February 23, 2018  

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Concurrent Resolution Honoring Southern Miss President Dr. Rodney Bennett

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By: Representatives Barker, Byrd, Calhoun, DeBar, Lott, Morgan, Patterson


3 WHEREAS, on February 7, 2013, the Board of Trustees of State 4 Institutions of Higher Learning concluded a nationwide search for 5 the next president of the University of Southern Mississippi with 6 the announcement of its unanimous decision in the selection of the 7 institution's tenth president in the school's 103-year history: 8 Dr. Rodney D. Bennett; and

9 WHEREAS, the naming of Dr. Bennett as the next President of 10 USM was the culmination of a two-day visit with students, faculty, 11 staff, alumni and community members at the school's Hattiesburg 12 and Gulf Park campuses during which Dr. Bennett's broad experience 13 in higher education and his commitment to helping students, the 14 community and entire region to succeed was readily apparent; and

15 WHEREAS, currently the Vice President for Student Affairs at 16 the University of Georgia, a position to which he ascended since 17 arriving at the Athens school in 2001 to serve as Dean of 18 Students, Dr. Bennett, open and approachable, is highly regarded 19 as having a tremendous depth of knowledge of all facets of higher 20 education and a student-centered approach that is personable and 21 focused on students excelling in the classroom and beyond; and

22 WHEREAS, selected by the college board for his leadership 23 abilities, Dr. Bennett, so aptly described by IHL Board President 24 Ed Blakeslee as, "the right person to lead the university at this 25 time," will create history when he assumes the USM presidency by 26 becoming the first African American to head a predominantly white 27 public university in the state; and

28 WHEREAS, founded as Mississippi Normal College, a teacher 29 training school, on March 30, 1910, before being renamed State 30 Teachers College in 1924 and Mississippi Southern College in 1940, 31 the University of Southern Mississippi is a resilient institution 32 that has developed a toughness and resolve by overcoming 33 adversity, including more than one legislative attempt to close 34 the school's doors, throughout its storied history; and

35 WHEREAS, within days after returning to Athens after being 36 tapped to lead USM, when the school was faced, yet again, with 37 adversity after much of the Hattiesburg campus and Hub City was 38 ripped apart by a tornado that left at least six campus buildings 39 facing extensive damage initially estimated at totaling $20 - $30 40 million, Dr. Bennett demonstrated compassion and a firm commitment 41 to his new USM family when he swiftly returned to the community, 42 although he had not yet worked a day on campus, in a show of 43 support and to join countless students, faculty and staff who 44 shortened their break to assist in the clean-up efforts; and

45 WHEREAS, humbled and enthusiastic about the opportunity to 46 lead the school of over 16,000 students to new and greater heights 47 of success, Dr. Bennett, a man of integrity recognized for having 48 a "God-given talent for relating to people," is focused on helping 49 the University of Southern Mississippi literally achieve its often 50 heard aspiration of moving USM "to the top"; and

51 WHEREAS, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Dr. Bennett 52 earned several degrees from Middle Tennessee University, including 53 a bachelor of science in mass communication, a specialist in 54 education and a master of education in educational administration, 55 before being awarded a doctor of education degree in educational 56 administration from Tennessee State University in Nashville; and

57 WHEREAS, although Dr. Bennett has not officially begun the 58 era of his USM leadership, the City of Hattiesburg, a progressive 59 city that is a center of culture and diversity, enthusiastically 60 looks forward to welcoming Dr. Bennett and his wife of over 20 61 years, Temple Bennett, and their two teenage daughters to the 62 community; and

63 WHEREAS, as Dr. Bennett prepares to assume the presidency of 64 USM this spring, it is only fitting that we respectfully 65 acknowledge this important occasion in the history of the 66 University of Southern Mississippi and the State of Mississippi: 67 ST: Dr. Rodney Bennett; welcome as 10th President of the University of Southern

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF 68 REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE SENATE CONCURRING 69 THEREIN, That we do hereby congratulate Dr. Rodney D. Bennett on 70 being named the tenth President of the University of Southern 71 Mississippi and extend to him and his family our heartiest welcome 72 to the USM family, the City of Hattiesburg and the entire State of 73 Mississippi.

74 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be 75 furnished to Dr. Rodney D. Bennett, the University of Southern 76 Mississippi, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher 77 Learning and to the members of the Capitol Press Corps. 78