Bryant, a Southern Miss alumnus.

Originally known as Mississippi Normal College and later as State Teachers College, The University of Southern Mississippi was the state's first state-supported teacher training school. The school's stated purpose was to "qualify teachers for the public schools of Mississippi." Shelby Thames, president of Southern Miss, said: "Still today, we are proud of our heritage and our strong education programs as Southern Miss currently educates more teachers than any other university in Mississippi."

While attending classes at Mississippi State Teachers College, Mr. and Mrs. McCoy met under a large oak tree, which stood outside College Hall, one of the five original buildings on the university campus.

Mr. McCoy always knew he wanted to be a teacher. He began teaching in Prentiss County in the 1920's before earning his degree. He decided to attend college in 1930 where he met Ms. Susie Bell Beasley, who was also to become a teacher. Mr. McCoy's impact on education is now legendary in Mississippi, not only as a teacher, but also as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served from 1936 to 1952. During the time Mr. McCoy served in the House, the Legislature met every other year, which allowed him to teach during the years he wasn't in session.

"That is true dedication to people he served across Mississippi," said Bryant. "As both an educator and legislator, he devoted his life to teaching and expanding educational opportunities for rural children across Mississippi."

To commemorate the day, Thames presented the McCoy family with a picture of the tree where Mr. and Mrs. McCoy met on June 13, 1930. "We hope this picture will serve as a catalyst for fond family memories," said Thames.

The scholarship will be awarded to a Mississippi resident who is pursuing a degree in kindergarten through 12th grade education. State Auditor Bryant and Harry Walker, Trustmark Bank president and also a Southern Miss alumnus, will spearhead the fundraising efforts. Donations are tax-deductible and may be mailed to the USM Foundation at 118 College Drive #10026, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001.

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March 4, 2004 11:45 AM

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