the dozens of alumni and friends of The University of Southern Mississippi
gathered at the Ogletree House Friday morning, the purpose of their
meeting was two-fold.
On one hand, they were there to fondly remember
the past as they swapped stories about Powell Ogletree, who headed
the university's Alumni Association's operations for more than three
decades. Ogletree died in June at the age of 83.
On the other hand, they were there to present
their vision of the future, a $3 million campaign that would fund
the restoration and expansion of the Ogletree House, which houses
the offices of the Alumni Association.
Campaign co-chairs Dr. Aubrey Lucas and Lou
Ann Poynter, along with Alumni Association President Danny Mitchell,
announced the new venture.
"The Ogletree House is a historic building
on the USM campus, and its restoration and expansion will prepare
it for another century of useful and significant service,"
said Lucas, who served as the university's president from 1975-1996,
and again on an interim basis in 2001. "The Southern Miss Alumni
Association, which it houses, plays a strategic role in promoting
and protecting our university. This mission will be more effectively
accomplished in this much-improved facility."
"The restoration and expansion of the Ogletree
House honors one of our university's most faithful sons, Powell
G. Ogletree, whose loyalty to his alma mater is a superb example
for all alumni," he added.
Ogletree is credited with building the Alumni
Association into one of the top alumni associations in the country.
During his tenure of leadership, the Alumni Association grew from
150 dues-paying alumni members to more than 17,500 active members.
Additionally, Ogletree had a hand in many of the defining events
in Southern Miss history, among them the institution's transition
to university status, the mascot name change to Golden Eagles and
the establishment of the USM Foundation and the Alumni Hall of Fame.
Upon his retirement in 1987, the university named the Ogletree House
in his honor.
Poynter says the project to restore and expand
the structure is both a fitting tribute to Ogletree and necessary
for the Alumni Association to continue to operate efficiently.
"I am honored to serve with Dr. Lucas as
co-chair of this most worthwhile campaign to restore the Ogletree
House, one of our university's real treasures," said Poynter,
who like Lucas is a member of the Alumni Association's Hall of Fame.
"With its rich history and prominent location on campus, the
Ogletree House is a perfect home for our Alumni Association. This
campaign will not only provide funds for much-needed repairs to
preserve the original building but will also allow us to add more
functional space to meet the growing needs of the Association."
The Albert & Associates Architects' design
would greatly expand the size of the 93-year-old existing structure,
which is one of the campus' five original buildings, from 6,500
square feet to more than 10,000. Alumni Association Executive Director
Bob Pierce says the Association projects the campaign to conclude
in June 2006 with construction beginning in January 2007.
While the public phase of the campaign began
Friday, Lucas announced that more than $750,000 had already been
committed to the campaign, including a lead gift from Poynter and
her husband Louis; a major gift from Ralph T. Simmons of Laurel;
and additional supporting gifts from Bob and Betty Chain, Lamar
and Joy Gillespie, Curt and Virginia Hebert, Mark and Olga Jackson,
Jeffrey and Lynn O'Keefe, Danny and Patty Mitchell, Bob and Kristi
Pierce, Ken and Carolyn Shearer and Lawrence and Bonnie Warren.
The multipurpose room in the new facility will
be named after Lou Ann and Louis Poynter, while the kitchen will
be named the Ralph T. Simmons and Linnie Cockrell Simmons Kitchen
in honor of Simmons and his mother.
"From a personal perspective, Louis and
I considered a number of factors in deciding to make our gift,"
Poynter said. "Both of us, as well as our daughter Melissa,
are graduates of Southern Miss and we are thankful that we are in
a position to give back to the university that educated us and prepared
us for our business careers. When and how to make a contribution,
however, was a dilemma, and we thought long and hard about whether
making a significant contribution to the Ogletree House Campaign
would be the best use of our money."
"We decided that by contributing to this
campaign we are making an investment in a stronger, more effective
Alumni Association that will be positioned to develop a loyal, supportive
alumni base that will carry the university into the future,"
Simmons, president of the Alumni Association
in 1974-1975 and a member of the campaign committee, said he pledged
his support for a number of reasons.
"First, I wanted to honor my mother, and
many of my fondest memories of my mother are of her cooking,"
Simmons said. "Second, it perpetuates the memory of Powell
G. Ogletree. Third, it reaffirms my support for the leadership of
the Alumni Association, which has been outstanding through the years,
starting with Powell Ogletree, then Ron Phillips and now Bob Pierce."
While the gift announcements provide evidence
that the campaign is off to a solid start, Pierce stresses that
several naming opportunities are still available. The Alumni Association
is encouraging gifts ranging from $250 to the previously committed
lead gift. Brick pavers will comprise part of a courtyard on the
north side of the facility, and donors at the $250 and $500 levels
can permanently affix their names to the campus home by personalizing
their bricks. Also, contributors who donate at least $1,000 will
be recognized on a cumulative donor plaque to be displayed at the
facility. Donations of $25,000 or more will allow the contributor
to name one of 12 offices, and donations of $100,000 or more will
have additional naming opportunities.
To make a donation or for additional campaign
information, contact the Alumni Association at (601) 266-5013 or
Contact: Bob Pierce, Executive Director of the
Alumni Association -- (601) 266-5013, firstname.lastname@example.org.