Lucas headlines annual convocation
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 01:09
Interim University of Southern Mississippi President Aubrey K. Lucas delivered the State of the University in Bennett Auditorium on Wednesday afternoon. The fall convocation was open to all faculty, staff and students.
As always, Lucas was clothed in a suit sported with a fancy bow tie, and he opened the convocation by embracing the crowd with energy and humor.
“The first convocation was held 100 years ago,” Lucas said. “Contrary to what many you make think, I was not there,” he said with a laugh. As he continued, Lucas recognized former university president Martha Saunders for joining Southern Miss faculty, along with 80 new tenured-track faculty members.
Every year at the convocation, a video slide-show is presented to display achievements from the year before, and this year was no exception. As the lights dimmed and the music of Coldplay sounded through the speakers, highlights from 2011-2012 were presented, including being named one of the nation’s most popular universities, raising more than $20 million for the USM Foundation and becoming C-USA champions.
Unlike like last year’s convocation, in which only Saunders addressed the university, this year’s event allowed for many speakers. Provost Denis Wiesenberg was the first to speak after Lucas and spoke of more achievements for the university.
Athletic Director Jeff Hammond also spoke at the convocation. While he spoke of upcoming events and accomplishments, much of his speech was about his time at Southern Miss and how it changed him as a person and the future of the athletic department.
“My professors at this university taught me how to think...not what to think, but how to think,” Hammond said.
Hammond said that with the help of faculty and staff, students will prosper in their careers and lives.
“When I look out here today, I see many magnificent faculty and staff,” Hammond said. “You need to know that you do touch thousands of young people’s hearts on this campus, and you do change their lives.”
Frances Lucas, vice-president of the Gulf Coast campus, was another speaker at the convocation, and just like her father, she had a sense of humor.
“Something I learned from the much older Dr. Lucas is that he taught me that there is no such thing as a bad short speech,” Lucas said.
The Gulf Coast campus in recent years has become a popular branch of USM, now enrolling over 3,100 students. It is also continuing renovation on buildings that were affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Other speakers at the convocation included Interim Vice-President of Finance and Administration Tom Estes, Vice-President of Student Affairs Joe Paul and Executive Director of the USM Foundation Bob Peters.
John Meyer, a professor in communication studies, expressed his thoughts about Southern Miss and the convocation.
“I am excited at all the new projects that are ongoing for the university,” Meyer said. “It’s going to make us more effective, and our appearance will also be super around campus.”
As Lucas closed the convocation, he spoke about one of USM’s traditions that continues at this campus.
“Our primary tradition here is change,” Lucas said. “We respect and cherish our past, but we know that changed has served us well, and it will in the future.”