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Released May 12, 2005

SOUTHERN MISS COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER URGES GRADUATES
TO FOLLOW THEIR PASSION WITH INTEGRITY

HATTIESBURG To be a complete person, Tena Clark urged spring 2005 graduates of The University of Southern Mississippi Friday to follow their passion and to do it with integrity.

That was the challenge the Los Angeles media executive and Southern Miss alum delivered at two separate ceremonies Friday at Reed Green Coliseum on the university’s Hattiesburg campus. Approximately 1,700 students graduated from the university this spring.

“Passion and integrity, you have to have both,” Clark said Friday while preparing to march into the coliseum with Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames and other university officials and dignitaries to address graduates and present them with diplomas.

Clark also told graduates not to let negativity hinder their pursuit of their dreams, but to instead use it as motivation to press on with renewed vigor.

“You have to believe you can do anything, regardless of the color of your skin, your gender or your nationality” said Clark, a native of Waynesboro and a 1975 graduate of the university. “If you’re ever surrounded by people that tell you that you can’t achieve a goal, walk away from them, but also thank them for giving you the fuel for your passion,” she said.

Clark is chief executive officer and chief creative officer of Disc Marketing and DMI Entertainment, where she and her staff create nontraditional media in music technology and marketing for well-known corporate brands such as McDonalds ("Have You Had Your Break Today"), 7 UP and Pillsbury. Other Disc Marketing clients over the past six years include Betty Crocker, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Mead Johnson, 7 UP, Target, Toyota, United Airlines and Victoria’s Secret.

She has also written for film and television with credits that include “Where the Heart Is,” “Hope Floats,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “French Kiss,” “Twins,” “The Five Heartbeats,” “CBS This Morning” and “Entertainment Tonight.” She was commissioned in 2001 to write the theme song for NASA’s Centennial of Flight celebration. Her work also includes gold- and platinum-selling songs for many renowned artists, including Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Olivia Newton-John and CeCe Winans.

Recently, Clark produced Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration, a dual enhanced CD and CD box set featuring Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and top African-American female artists, such as Shirley Ceasar, Patti Austin, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, Jennifer Holliday, Nnenna Freelon and En Vogue, who embraced their musical roots and performed a collection of favorite R&B, pop, classical and gospel songs.

Southern Miss senior Sarah Spigener, a foreign languages major from Gulfport, graduated at the evening ceremony and said Clark’s message resonates with her own philosophy of life. “I went through that the last few months (while applying to law schools),” she said. “A couple of doors shut, and then some opened. That’s just the way life is, it’s full of challenges, and I plan to stay strong through those challenges by keeping my chin up and my heart open.”

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July 20, 2005 4:00 PM