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Released July 28, 2005


Hattiesburg– For 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," she added.

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 visit

Contact: Bob Pierce, Executive Director of the Alumni Association -- (601) 266-5013,


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August 4, 2005 3:00 PM