In the past two weeks, The University of Southern Mississippi has suffered great losses. The tornado that ripped through the front of campus on Feb. 10 uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and altered many lives. Thankfully, mercifully, no one died in that menacing storm.
But our beloved University has incurred an equally devastating loss with the passing of Dr. Gene Wiggins on Feb. 21. Professor emeritus in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, Dr. Wiggins served Southern Miss with dignity, humility and proud distinction for more than half of his 69 years.
He touched countless lives as an instructor, mentor, father-figure and devoted friend. Speaking only for myself, I know beyond any shadow of doubt that I would not have become a sports writer/journalist/public relations professional without Gene’s presence in my life. Absolutely no question.
The gruff, intimidating personality he so famously exhibited in class belied the genuine softie that lay at his core. Gene was tough when he needed to be with students. But, make no mistake, he sincerely wanted each and every student at this University to get a degree and put it to productive use.
He had a one-of-a-kind laugh that I can conjure with ease. I take comfort in that fact.
When you consider the giant oak trees that came crashing down on that fateful Sunday, keep in mind that Southern Miss has lost another giant in Dr. Gene Wiggins.
Those fortunate enough to know him were truly blessed.