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Released March 11, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- Laurel businessman Nick Welch, a longtime supporter of The University of Southern Mississippi, announced on Thursday his commitment to continue to provide financial assistance to the university.

Welch, who has in the past contributed to the Southern Miss baseball program, said he is prepared to provide funds for academic programs and scholarships at the university to support its students and the administration of Southern Miss president Dr. Shelby Thames.

He said this commitment is in response to the decision by another Southern Miss donor to withdraw their direct support of the university, because of their disagreement with Thames' recent decision to pursue termination of the employment of two university professors.

"I just want to express that for those who are not supportive of Dr. Thames, there are just as many and more who do support him, and I'm willing to step up and make that commitment of support by replacing the donation (that would be withheld) to the university," Welch said.

Tim Ryan, director of The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, said the mission of the foundation is fund raising, public and donor relations, administration and accounting, and investments as they relate to the academic enhancement of the university, with a primary focus on securing funding for scholarships for deserving students.

"In the final analysis, I implore everyone who has supported, is giving, or is considering financially helping worthy academic needs of The University of Southern Mississippi through the USM Foundation, to consider any potential actions," Ryan said. "The impact on those who need their help and assistance the most - the students and faculty - rely on their generosity to continue the noblest of efforts, furthering higher education through this support."

Though he has been a major contributor to the university's baseball program, Welch said his latest commitment of funding could be used in any way the university felt was needed for academic programs or scholarships. Welch's son, Darren Welch, played baseball for the university and will be a graduate student at Southern Miss studying business and finance this fall.

Though Darren earned a scholarship to play for Southern Miss, his father instead paid for his son's tuition so that the scholarship funds intended for his son could be used to help a needy student, the elder Welch said.

Nick Welch said those withholding donations from the university because of disagreements with Thames' decision "ultimately only hurt Southern Miss students."

"I'm not just an athletics donor," he said. "I'm doing this (making financial commitment) to help students achieve the goals they're trying to reach. They're our future leaders."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM