From across the decades, former University of Southern Mississippi student leaders returned to their alma mater this past weekend to reconnect with old friends, marvel at the growth of the university and also share memories and insights with their successors.
The Centennial Student Leader Reunion brought approximately 150 of these alumni to the Hattiesburg campus for two days of activities Sept. 17-18. They included former student leaders some from as far back as the 1950s, who served in student government, Greek and student activities councils, Southern Style, as Student Printz and Southerner editors and those chosen as outstanding freshmen or for the student hall of fame.
Toby Barker, a former Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President from Meridian who serves in the Mississippi House of Representatives, returned for the event. He said student leaders make an invaluable contribution to the life of the university, and pointed to such student-driven initiatives as the pedestrian plaza, the Payne Center, the Power House restaurant and fall break as examples.
“Students can bring to focus issues that faculty, staff and administrators may not see,” said Barker, who served the SGA as an officer from 2001-2003. “Allowing students an opportunity to make an impact gives them a lifelong, vested interest and passion for this institution.”
During their two-day visit to campus, the student leader alumni participated in a reunion tailgating event before the Southern Miss vs. Kansas football game, toured the campus, took part in breakout sessions with current student leaders and concluded their visit at a “Blast from the Past” brunch on Saturday at the Thad Cochran Center.
For Vivian Lang, who attended Southern Miss from 1951-1953 and was a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, it was the camaraderie and lifelong friendships that she carries with her from her days at Southern Miss. Her mother was a student at the university in the 1920s, and now she has a granddaughter who attends Southern Miss. Her late husband Elmo Lang played football at the university, and as its alumni association president helped establish the Golden Eagle as mascot.
“I’m just elated at the progress that has been made at the university,” she said. “Our family has been loyal supporters of the university and it’s wonderful to be back on campus.”
Kyle Nixon and Kasey Mitchell, Southern Miss students from Picayune who serve as SGA election commissioner and president, respectively, said the opportunity to interact with the former student leaders was an invaluable experience.
“I talked with one of our alumni who shared his story about serving as student government president when the university went through integration, and how proud he was to be a part of that transition,” Nixon said. “It’s been a really rewarding experience to meet these former student leaders and gain insights from their experiences.”
“Meeting these alumni and seeing what a passion they still have for this place after all these years, it’s very inspiring,” Mitchell said.