Skip navigation

2013 Produces Many Memorable Moments at Southern Miss

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 15:08pm | By: Van Arnold

Two golden eagle statues were dedicated on the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses by Southern Miss alumnus Chuck Scianna. (Photo by Kelly Dunn)

The year 2013 proved challenging and rewarding at The University of Southern Mississippi – from the devastation of an F-4 tornado to the naming of a new president.

Below are some of the highlights that helped shape what became a memorable year in the University's history.

Bennett Named 10th President

Dr. Rodney D. Bennett was named president at Southern Miss in February and immediately noted that one of his primary duties as the school's leader would be helping its students succeed in meeting their academic goals through “pathways for completion.”
He became the first African-American to lead the university or any of the state's historically white institutions of higher learning.

Inaugural Class of Nurse Anesthesia Program Welcomed

The College of Nursing at The University of Southern Mississippi added a memorable chapter to its storied history by welcoming the inaugural class of the Nurse Anesthesia Program to the Hattiesburg campus. Following an extensive selection and interview process, 20 students were chosen for the new program, which will include 36 consecutive months of study and award a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

University Takes Lead Role in New Center for Gulf Studies

The University of Southern Mississippi accepted the lead role in formation of the new Center for Gulf Studies (CGS). The center represents a partnership between Southern Miss and the state's other research universities – Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and Jackson State University. Administered through the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science at Stennis Space Center, CGS seeks to serve the people of Mississippi, the northern Gulf region and the country with a scientifically-based understanding of ecosystem status and trends (past to present, predictive) with special emphasis on improved forecasting abilities to ensure sustainable coastal and ocean ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.

Southern Miss Students Pitch in to Help Clean Up Tornado Debris

Nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community volunteers turned out in a student-led cleanup effort three days after an F-4 tornado hit the Hattiesburg campus. The clean-up resulted from a Facebook group created by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity president Ned Nelson, who wanted to do something to help with recovery efforts. 

NCS4 Director Marciani Participates in White House Discussion on Gun Violence

Dr. Lou Marciani, director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) at The University of Southern Mississippi, participated in a White House event in February titled, “Taking Action: Creating Model Emergency Management Plans for Schools, Institutions of Higher Education and Houses of Worship.” The half-day discussion was held as a part of President Barack Obama's plan to protect the nation's children and communities by reducing gun violence.

Alumnus Faye Gilbert Named Dean of College of Business

Dr. Faye Gilbert, who earned her undergraduate and master's degrees in business administration at The University of Southern Mississippi, returned to her alma mater as the next dean of the University's College of Business. Gilbert, who came to Southern Miss after serving as dean of the College of Business and Economics at Radford (Va.) University, becomes the first woman to lead the Southern Miss business program.

Junior Brandon Hersey Wins Prestigious Truman Scholarship

Brandon Hersey became the University's third Truman Scholar and the first African American student at Southern Miss to receive the coveted prize. Marie Holowach Federer won in 2011 and Lance Brown, competing in his home state of Alabama, was the first recipient in 1999. Hersey was one of only 62 national finalists chosen for the award and the lone student representing a Mississippi university.

Sims, Roberts Receive Goldwater Scholarships

University of Southern Mississippi students Michael Sims of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Hannah Roberts of Mount Olive, Miss., were awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships which recognize the nation's next generation of top research scientists. Sims is a junior majoring in polymer science and chemistry, while Roberts is a sophomore chemistry major. Southern Miss accounted for two of the four Goldwater Scholarships awarded this year to students in Mississippi.

Campus Landscape Plan Announced

The University of Southern Mississippi announced on April 15 a comprehensive landscaping plan to restore the southern edge of the University's Hattiesburg campus that was heavily damaged by an EF-4 tornado on February 10. The USM Foundation also announced a campus beautification campaign to generate private funds to help address the cost of the plan. The landscape of the campus was drastically altered by the tornado with the loss of 75 trees and debris scattered across the front of the campus. In the days following the storm. The USM Foundation's Southern Miss Campus Beautification Campaign will generate private gifts to help fund the landscape restoration plan, which is projected to cost $3 million.

Vinzant Named Vice President for Finance and Administration

Longtime higher education administrator Dr. Douglas Vinzant was named the new Vice President for Finance and Administration at The University of Southern Mississippi. He started work on June 16. Vinzant came to Southern Miss after serving as Vice President for Finance and Administration at St. Cloud University in Minnesota.

Bill McGillis Named Director of Athletics

University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett announced July 18 that Bill McGillis would become the university's next athletics director. Bennett made the announcement at a gathering of hundreds of Southern Miss students, alumni, employees and fans at the university's Trent Lott Center. McGillis replaced Jeff Hammond, whose contract expired on June 30.

NIH Funding Helps Foster Biomedical Research

An $18 million renewal of the Mississippi INBRE grant from the National Institutes of Health enables The University of Southern Mississippi and partner institutions throughout the state to foster a vision in biomedical research that began a dozen years ago. The recent renewal runs from 2013-2018 and brings the total amount of the grant – established in 2001 – to nearly $54 million.

Official Groundbreaking Held for New Residence Halls

The University of Southern Mississippi officially broke ground Sept. 17 on a monumental student housing project that will transform the venerable Hattiesburg campus. Century Park South will bring state-of-the art residence halls to Southern Miss, providing 954 beds for freshmen and other scholarship students. The $55.6 million project will feature three buildings, with five floors in each structure.

Ribbon Cutting Held for Renovated College Hall

The School of Mass Communication and Journalism at The University of Southern Mississippi was officially welcomed into its new home during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Friday, Oct. 25 at renovated College Hall on the Hattiesburg campus. The School of Mass Communication and Journalism, campus radio station WUSM-FM and The Student Printz student newspaper will also call College Hall home after being housed in Southern Hall for several decades. The overall projected cost of the renovation is $6.3 million.

Massive Golden Eagle Statues Dedicated on Campuses

On Thursday, Oct. 24, alumnus Chuck Scianna and his wife, Rita, joined Southern Miss officials, alumni and friends for the dedications of two golden eagle sculptures – on the Hattiesburg campus and Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. Named “Lofty Return,” the sculptures symbolically tie the campuses together while welcoming graduates back to their alma mater. The Hattiesburg eagle is positioned at the apex of the Rose Garden that faces Hardy Street. The 6,000-pound sculpture measures approximately 22 feet tall by 20 feet wide, by 8 feet deep and rests atop an 8-feet-high pyramid-shaped base.

Hattiesburg Zoo, Southern Miss Forge Partnership for Golden Eagle Exhibit

The Hattiesburg Zoo's newest tenant is the featured attraction in its golden eagle exhibit, the result of a partnership formed with University of Southern Mississippi alumni, students and friends. An effort to bring a golden eagle to Hattiesburg was initiated by the Southern Miss Alumni Association more than two years ago and supported by the Student Government Association and USM Foundation. Together, the groups contributed $70,000 to fund the construction of a habitat at the Zoo for the golden eagle.