residents J. Richard and Katharine Pratt recently endowed a scholarship
fund at The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation in Hattiesburg
to help replenish Mississippi's educational system with more chemistry,
physics and math teachers.
The Deterly-Pratt Scholarship (Deterly being Richard
Pratt's mother's family name) encourages students in the College
of Science and Technology to pursue the teaching profession in physics,
chemistry and math at the high-school level in Mississippi. Students
who accept this scholarship must agree to teach science or math
in Mississippi for at least five years.
"By establishing this scholarship, I want to
pay tribute to Dr. Shelby Thames for his contribution to my graduate
education at USM during the early 1970s," said Dr. J. Richard
Pratt, who teaches chemistry at Holmes Community College's Grenada
Center. "Dr. Thames was one of several outstanding chemistry
professors under whom I studied while at USM. He was an inspiration
in class and in the research laboratory. He was organized, thorough
and relentless in organic chemistry, and he demanded total commitment
to his courses."
Richard Pratt attributes the decline of classroom
instructions to the retirement of high-school, elementary-science
and math teachers, and he realizes there is a need to replace them
with newly trained teachers, especially those with an interest in
science and engineering.
Richard Pratt earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1974
from Southern Miss. His wife, the former Katherine Flurry of Winona,
completed a bachelor's degree in home economics from Mississippi
State College for Women in 1965.
Richard's interest in chemistry began in the sixth
grade when he received a chemistry set for Christmas. This gift
inspired him to maintain an interest through junior and senior high
schools and college, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1964
from Millsaps College and a master's degree in 1967 from Mississippi
State University. He often reflects on the four years he spent at
Southern Miss and his former major instructor Shelby Thames.
"I am honored that Dr. and Mrs. Richard Pratt
have such a special place in their hearts not only for Southern
Miss, but also a deep concern for the lack of chemistry, math and
physics teachers in Mississippi. Their concerns are not misplaced
in my view," said Dr. Shelby Thames, president of The University
of Southern Mississippi. "Dr. Pratt has distinguished himself
as an outstanding researcher and teacher since his graduate school
days, and I am very, very proud of him. He was a serious and productive
student who worked very hard and very smart. As a result, he accomplished
a great deal even to the point that our funding agency, NASA Langley,
elected to hire Dr. Pratt to continue his work at their site. Obviously,
I am ecstatic and very proud that the Pratts have chosen to show
their support of education through their generous scholarship fund.
We are deeply grateful."
The USM Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization that
serves as a fiduciary of private funds donated to Southern Miss.
Gifts are tax deductible within the limits of IRS regulations.
For more information about this scholarship fund or
about giving opportunities in the College of Science and Technology
at Southern Miss, please call Development Officer Jonathan Ahern
at (601) 266-4887.