USM Foundation announced a fundraising initiative with the Center for Military Veterans, Service Member and Families Sept. 27 after privately raising $1.8 million for a new building, which will be on the corner of Pearl Street and 38th Avenue. The building will be named Quinlan-Hammond Hall of Honor.
“At USM, we take our role as a military-friendly institution very seriously, and we work hard to support the educational goals of our service members who have given so much to ensure our freedoms are protected,” President Rodney Bennett said.
Bennet said the university is proud to be a military-friendly school and saw the need to expand from the previous building, which was significantly smaller with 1,600 square feet compared to the new proposed building’s 5,200 square feet.
“As our student military population continues to grow, we must continue to provide them with adequate space and resources designed to meet their needs,” Bennett said.
The Foundation needs $600,000 to complete the project. The building will provide more than 1,700 student veterans with a conference room, study space for small groups or individuals, a library with adjoining lounge, student meeting areas and staff office spaces.
“This space will be a significant campus landmark and a safe haven, allowing our student [veterans] to connect with others who share similar experiences,” the center’s director, Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, who is now retired from the military.
The building will be constructed on previously undeveloped land, according to the owner of Spring Architecture and Engineering Rich Bekesh, who was one of three who designed the building.
“The great thing about architecture is that from time to time in our careers we have an opportunity to produce buildings that have a positive impact on people’s lives,” Bekesh, who is not only a Southern Miss alumnus and veteran, said. “This is one of those buildings.”
Chairman of the board of First National Bankers Bankshares Inc., Southern Miss alumnus and veteran Joseph F. Quinlan Jr. is the lead donor for the project. Quinlan said he is honored to have his name attached to the building along with Hammond’s.
Quinlan said he saw this as an opportunity to not only give back to his university, but also to give back to those in military service.
“I see veterans coming home from conflicts looking for the fulfillment of a lot of promises that are made: aid, medical services, etc., and a lot of times, it just seems to fall through the cracks,” Quinlan said. “This is our way of trying to give back some of the respect that these veterans and their families so richly deserve.”
Any funds raised over the $2.4 million goals will go into an endowment to provide support for the center. Quinlan said they want to have the complete funding by the end of the year.
“We are well over halfway in the funding to this, but I would tell you that it is going to require some more giving and some more asking,” Quinlan said.
Individuals can donate by going to the USM Foundation website.