A memorial service for Dr. Gerry Cadenhead Fletcher will be held on Wednesday, July 31 at 6 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus. Dr. Fletcher, former dean of the College of Nursing and dedicated supporter of Southern Miss athletics, died Monday, July 22 at Forrest General Hospital. She was 73.
A graveside service for Dr. Fletcher is planned for Saturday, July 27, at 2 p.m. at Blocker Cemetery in Marshall, Texas, with visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 26, at Downs Funeral Home in Marshall, Texas. Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home in Hattiesburg is also assisting with arrangements.
Dr. Fletcher first joined Southern Miss in 1980 as professor and chair of the nursing program. From 1983 to 1988 she was assistant dean and professor of nursing, and then was interim director of the School of Nursing before being named dean of the College of Nursing in 1997. She retired from the university in 2001.
"Temple and I join the university community in mourning the death of a longtime faculty member and supporter, Gerry Cadenhead Fletcher,” said Southern Miss President Dr. Rodney Bennett. “We celebrate her life and the impact she had on so many students and faculty members who thrived under her mentorship. Our hearts go out to her family and friends during this difficult time of loss."
Dr. Bennett has called for the university flag to be lowered to half-staff July 31 in honor of Fletcher.
Dr. Katherine Nugent, current dean of the College of Nursing, described Fletcher as “fiercely dedicated” to the university’s nursing programs, working tirelessly to return the School of Nursing back to its college status and raising money for its new building. Fletcher also served on the college’s advisory board.
“On day two of my tenure as dean, Gerry came into my office and said “You don’t know me, but I want you to be successful and I’m here to help you” and we became great friends after that. I’m very saddened by her passing.
“She was very proud of the nursing program here, and was instrumental in shaping its legacy of excellence.”
Gov. Phil Bryant also expressed his and his wife Deborah’s condolences on Fletcher’s passing. “We are saddened by the loss of this wonderful lady,” said Gov. Phil Bryant. “Gerry and her husband, Col. Tyler Fletcher, have been close friends of ours for many years, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during this time.”
Dr. Aubrey Lucas, Southern Miss President Emeritus, said Fletcher was “a very able administrator as well as an effective teacher, who was active in the life of the university both when she was employed here and in retirement.”
“We shall miss her friendship and her participation in the life of our university,” Lucas said.
Kathleen Masters, an associate professor and director of transitional programs in the College of Nursing, said she was a new faculty member when Dr. Fletcher returned to Southern Miss from a leadership position in an acute care setting to head the university’s nursing programs.
“I remember her speaking about her return to academia as an opportunity to impact patient outcomes and change health care in Mississippi through the education of nurses,” Masters said. “She was a positive role model and mentor to both faculty and students throughout her tenure at the university, and she continued to support the College of Nursing throughout her retirement.”
Fletcher was also an ardent supporter of Southern Miss athletics, serving for the last four years on the board of directors for the USM Athletic Foundation. Fletcher was a member of the Circle of Champions and support clubs for many individual sports, including the Touchdown Club (football), Dugout Club (baseball), Volleyball, The Wings (women’s basketball) and the Hardwood Club (men’s basketball).
“She was a remarkable woman who truly embraced the university both in the academic and athletic spectrum,” said Southern Miss Head Baseball Coach Scott Berry. “Her passing is a great loss for all who knew her. She will be truly missed.”
Fletcher established, in honor of her husband, the Col. Tyler H. Fletcher Baseball Scholarship Endowment and together they co-established the Fletcher-Cadenhead Football Scholarship Endowment.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Fletcher’s honor may be made to those scholarships with the USM Athletic Foundation at 601.266.5299, to the College of Nursing Building Campaign at 601.266.5210, or to the Louise Herrington School of Nursing at Baylor University at 1.800.229.5678, option 4.