Students, faculty honored in ceremony

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Rodney Bennett presents Brandon Baker with a plate commemorating his acceptance into the Student Hall of Fame Thursday afternoon in Bennett Auditorium.  Zachary Odom / Printz
Rodney Bennett presents Brandon Baker with a plate commemorating his acceptance into the Student Hall of Fame Thursday afternoon in Bennett Auditorium.
Zachary Odom / Printz

Thursday, March 27 The University of Southern Mississippi celebrated the 104th anniversary of its founding in 1910.

The Founders’ Day Ceremony, took place at 3 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium, honored outstanding students and professors, as well as hosted the inauguration of the 2014-2015 Student Government Association officers.

Awards were given to Nina Bellipanni, Danielle Block, Wisam Buti, Aaliyah Cole, Jaylen Hackett, Kelly Hill, Zachary Irons, Mary Karnes, Douglas LeBlanc and Savannah Steadman for being outstanding freshmen with regards to grades, extracurricular activities and campus involvement. The Most Outstanding Freshman Female award went to Mary Spooner, and the Most Outstanding Freshman Male award went to Matthew McMullan.

The awards for Best Female Citizen and Best Male Citizen went to Kelly Rake and Steven Panepinto, respectively, in honor of all they have done to improve the USM campus and the Hattiesburg community.

The Leave It Better Than You Found It Award, created in 2009 by the Division of Student Affairs, is an annual award given to a graduating senior who embodies the idea of leaving Southern Miss better than he or she found it by means of hard work, leadership and determination. The 2014 award was given to Alex Doleac.

The Barbara Ross Gold Leaf Scholarship, established in 2012, is an annual award that was awarded for the first time this year to Kristin Rylee House. The award is to be given annually to a Greek Life student who embodies the values of The Gold Leaf society, a group dedicated to the improvement of the university.

The 2014 Hall of Fame inductees are Brandon Troy Baker, Torrel Bridges, Ann Marie Chilcutt, Brandon Hersey, Donald Holmes, Hannah Rice, Michael Sims, Owen Terry and Eryka Wallace.
The most prestigious awards, the Phi Kappa Phi Bowl and the Judge R.J. Bishop Mississippian Award, were awarded to Caitlyn Burkes and David Fondren, respectively. The Phi Kappa Phi Bowl is the highest academic merit award that students can receive, and the Judge R.J. Bishop Award is given to a student who has shown extreme work ethic and determination by pursuing an education despite economic, familial or physical hardships.

Three professors joined the Centennial Legacy Circle during the ceremony as well. Places in the Centennial Legacy Circle are awarded to professors who have dedicated their time to the university for more than 40 years. This year’s inductees are Philip Kolin, distinguished professor of English; Charles McCormick, professor of polymer science and William Odom, professor of German.

Once the awards were given to their recipients, the ceremony proceeded with the inauguration of the new Student Government Association officers. Outgoing SGA President Ann Marie Chilcutt delivered a speech in honor of this event.

“Founder’s Day is, I will have to say, one of my favorite days to be at Southern (Miss),” Chilcutt said. “It is such a happy day that is filled with the celebration of the founding of this institution, which has produced so many successful students, created so many remarkable memories and ultimately provided so many resources, connections and opportunities for each person that walks onto our campus.”
Chilcutt continued to discuss what Southern Miss means to her and to express her support of the incoming body of officers. “With an incredible year and future ahead of us, and the joy surrounding Southern Miss today, it truly is a great day to be a Golden Eagle,” she said in conclusion.

The new officers took their pledges with Jeffrey George as president, Kyle Stoner as vice president, Wilton Jackson as attorney general and Meredith Barefield as election commissioner.
Jeffrey George took the stage with a speech in honor of his new position as Student Body President.

“Over the next year, I am challenged with the task of serving, representing and leading our entire student body, and this is not a task I take lightly,” George said. “I am humbled to have the opportunity to impact each student that steps foot on this campus, and I am honored to be able to serve our students to the best of my ability every day.”

Those in attendance felt the 2014 Founders’ Day ceremony was truly a remarkable one filled with celebration and hope for the future of this university. As George said at the close of his speech, “We are Golden Eagles, and the only way we know how to fly is to the top.”