When University of Southern Mississippi senior Nicholas Powers accepts his undergraduate diploma on Friday, May 9, he will be extending a family tradition that began more than 80 years ago.
Powers, a music major and Ocean Springs, Miss., native, will become a fourth-generation Southern Miss graduate during the 2014 Spring Commencement ceremony on the Hattiesburg campus. The legacy began with his maternal great-grandmother, Lorene Rayburn (1932); continued with his maternal grandmother, Barbara Ann Conner, (1955) and followed with his father, Terrell Wayne Powers (1988).
Terry Powers said his son – an accomplished clarinet player -- decided early-on to join the long-running list of Southern Miss family graduates.
“Nick had many options when he finished high school,” said Terry Powers, senior systems engineer with CSC. “As a four-year selectee with the Mississippi All State Lions Band, he had numerous college scholarship offers. He chose Southern Miss over all the others, and USM was the only school he wanted to visit.”
The significance of his family’s Black and Gold heritage is not lost on Nick Powers, who dreams of living and working in Vienna, Austria as a graduate student some day.
“It’s amazing that the University has been educating people long enough to have a fourth-generation graduate,” he said. “The University and Hattiesburg mean the world to us – especially my mom’s (Marianne Powers) side of the family. The Ross and Conner sides of them have been steadily helping and watching the University grow since it was built.”
Nick is particularly close to his grandmother, Barbara Ann Ross (the former Barbara Ann Conner), who lives in Hattiesburg and still takes an occasional class at her alma mater. Terry Powers noted that his wife and mother-in-law often join him in attending most of Nick’s band performances.
“My grandmother is a fantastic and brilliant woman with the humility and class of an old Southern belle,” said Nick Powers. “I believe she was a Chi Omega here, so what does that say?”
Dr. Joe Paul, vice president for Student Affairs, acknowledged the high praise that Southern Miss receives when alums are excited about their children and grandchildren attending their alma mater.
“We were impressed to learn that Nicholas is a fourth generation Southern Miss grad,” said Paul. “These legacy students bring a respect for the institution and its traditions that enhances the quality of campus life for all. I congratulate Nicholas and his family of Golden Eagle faithful.”
A large contingent from the Powers/Ross/Conner clan will be in attendance to witness the latest family member to earn a Southern Miss degree. As his undergraduate career comes to a close, Nick reflects on the congenial atmosphere for living and learning that has helped make the University such an integral part of his life.
“Honestly, college is what you make of it,” he said. “I love meeting new people and making new connections with people every day. The people that attend this University are some of the most quality individuals I know, and I’ve made friendships to last a lifetime.”