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Released June 13, 2005



HattiesburgVery few individuals are as woven into the fabric of The University of Southern Mississippi as is Powell Ogletree. First as a student, then as a staff member for more than three decades, Powell Ogletree, who died Saturday morning at his home in Hattiesburg, literally dedicated his life to the betterment of the university. He was 83.

Ogletree's thumbprint can be seen on most of the watershed events that affected the future of the institution. During his 34-year tenure with the university, he played a key role as Southern Miss gained university status: The University of Southern Mississippi's athletic teams became known as the Golden Eagles and the USM Foundation, the university's fund-raising arm, was established, as was the Alumni Hall of Fame. Ogletree also was instrumental in the building of a new home for the university's president. Upon his retirement, the university dedicated a building on campus in his honor. The Ogletree House, formerly the university's president's home, currently houses Alumni Association operations.

"Southern Miss has never had a more loyal son than Powell G. Ogletree," said Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, president emeritus of the university. "His service to the Alumni Association and the USM Foundation was truly exemplary. We shall miss his friendship and wise counsel."

Born and reared in Neshoba County, Ogletree entered the university in 1941, but his academic career was interrupted for several years. For a majority of that time -- three years -- Ogletree served in the United States Air Force. He spent 27 months in support of his country's World War II efforts in North Africa and Italy before returning home to Mississippi. Once back home, he served as editor of the university's student newspaper, The Student Printz, was active in the Student Government Association and was president of the Baptist Student Union. Ogletree twice became a graduate of Mississippi Southern College (which later became The University of Southern Mississippi), gaining a bachelor's degree in 1948 -- the same year he married the former Frances Townsend, who also graduated from Mississippi Southern College -- and a master's degree in 1951. While a graduate student, Ogletree taught social science in Monticello, Miss., and served as principal of W.C. Williams Elementary School in Greenwood, Miss. In 1952, he was named Greenwood's Outstanding Young Man of the Year.

In 1953, Ogletree accepted the invitation from Dr. R.C. Cook, then the institution's president, to become the first full-time alumni secretary for the institution. Over the years, he guided the Alumni Association in numerous projects for the benefit of the university, including Association membership gains, fund-raising for scholarships, and the organization of awards and honors programs for former students, faculty/staff and friends. In recent years he continued his service to the Southern Miss Alumni Association serving as director emeritus.

"When thinking about the individuals who have had the greatest influence on The University of Southern Mississippi, Powell Ogletree has to be one of those at the top of the list," said Bob Pierce, executive director of the Alumni Association. "He was truly an integral component of the development and growth of this wonderful institution. Southern Miss could not be what it is today without the work of Powell Ogletree. He will be truly missed."

Ogletree's service to the community was not limited to the university, however. For more than 50 years, he was an active member of First Baptist Church of Hattiesburg. He served five terms as chairman of the deacons, director of Sunday school, director of church training and director of brotherhood. He chaired the year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the church in 1984. He also served as moderator of the Lebanon Baptist Association and was a member of the Mississippi Baptist Convention's board from 1973-86. Later, he became a member of University Baptist Church.

The Rotary Club of Hattiesburg, and Rotary District 6840, was a primary service area as well. He served two terms as president of the local club, 1965-66 and again in 1966-67, was named a Paul Harris Fellow, as well as Benefactor, and was honored as winner of the Hannah Plaque as the "Best Rotarian" four different times. He also served as the district's governor for two years in 1979-80 and 1988-89. Recently, he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award for 2004-2005.

Over the years, Ogletree has been cited by other sources as a leader in the field of education and for his community activities. He has been listed in Who's Who in American Education, Who's Who in University and College Administration, The National Register of Prominent Americans and International Notables and Personalities of the South.

Ogletree is survived by wife Frances of Hattiesburg, three children -- Frances Bess Palmer of Tyler, Texas; Powell G. Ogletree Jr. of Brandon, Miss.; and Billy T. Ogletree of Silva, N.C. -- and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 1-3 p.m. today, with services to follow immediately, at University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg.

In lieu of flowers, family members request that friends honor Powell Ogletree's memory through the Powell and Frances Ogletree Endowed Scholarship Fund. Donations can be sent to the USM Foundation, 118 College Dr. #10026, Hattiesburg, MS 39406.


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July 22, 2005 1:59 PM