Released May 9, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Family and friends of graduates of The University of Southern Mississippi gathered here Friday at Reed Green Coliseum for spring commencement exercises as students marked the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of another.

More than 1,500 received diplomas at two separate ceremonies on the Hattiesburg campus, while more than 150 graduates will participate in commencement ceremonies Saturday at the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames encouraged graduates at the ceremony to continue bettering themselves beyond the degree they received Friday. "Whether you are receiving your bachelor's, master's or Ph.D., it is vital that you continue to improve yourself, and continue to feed your mind," Thames said.

Thames is also scheduled to address graduates at the Gulf Park ceremony.

Blake Hamm of Stringer, outgoing Southern Miss Student Government Association President, delivered the commencement address. Hamm is a marketing major at Southern Miss with a 3.94 GPA and was elected Mr. Southern Miss in 2002. He was introduced by longtime Southern Miss benefactor and alumni Gene Carlisle, president of the Carlisle Corporation, who recently donated $3 million toward the construction of a new building for the College of Business Administration and Economic Development.

Like Hamm, Carlisle was a marketing major while a student at Southern Miss. He praised Hamm for his accomplishments during his undergraduate career. "I am especially honored to introduce to you a fellow marketing major with the same drive I had as a student - but with a lot better grades than I had," Carlisle joked.

Hamm noted that the world has changed dramatically since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and the recent war in Iraq, but he encouraged Southern Miss graduates to go forth undaunted in pursuit of their goals.

"I'll be the first to admit there are problems out there," Hamm said. "However, the greater problem is that people are looking at the world outside in the wrong perspective. The world that is about to be ours is full of obstacles, but it is also full of opportunity."

Just as life presents opportunities, so to does it include change, he added. "If we look back, we notice that a lot has changed while we've been here: buildings, colleges, professors and parking places," he said. "Change will now and forever be a fixture of our lives. Life is about to be different, and it us up to us to manage that change."

Regardless of how or why the 2003 graduating class chose to make Southern Miss a part of their lives, Hamm hoped that "it was for the best."

"Whenever we started at Southern Miss, many of us wondered what the next few years would hold," Hamm said. "Many of you knew what you wanted to be, and you went after it. Many of us were simply taking the next logical step in our lives. Whatever the reason for attending Southern Miss, I hope the experience has been amazing."



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July 15, 2003 2:29 PM