The University of Southern Mississippi honored its best and brightest during the annual Founders’ Day Ceremony, held March 27 in Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus with the institution marking its 104th anniversary.
Top student award winners were seniors Caitlyn Burkes of Senatobia, Miss. and David Fondren of Jackson, Miss. who received the Phi Kappa Phi Bowl and Judge R.J. Mississippian Award, respectively.
The Phi Kappa Phi Bowl is awarded based on superior academic achievement. Burkes is a student in the university’s prestigious Honors College and a Presidential Scholar. An anthropology/religion double major, she is also a member of several chapters of national honor societies at the university.
“This award really sums up all that I wanted to accomplish as a student at the university,” Burkes said.
The Bishop Award is presented to a student who is a native Mississippian and has overcome personal adversity to achieve his or her academic and career goals. Fondren had to leave high school because of an illness, but took and passed the General Education Development (GED) tests to earn his high school equivalent diploma. He is now on track to earn a degree in speech and hearing sciences.
“I’m overwhelmed. This was unexpected,” Fondren said. “It's truly the culmination of my experience here at the university, and I'm grateful for the support of the faculty and staff in my department."
Outgoing Student Government Association President Ann Marie Chilcutt expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve in her farewell address, as she made way for incoming SGA President Jeffrey George who was sworn in along Vice President Kyle Stoner, Attorney General Wilton Jackson and Election Commissioner Meredith Barefield.
Other student awards included:
Nina Bellipanni; Danielle Block; Wisam Buti; Aaliyah Cole; Jaylen Hackett; Kelly Hill; Zachary Irons; Mary Karnes; Douglas LeBlanc; Savannah Steadman
Most Outstanding Freshman Female
Mary Millis Spooner
Most Outstanding Freshman Male
Best Female Citizen
Kelly Rebecca Rake
Best Male Citizen
Steven Anthony Panepinto
Leave It Better Than You Found It Award
Barbara Ross Gold Leaf Scholarship
Kristin Rylee House
Student Hall of Fame
Brandon Troy Baker; Torrel Bridges; Ann Marie Chilcutt; Brandon Hersey; Donald Holmes; Hanna Rice; Michael Sims; Owen Patrick Terry; Eryka Wallace
Three new members of the university’s Centennial Legacy Circle, which includes current and former members of the university’s faculty and staff, were recognized for having given a minimum of 40 years of service to Southern Miss. Others were recognized for 10, 20 and 30 years of service.
This year’s inductees into the Centennial Legacy Circle included Philip Kolin, distinguished professor of English; Charles McCormick, professor of polymer science; and William Odom, professor of German.
“I’ve truly enjoyed my 40 years at the university,” McCormick said. “It has been a very rewarding career.”