Inspired by the passion for The University of Southern Mississippi demonstrated by hundreds across the country as part of the University’s “Day of Giving” May 8, an anonymous donor has contributed $1 million to help restore the institution’s Hattiesburg campus.
The donor presented a check to University President Rodney Bennett and Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul last week. The funds will support the University’s efforts to restore landscaping along the southern edge of campus impacted by a February tornado.
The tornado not only heavily damaged a number of buildings on campus but also destroyed 75 trees, including a number of decades-old oaks that welcomed visitors near the University’s Centennial Gateway at the main entrance to campus.
“This gift and the success of the ‘Day of Giving’ demonstrate that there are many individuals who fully support Southern Miss and are behind our efforts to restore the beauty of the Hattiesburg campus,” Bennett said. “They selflessly care about the institution and are committed to helping the University achieve its goals. We thank each contributor for their support.”
In April, the USM Foundation announced the Campus Beautification Campaign in support of a $3 million landscaping plan for the “front door” of the Hattiesburg campus. An initial gift of $100,000 from the Southern Miss Alumni Association helped support the purchase of five 40-foot live oaks that were planted on campus last week. On May 8, the foundation encouraged supporters to participate in a “Day of Giving” as part of the campaign. In all, 374 gifts were given from 37 states, totaling $130,234 in a 24-hour period. To date, $1.3 million in private funds has been raised for campus restoration.
The support is a credit to the resiliency of Southern Miss supporters and the surrounding communities, Bennett said.
“The tornado damaged homes and buildings in the Pine Belt and even knocked a few of us to our knees,” Bennett said. “But the South Mississippi spirit is emerging intact. Our passion for this place has been intensified, and our resolve has been strengthened as a result of this test.”
Paul said restoring the campus landscape is important not only to alumni and friends, but prospective students.
“It is the first impression people have about the quality of the educational experience we offer,” Paul said. “A beautiful campus is a reflection of our commitment to teaching and graduating future leaders of our state and nation.”
The USM Foundation’s Campus Beautification Campaign is ongoing. Contributions can be made at www.usmfoundation.com/restore or by calling 601.266.5210.