In honors of post-tornado recovery, The University of Southern Mississippi will hold a special ceremony 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 5 at the Hattiesburg campus.
The ceremony will feature a grand reopening of the Ogletree House, the iconic home of the University’s Alumni Association that suffered extensive damage from the Feb. 10, 2013 storm. The event will also include recognition of major restoration projects on campus.
Gov. Phil Bryant will mark the momentous occasion. There will be an unveiling of the Southern Miss Tornado Relief and Landscape Restoration Honor Wall, which recognizes donors who made significant contributions to the restoration campaign.
University president Rodney Bennet is excited for the celebration.
“We are able to celebrate the relentless efforts of each individual whose hard work and dedication allowed us to make substantial progress in the restoration and recovery process,” Bennett said. “I am deeply grateful to each person who supported The University of Southern Mississippi through this time of rebuilding, and I look forward to hearing about how our campus and community benefit from restored facilities and outdoor spaces.”
The EF-4 tornado that tore through the Hattiesburg area last year caused heavy damage to the southern the Southern Miss campus. The storm destroyed the front half of the Ogletree House, one of the University’s five original buildings. The structure has been since restored to its pre-tornado state.
“Over the past year and a half, the transformation that has taken place on the southernmost edge of the Hattiesburg campus has been nothing short of incredible,” said Jerry DeFatta, executive director of the Alumni Association.
The tornado’s destructive path cut directly across the front of the Hattiesburg campus. More than 75 mature trees were lost in the storm. Now new trees, sodding, shrubbery, sidewalks and lighting have helped transform the once-tattered landscape into a beautiful showcase. Enhancements also included a major renovation of historic Lake Byron.
Dr. Christopher Crenshaw, associate vice president for facilities planning and management, said that while important work remains to be done, huge strides have been made in restoring the campus’ scenic beauty.
“We are proud of our progress and the results of our landscape restoration efforts,” said Crenshaw. “We will continue our landscape enhancements believing that the results will positively impact the Southern Miss experience for all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.”