Bennett officially named president of USM
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Five months after listening sessions were held in the Thad Cochran Center detailing the type of leader students, faculty, staff and community members would like to see hired, a tearful and thankful Dr. Rodney Bennett stood before a crowd and accepted the position as the tenth president of the University of Southern Mississippi.
“Wow, what a journey,” Bennett said from the podium. “This is one of those moments in life that you dream about, I’m so happy my dream has come true in Hattiesburg.”
After months of searching and an in-depth interview process, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees announced their final choice to take over the presidency this afternoon.
The press conference was the culmination of a 20-step process that began when Dr. Martha Saunders suddenly resigned her presidential post in spring 2012.
“I understand leadership when I see it,” said Ed Blakeslee, president of the Board of Trustees.
At one of the forums, a Southern Miss graduate came forward to welcome Bennett and ask about his plans to stay in Hattiesburg for more than a few years.
“We need a president who will be here for a long time and be successful,” she said.
“The reception I have received since coming to the state, from the governor to the people of this state, leads me to think there is no reason to not come into this job expecting to be here for a long time,” Bennett responded.
“Having said that, I don’t think anyone can be here as long as Dr. Lucas,” Bennett said with a laugh. “If that’s your expectation, we may have another problem.”
Bennett also fielded student questions concerning the cost of tuition.
“I’m very sensitive to the cost of attendance for students,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to keep it affordable.”
At the first session that was reserved for faculty, Bennett spoke to a packed room about uniting for the overall good of the university.
“The thing we have to think about everyday is coming to work and creating a path of success for students,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to make some hard decisions about our own behavior and how we can encourage these students.”
To view the video, click here.