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Commencement Speaker Calls for Revolution of Serving, Caring

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 08:23pm | By: David Tisdale

Gregory Favre

The University of Southern Mississippi's fall 2015 commencement speaker joined his audience as a new alumnus of the school.

Gregory Favre, former executive editor of the Sacramento Bee and a vice president for McClatchy Newspapers, addressed graduates at both ceremonies held at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus. Approximately 1,300 students were candidates for degrees this fall.

Southern Miss President Rodney D. Bennett introduced Favre, while also presenting him with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, the seventh honorary degree bestowed by the University. Favre's nephew, Southern Miss alumnus and benefactor Chuck Scianna, was on hand for the presentation as a member of the commencement platform party.

“I am pleased to welcome the newest member of the Southern Miss family as our commencement speaker,” Bennett said.

Growing up in Bay St. Louis, Miss., Favre worked for the family's newspaper, the Sea Coast-Echo. He moved up the ranks in the news industry from sports reporter in Jackson, Miss. to executive leadership posts while helping his publications win Pulitzer Prizes.

Favre retired from McClatchy in 2001 and became a Distinguished Fellow in Journalism Values at The Poynter Institute. He was founding editor of CALmatters, a non-profit journalism venture that serves as a watchdog of California government, and currently serves on its board, as well as the board of M. Roberts Media.

“I'm deeply proud and thankful to be back in my home state to share this special moment with you,” he said.

Healing the divides over the complex issues of the day will require a special kind of leadership that the class of 2015 should step up and provide, Favre said in addressing his fellow alums.

Favre cited the challenges facing today's world, “where everyday existence is interspersed with reports of violence” in the daily news. Further, he said, acrimony on social media is “widening cultural and social divisions” in the U.S. and around the globe on the myriad issues of our times, including economic and class status, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and race. 

Favre said the ingredients for success in facing these challenges remain the same – integrity, vision, passion – as well as compassion – along with honesty and good judgment. These values shine through, he said, when America faces challenges like the attack on Pearl Harbor and by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, after the assassination of President Kennedy and, on a more personal note for Favre, following Hurricane Katrina's devastation of his beloved Bay St. Louis.

“We had people come from across the land to help (after Hurricane Katrina)” he said. “They didn't seek anything in return, and no one asked if they were Catholic or Baptist, Republican or Democrat, gay or straight. They were simply neighbors helping neighbors, like we were commanded to do so long ago.

“The challenge to your generation is to keep that humane spirit alive and well, sparking a revolution of serving and caring.”