How The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi came to be what it is today, is an interesting story that begins in March of 1910 when the Mississippi Normal College is founded. Land for the school was donated by H. A. Camp, A. A. Montague, and Dr. T. E. Ross. Together they donated 120 acres, and the original five buildings were built there. The school opened in 1912 with 227 students enrolled, and there were 17 faculty members.
In 1922 Mississippi Normal College was authorized to confer baccalaureate degrees and awarded the first of these later that year. Two years later, the school changed names to State Teachers College. In 1929, the college was approved and became a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (SACS). In 1940, the school changed names again to reflect its growth in academic offerings and becomes Mississippi Southern College.
Under the presidency of Dr. William David McCain which began in 1955, Mississippi Southern College experienced much growth. One of his goals was to see the college become a university, and in 1962 he and the school achieved this goal. On February 27, 1962, Governor Ross Barnett signed the bill to make official the change for MSC become The University of Southern Mississippi. Today, the university is sometimes called USM or Southern Miss.
Now that you know a bit more about how the institution became The University of Southern Mississippi, you can continue reading to learn more fascinating facts about Southern Miss.
Interesting Facts about Southern Miss
The University of Southern Mississippi has earned the Carnegie Foundation’s designation of “higher research activity” for doctoral universities. It is one out of only 76 public universities with that particular designation.
The alma mater lyrics were penned by Yvonne Hamilton and Clara Davenport in 1941 with arrangements by Mary Leila Gardner. Luigi Zaninelli arranged the score in 1963, making it into the modern version which is used today.
The first school newspaper, the Normal College News, was first published in 1918 with the tagline “get there on time and stay to the end.” Later, in 1927, the school newspaper was changed to The Student Printz.
The Great Depression of 1932 did not spare Southern Miss (or State Teachers College as it was named at the time.) The state of Mississippi had to cut funding to all public institutions. As a result, the faculty and staff members at the college received no pay for six months.
The first baccalaureate degree was awarded to Kathryn Swetman in 1922.
The first Ph.D. awarded from The University of Southern Mississippi was to Eugene Keebler on August 14, 1962
The University of Southern Mississippi Rankings
The University of Southern Mississippi is considered to be one of the top institutions of higher education and, to no surprise, has placed in several rankings here at OnlineCollegePlan. Below you can find a list of the rankings which feature Southern Miss and where it placed within the ranking.
- #1 in Top 10 Online Colleges with the Best PhD in Business
- #6 in Top 10 Best Online Colleges in Mississippi
- #9 in 10 Best Online Engineering Programs
- #11 in Top 20 Most Affordable Art Colleges and Music Colleges
- #17 in Top 20 Online Construction Management Degree Programs
- #19 in Top 50 Online Schools with the Best Websites
Southern Miss Enrollment
Southern Miss has experienced a recent enrollment growth of 1.8 percent, which is the top in Mississippi. The preliminary total enrollment for Fall of 2018 was at 14,743. Fall of 2017 had 14,478 preliminary total enrollment.
The University of Southern Mississippi Leadership
Over the life of the school, there have been ten presidents to lead the school through both hardships such as war and economic depression, and growth as soldiers return from war seeking education and the baby boomer generation begins to graduate high school and seek out a college education.
- Joseph “Joe” Cook was the first president of the school in 1912 and served until 1928
- Claude Bennett became the school president in 1928 and served until 1933.
- Dr. Jennings Burton George became the third president to serve the school in 1933.
- Dr. Robert Cecil Cook was named the new president in 1945 and resigned in 1954.
- Dr. Richard Aubrey McLemore was named Acting President and served from January to August of 1955.
- Dr. William David McCain became president in 1955 with a goal to see the college achieve university status. He retired in 1975.
- Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas assumed the presidency in 1975. He goes on to serve 21 years, making his presidential tenure the longest in the history of the school. He resigned in December of 1996.
- Dr. Horace Weldon Fleming Jr. became the institution’s seventh president in 1997 and served until 2001.
- Dr. Shelby Thames is the eighth president of Southern Miss and served from 2002 to 2007.
- Dr. Martha Saunders assumed the presidency in 2007 as the first female president of Southern Miss.
- Rodney D. Bennett took office as the 10th and current President on April 1, 2013
Hattiesburg, Mississippi is mostly located in Forrest County but the westernmost part of the city is in Lamar County. Currently, the city has an estimated population of well over 46,000 people. The city was founded by the civil engineer William H. Hardy in 1882 and was named after his wife, Hattie Hardy. Hattiesburg is located at the intersection of six major US highways and has the nickname of “Hub City.”
There is no shortage of things to do or visit while in Hattiesburg. Whether you are living in Hattiesburg, staying in the city while going to college, or just visiting the town, there is something for everyone in the area. If you enjoy outdoors, there’s Paul B. Johnson State Park, Pep’s Point Water Park, the Hattiesburg Zoo, and the Medicine Wheel Garden to name just a few of the places you could go. Other points of interest around Hattiesburg include:
- Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, this military museum was renovated in 2016 and provides a fascinating look at the military history in Mississippi and more
- African American Military History Museum, a military museum dedicated to African American soldiers located in a former USO building
- Lake Terrace Convention Center, the local venue for events of all kinds
- Hattiesburg Saenger Theater, a classic theater designed for shows and concerts located in the historic district of Hattiesburg
- M.M. Roberts Stadium, the football stadium for Southern Miss
- Hattiesburg Station, historic landmark train station
- Hattiesburg Arts Council Gallery, an art gallery designed for local art and artists
- Kress Gallery, an art gallery designed with a focus on Mississippi artists
Accreditation: The University of Southern Mississippi is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award degrees at the baccalaureate, masters, specialists, and doctoral levels.
For more about accreditation or individual program accreditation, please visit their website or contact USM.
Student-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Motto: Southern Miss to the Top!
Mascot: “Seymour d’Campus” the Golden Eagle
School Colors: Black & Gold
The University of Southern Mississippi Athletics
The history of Southern Miss athletics is nearly as old as the school itself, with the football team being formed in 1912 with only 13 players. Two of the men on the team were missing an arm. In 1926 the school formed its first cheerleading squad. In 1941, the school, known as Mississippi Southern College at the time, had its first undefeated football season (9-0-1). Southern Miss joined the NCAA in 1952 and has its first perfect season just a few years later in 1958, being named the national champion in the “Large College” Division by the United Press International. In 1970, the Southern Miss football team beat the Ole Miss team for the first time.
The nickname, “Golden Eagles,” was adopted for their athletics teams in 1972. In 1995, Southern Miss became a charter member of Conference USA after being in the Metro Conference for the previous 13 years.
Other high points for athletics teams include the 1987 men’s basketball team winning the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden. In 1999, the Lady Eagles softball team advanced to the College Women’s World Series after winning both the Conference USA championship and South Regional championship. The Golden Eagle baseball ended their 2009th season ranked 8th in the nation, earning their place to compete in the College World Series.
Men’s Sports at Southern Miss
- Track & Field
Women’s Sports at Southern Miss
- Beach Volleyball
- Cross Country
- Track & Field
The University of Southern Mississippi Notable Alumni
Southern Miss has been the alma mater of a variety of talented and successful people over the years. While the list of notable alumni is far more lengthy than what you find below, these are a few from various areas of expertise who have attended USM.
- Jimmy Buffett – An American musician famous for hit songs such as, “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” with a theme of “island escapism” throughout his career.
- Catherine Ann “Cat” Cora – A successful American chef who became more widely known for her role as an “Iron Chef” on the Food Network television show Iron Chef America and as co-host on the Bravo television show Around the World in 80 Plates.
- Trishelle Cannatella – An actress and model best known for her appearances on the MTV reality show, The Real World: Las Vegas.
- Brett Favre – A former NFL quarterback well-known for his career with the Green Bay Packers.
- Ray Guy – A former NFL punter for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.
- Clarence Weatherspoon, Sr. – A former NBA player. While playing for Southern Miss, he was three-time Metro Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year – the only player to have had the honor three times.
- Phil Bryant – Since 2012, he is serving as the 64th (and current) Governor of Mississippi. Before becoming Governor, he served as the 31st Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi.
- Evelyn Gandy – She was the first woman to be elected to a statewide office in the state of Mississippi as Treasurer for the State of Mississippi. She went on to be elected insurance commissioner and later served as the 26th Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi.
- Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas – The former President and now is President Emeritus of The University of Southern Mississippi.
- Martha Dunagin Saunders – She is a native of Mississippi and became an American professor and academic official.
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