The University of Southern Mississippi has received a vital financial boost from the Mississippi Legislature in the form of a general support bill that includes funds for renovation and repairs related to the Feb. 10 tornado that struck the Hattiesburg campus.
The bill designates a significant increase to the State Institutions of Higher Learning budget. Included in the appropriations are $1.655 million to Southern Miss for renovation and repairs to buildings and another $1.1 million to purchase musical instruments and equipment damaged by the tornado.
Chad Driskell, executive assistant to the President for External Affairs, credits House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Eugene S. Clarke and members of the local legislative delegation for helping expedite additional funding for Southern Miss.
“When I met with Chairmen Frierson and Clarke, they told me to let them know our needs and they would do their best to secure adequate appropriations for us,” said Driskell. “It is evident by the very progressive general support bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature that we owe those gentlemen, as well as the entire legislative body, a debt of gratitude for this crucial financial supplement.”
The F-4 tornado that ravaged the Hattiesburg area caused severe damage to several buildings on the Southern Miss campus, including the Ogletree House (which housed the Alumni Association); Mannoni Performing Arts Center; Fine Arts Building, Marsh Hall and Jazz Station. Dozens of students within the School of Music lost musical instruments and hundreds saw their class schedules drastically altered as makeshift classrooms were arranged.
“We are grateful to the Legislature and IHL for acting quickly on behalf of our music program that was so impacted by the tornado,” said Dr. Michael Miles, director of the Southern Miss School of Music. “This funding will allow us to immediately address replacing damaged and destroyed equipment critical to the delivery of our programs, in particular our Jazz Studies and orchestra programs. We won’t be made whole until we have found a new physical home for these programs, but this funding allows the healing process to begin.”
Dr. Steven Moser, dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Southern Miss, noted that the legislative action will go a long way in helping restore the School of Music and the Department of Art and Design to its original prestige.
“We still have much to do to return those programs to appropriate teaching and performing spaces, but our legislators, much like our leaders on campus, understand the national profile and leadership of our arts programs and the impact they have in South Mississippi and indeed the State of Mississippi,” said Moser.