November 25, 2014  

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John Berry, First African-American Faculty Member at Southern Miss, Dies

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Dr. John Calvin Berry

Dr. John Calvin Berry, a retired University of Southern Mississippi associate professor of educational leadership and research, died Nov. 10 in Hattiesburg. He was 88.

A native of Brookhaven, Miss., Berry was the first African-American faculty member at the university. His career in education began as a school administrator in Jones and Jefferson Counties. When he came to Southern Miss, he served first as director of the HEW Title IV program and then later as instructor of student teaching. He retired from the university in 1985.

Southern Miss President Emeritus Aubrey Lucas said it was “an historic event” at USM when Berry joined the faculty as its first African-American member. “He was immediately accepted as a colleague and served as a valuable member of the faculty of the College of Education and Psychology for 15 years,” Lucas said. “Over these years, he became a friend of many of us, so we are saddened by his death. We remember with great appreciation his contributions to our university.”

Berry was a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving during World War II in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater of Operations. He was an active member of St. Pau United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg.

Dr. Willie Pierce, former dean of the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology, said Berry’s influence at the university remains as a “genuine trailblazer as we progress toward greater diversity in our community, faculty, staff and students.”

“He was a fine colleague who loved education and loved students,” Pierce said. “He was always interested in our students being successful, and he did everything in his power to help. He was, quite simply, a consummate professional and I regarded him as a great friend.”