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Released June 8, 2005




Hattiesburg- Grenada 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.


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July 22, 2005 2:23 PM