HATTIESBURG – Los
Angeles is where she gets her mail, but Tena Clark left her heart
That’s how The University of Southern Mississippi
graduate and multitalented media industry executive feels about
her native state, as well as her alma mater. A 1975 graduate of
the university, Clark, a Waynesboro native, will deliver the commencement
address May 13 at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. at Reed Green Coliseum, an
honor she describes as “surreal.”
Approximately 1,700 students are graduating from
the university this semester.
“I’m very excited about being the
commencement speaker,” said Clark, who said she feels like
she’s come full circle with her connection to Southern Miss
since her daughter Cody entered the university last year as a freshman.
With Cody in school at Southern Miss, Clark says
she’s become “re-acquainted” with old friends
from her days at the university. “USM really offered me a
chance to grow when I was a student there, and I made lifelong friends,”
Clark said. “I just think it’s an incredible school.
I hope I will be able to make a grain of salt’s difference
to them (graduates) when I speak.”
Clark is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative
Officer of Disc Marketing and DMI Entertainment, and 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.
Cody Clark said she’s looking forward to hearing
her mom speak, though she admits she’d prefer that it be at
her own graduation. She said she hopes her mother can give inspiration
to those graduates who plan to move to big cities to pursue their
career dreams, like her mother did.
“It’s a cool thing that she’s
giving the commencement address,” Cody Clark said. “She’s
a very inspirational speaker, and I’m sure she’ll give
an awesome speech. A lot of my friends will be graduating, and I
look forward to them meeting her and experiencing my family with
Tena Clark said she was shocked when her daughter
chose Southern Miss for college, feeling that she would choose another
school. She said she did not try to influence her daughter’s
decision; however, she never hesitated to recount her positive experience
at Southern Miss to Cody over the years.
“She grew up hearing me tell about how
my college years were the best of my life,” she said. “Of
course, if it had been up to me, nothing would have made me happier
than for her to come to USM, and this is where she ended up.”