April 23, 2014  

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Catching up With Fred Varnado

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Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col., Fred Varnado serves as the director of the Office of Professional Development and Educational Outreach at Southern Miss. Recently, Varnado took a few moments to reflect on his military career, current responsibilities and outside interests in a question-and-answer format.

Q:What is your hometown and educational background?

A:I am originally from Magnolia, Miss (Pike County). I have a bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State University and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University.

Q:How did your military career begin?

A:On May 11, 1975 I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Military Intelligence Corps. I served from 1975-1995 both in the continental United States and outside the U.S. in various leadership and staff positions from an infantry platoon leader at Ft. Benning, Georgia to my final assignment as a military intelligence battalion commander at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Q:What are your most vivid memories from those days?

A:When my infantry platoon was given the honor of testing the Army’s new Kevlar helmet in 1975 at Ft. Benning; when I made my five parachute jumps and my tour of duty at the Pentagon during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Q:How did you end up working at Southern Miss?

A: In November 1999, I began my service as the assistant director for the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Scholars Achievement Program.

Q:What are your primary duties in your current position?

A:Exercise leadership and provide management over personnel and functions relating to the successful operation of OPDEO; help develop on-and-off-campus noncredit programs and activities; help formulate, interpret and administer OPDEO policies in accordance with the University of Southern Mississippi, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning policies; interact with university, community and governmental leaders to forge mutually beneficial relationships that pertain to professional development and training opportunities..

Q:How had your military background helped you in civilian work?

A:The military provided me with senior executive skills in counseling, leadership, management and training; trained me to be a self-starter and performance-oriented professional with a reputation for accomplishing tasks and meeting a higher standard; the ability to analyze, prioritize, delegate and motivate others to reach their potential; the ability to handle complex problems under stressful conditions; the ability to be comfortable and able to contribute in any environment and to work well with people, staffs and outside agencies.

Q:You are known to tell a few jokes. How important is laughter in your life?

A:Laughter is important because I do not take myself too seriously. I am blessed and highly-favored. So, I express my joy with laughter and riddles to help someone else.

Q:When you’re not at work, how do you prefer to spend your free time?

A:When I’m not at home with my wife and mother-in-law, I’m mostly playing racquetball at the Payne Center.

Q:What animal would you say best describes your personality?

A:A bulldog because it is short and ugly but intelligent and thoughtful.

Q:What you like best about Southern Miss?

A:The strategic area of emphasis of “community connection” and our role in making the communities we serve better through our top-flight education and service.