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 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.