Gov. Phil Bryant urged spring 2013 graduates of The University of Southern Mississippi to “have a sense of urgency” in seizing life’s opportunities, and not lie down in the face of adversity.
In his commencement address given at two ceremonies Friday at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus, Bryant also asked them to reflect on their achievement and give thanks to family, friends and university faculty and staff for helping them secure their degrees. “Remember this day,” Bryant said. “You have accomplished a great thing.”
More than 1,800 students were candidates for degrees this semester.
In his address, Bryant recounted the state’s history, noting the challenges it has faced over time – recovery from the Civil War, the Great Depression, racial conflict and segregation and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and last February’s F-4 tornado that damaged the Pine Belt and Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus.
But instead of retreating into despair and self-pity, Bryant said Mississippians have faced down those challenges and sought opportunity for all of its citizens by expanding its economic base and pursuing the development of cutting-edge technology to compete in a global economy. "We’ve learned to overcome adversity,” Bryant said. ‘We’re accustomed to it.
"We (Mississippi) could have stayed down, but we decided to get up. Graduates, rise up and do great things.”
As an example, he noted the advancements made in the polymer science laboratories of Southern Miss that have helped attract industry worldwide to the Magnolia State.
Recently, GE Aviation celebrated the grand opening of a manufacturing facility in Ellisville. The company’s partnership with Southern Miss means polymer science research developments at the university will be used in the products produced by GE Aviation.
“You don’t to have to go to other places to find the best in technology. It is right here in Mississippi,” Bryant said, urging the graduates to stay in the state after graduation and use their talents and skills to continue that progress. “Help us make it better.”
Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett reflected on what was for him his first graduation to preside over as head of the institution. Bennett was selected as the 10th leader of the university in February.
“It’s an exciting day for me, but also for the university as a whole as we send out our graduates, who are well-educated and prepared to positively impact communities across the nation and around the globe,” he said. “That’s a testament to the quality and dedication of our faculty and staff.”
Bryant praised Bennett, including for his leadership in helping the Hattiesburg campus recover from the Feb. 10 tornado. “I’m proud to tell people he’s president of my university,” Bryant said.
Caroline Baucum of Laurel, Miss. received her bachelor’s degree in business administration Friday and plans to pursue a career in sales. She’s glad she made the decision to attend Southern Miss.
“I had wonderful professors who had my best interests at heart, and were always there to help me and my fellow students,” she said.
Jeremy Byrd of Moss Point, Miss. received his bachelor's degree in psychology Friday. He plans to take the Graduate Review Examination and apply to graduate school to pursue a master’s in social work. “It feels great to reach this milestone, to see your hard work pay off.”
Byrd said Southern Miss was the perfect place to pursue a college degree. “It’s a great school, with a real sense of community.”