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Favre Among Seven to be Inducted into USM’s Alumni Hall of Fame

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The University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Association will induct seven of the university’s most dedicated and distinguished alumni into its Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 16 as one of the highlights of the 2015 Homecoming celebration.

The banquet and ceremony will be held in the Grand Ballroom of the Thad Cochran Center on the Hattiesburg campus, and will begin at 6:30 p.m. Limited seating is available to the general public through Monday, Oct. 12. All-inclusive tickets for the event are available for $50, and can be purchased by visiting www.SouthernMissAlumni.com/HallofFame or by contacting the Alumni Association at 601.266.5013.

The Southern Miss Alumni Hall of Fame was established in 1987 to recognize those whose contributions have helped move the university forward.

The 2015 inductees include the following:

Jim Borsig ’78 ‘89

Borsig began his public service career in 1980 as the assistant to the mayor of Hattiesburg. In 2011, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning elected him as the 14th president of Mississippi University for Women.

During his presidency, he has encouraged inclusive, evidence-based decision making by seeking broad-based participation on issues ranging from branding to leadership program design, while bringing renewed focus to student recruitment, retention and graduation. This past year “The W” awarded the largest number of degrees in its history.

His university presidency was preceded by tenure as associate commissioner for external relations and public policy for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

In the public university system, Borsig served as executive assistant to the president of Southern Miss and as research and development coordinator for the John C. Stennis Institute of Government, based at Mississippi State University. He also has been a visiting professor in Jackson State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

He is active in his community, state and profession and has served on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Lowndes County. An Eagle Scout, he is currently council president of the Pushmataha Area Boy Scout Council. He serves as the co-chair of Mississippi’s Education Achievement Council and as a member of the Policies and Purposes Committee of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

A native of Jackson, Borsig holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and American Studies and a master’s degree in political science with a concentration in public administration from Southern Miss. He earned a doctorate in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University.

Todd Buchanan ‘90

During his time at Southern Miss, Buchanan served the student body by being Student Government president and attorney general, Sigma Alpha Epsilon president and rush chairman, ROTC scholarship awardee and cadet, a university cheerleader and Mr. USM.

Buchanan credits Southern Miss with taking a young man that grew up in a less than desirable situation and showing him what is possible with an education, hard work and strong personal relationships.

Upon graduating with a business degree in 1990, he entered the U. S. Army. He excelled as an artillery officer at duty stations in Germany and Oklahoma and was selected to attend both the Army Ranger and Airborne schools during his six years of active duty.

After leaving the Army in 1996, Buchanan joined AIG VALIC as a financial advisor. Now in his 20th year with the company, he resides in Tampa, Fla., and is responsible for all operations throughout the southeastern United States. He manages a group of 400 employees spread across six states and has more than $20 billion in client assets under management.

Buchanan remains active in organizations he is passionate about. At the age of 39, he became the youngest national president in the 151-year history of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He also stepped forward as a key contributor to Scianna Hall. Locally, Buchanan serves as the vice chairman of the Outback Bowl and as a board member for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and St. John’s Episcopal Parish Day School.

He and his wife Babsie, a 1996 Southern Miss graduate, enjoy traveling the world with their three children, Riley, Ashton and Carly.

Brett Favre

Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre attended Southern Miss, where he had a stellar college career, starting at the quarterback position for four years. As a college player, he packed a toughness his teammates easily admired, with a propensity for late-game heroics. During his time as a Golden Eagle he also set several school records.

In 1991, Favre was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL draft. Following his trade to the Green Bay Packers the next year, he led the franchise to victory in Super Bowl XXXI. He was also named the league's most valuable player three years in a row. After stints with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, he retired from football after the 2010 season.

Favre holds many NFL records, including most career passing yards, most career pass completions, most career pass attempts, most consecutive starts by a player and most career victories as a starting quarterback. One of the greatest players in Green Bay's storied history, Brett was honored with induction into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2015.

In 1995, Favre, along with his wife Deanna, began their charity outreach by donating to agencies providing support and services to disadvantaged and disabled children in Mississippi and Wisconsin. In 2005, the Favres extended their mission statement to include supporting organizations providing financial aid for breast cancer patients.

Since the inception of the Favre 4 Hope Foundation, more than $7 million dollars has been donated to charities, including The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at Southern Miss.

Tom “Bones” Malone

Malone is among the most experienced professionals in the business. As his nickname implies, he specializes on the trombone, but also plays trumpet, tuba, tenor sax, baritone sax, flute, piccolo and other instruments.

Malone is best known for being a member of many bands, including The Blues Brothers band, the Saturday Night Live Band, for which he served as leader from 1981-85, and the CBS Orchestra, the house band for the “Late Show with David Letterman.” He has played on 4,400-plus television shows, been featured in more than 3,000 radio and television commercials, has been involved in more than 1,250 recordings and performed thousands of live performances throughout the world. His solo album, “Soul Bones,” features guest appearances by Paul Shaffer and Blues Traveler's John Popper.  

In 2011, Malone was a guest soloist with the University’s Symphony Orchestra. It was then he was presented with the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame Award.

Malone has performed, recorded and/or arranged for Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr, Sting, James Taylor, Elton John, Katy Perry, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, BB King, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Frank Zappa, The BeeGees, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Eric Clapton, Faith Hill, Frankie Valli, Garth Brooks, J. Geils Band, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Pink Floyd, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Winwood, Whitney Houston, Willie Nelson, Wilson Pickett, Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton-John and hundreds more.

“Practice hard and think big,” are the words Malone gives as advice to aspiring musicians and has followed in mastering his career.

Gail C. Megason ‘81

Megason graduated from Southern Miss in 1981 with an ACS certified degree in chemistry and was one of many from her family to attend the University.

Enrolling at Southern Miss two weeks into the semester, Megason studied hard to catch up, remembering her professor, Dr. Stella Elakovich, noticed her effort and gave Megason the opportunity to work in her lab as a research assistant. She encouraged Megason to consider medical school, which changed her life direction and renewed her confidence and will to succeed.

Megason attended medical school in Jackson and graduated in 1985. She then completed a pediatric residency and after two years in private practice on the Gulf Coast, returned to complete fellowship training in Pediatric Hematology Oncology. Megason also trained in bone marrow transplant in Seattle, so she could begin a pediatric stem cell transplant program at the Batson Children’s Hospital.

Megason is blessed to work with nurses, social workers, psychologists, professionals in child life and education, fellows, nurse practitioners and her partners, who all thrive on caring for these special children. She became the director of the Pediatric Residency Program when Dr. Moffitt, her mentor, left the role in 1996. A decade later, Megason took over leadership of the Division of Pediatric Hematology Oncology in 2006.

She currently is a tenured professor of pediatrics and holds the D. Jeanette Pullen Endowed Chair of Pediatrics. Today, she is the medical director for the Batson Children’s Hospital Laboratory and leads a division of eight physicians, four fellows and two nurse practitioners. Megason also has the pleasure of teaching students and young physicians. She believes her mother, who had simply wanted her to “just get certified to teach” would be very proud of her daughter today. 

Andy Mercier ’83, ‘84

Andy Mercier is the president and chief executive officer of The Merchants Company, which operates Merchants Foodservice, a broad-line foodservice distributor, and Sunrise Fresh Produce. Since 1993, Andy has helped lead the growth of the company from $80,000,000 in sales from two Mississippi locations to $700,000,000 in sales from seven locations across the Southeast. With more than 800 employees, Merchants is the 12th largest foodservice distributor in the country and one of the top 10 private companies in the state.

Andy received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and data processing in 1983 and his Master of Professional Accountancy in 1984 from Southern Miss.

Andy has served the University in several capacities including the Alumni Association Board of Directors, the Foundation and the Real Estate Foundation. In 1996 he was named outstanding alumnus by the Beta Alpha Psi chapter of the School of Professional Accountancy.

Currently he is Vice Chairman of the Area Development Partnership Board of Directors. Andy is also one of the original founders of the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation where he served on the Board of Directors for ten years.

With a strong belief in the importance of education, Andy has helped fund over 250 scholarships to students attending colleges across the state and 20 financial need scholarships to students attending Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hattiesburg through personal and corporate charitable giving.

The Merciers are the proud parents of Ann Marie, a second-year medical student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Betsy, a senior elementary education major at Southern Miss.

Gilbert C. Van Loon ‘81

Biloxi native Gilbert Van Loon received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, summa cum laude, from Southern Miss in 1981. Following graduation, Gilbert practiced accounting with a Mississippi Gulf Coast CPA firm. He became a certified public accountant in 1982 and was the recipient of the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants Silver Medal for the November 1981 CPA exam.

Van Loon received his Juris Doctor cum laude from the University of Mississippi in 1985 and his Master of Laws in Taxation from the University of Florida in 1986. After practicing with a boutique tax firm in Jackson, he later joined Butler Snow LLP in its Jackson office, where he became a partner in 1992. He is a member of the firm’s Business Services practice group where his primary practice area is employee benefits and executive compensation.

Van Loon has been listed in the Best Lawyers in America for employee benefits law since 1999 and was named as Best Lawyer’s 2011 Lawyer of the Year for Mississippi for employee benefits law. He is a contributor to the USM Foundation and is currently serving his second term on the Board of Directors; has served as chair of the Policy and Bylaws Committee and the Investment Committee; and currently serves on the Investment Committee. He is a Life Member of the Alumni Association and an Eagle Club member.

Van Loon is married to the former Clare Thomas of Jackson and they reside in Jackson. They are the parents of two children (and hopefully future Golden Eagles), Bryant and Mary Clare.