Their paths to success were different, but the top student award winners at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Founders’ Day Ceremony share a common denominator – a determination to succeed.
Despite dealing with financial and personal adversity, including those associated with raising her son Gunner, who has a developmental disability, senior Breanne Hartfield of Purvis, Miss. is on track to complete her degree in nursing. For overcoming those odds, she was named recipient of the R.J. Bishop Mississippian Award on Founders’ Day.
Established in 1978 by Elna Bishop in loving memory of her father, Judge R.J. Bishop, the R.J. Bishop Mississippian Award honors a senior who is a native Mississippian and who has endured economic, family or physical challenges in pursuit of an education. The award comes with a stipend.
“This award is such a blessing,” a visibly moved Hartfield said. “I’m grateful for the support of my family and professors, they have given me a lot of encouragement along the way.”
“Breanne is so deserving of this honor,” said Dr. Katherine Nugent, director of the Southern Miss School of Nursing. “She’s very dedicated and persistent, and respected by both faculty and her fellow students. I can’t think of a better person to be chosen for this award.”
Jennie Hope Thomas of Hazlehurst, Miss. earned the other top student honor, the Phi Kappa Silver Bowl Award, for maintaining a perfect grade point average. A nutrition and dietetics major with a minor in chemistry, Thomas is a Presidential Scholar who plans to pursue a career in medicine.
Thomas will graduate summa cum laude from Southern Miss in May and has been accepted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She was also inducted into the Student Hall of Fame during the Founders’ Day Ceremony.
“I am eternally grateful for all of the opportunities given to me here at Southern Miss,” Thomas said. “By God’s grace, I was placed here.”
Dr. Kathy Yadrick, chairman of the Southern Miss Department of Nutrition and Food Systems in the College of Health, said Thomas was “well-rounded, a great student and a wonderful person.”
“In addition to achieving so much as a student, she also works hard to support our department and faculty in a variety of ways,” Yadrick said. ‘She’s just the total package, everything you would want in a student. I think she has really met the challenge of ‘Leave it Better Than You Found It.’ She’s certainly done that here.”