May 2, many gathered to witness the inauguration of the 10th president of The University of Southern Mississippi, Rodney Bennett. The ceremony took place at Bennett Auditorium at 2 pm.
Faculty, students and staff, along with federal and state officials, came together for the celebration. The event began with the precession of the deans and professors from the different colleges at USM. Then, with everyone on his or her feet, Bennett walked into the auditorium.
President emeritus Aubrey K. Lucas led the event. He spoke of the Board of Trustees decision in appointing Bennett to the position, the changes Southern Miss has undergone throughout the years and acknowledged the guests of honor, including members of the Bennett family.
Selected guests of honor gave short speeches. Gov. Phil Bryant sent a letter in his regards congratulating the president and the university and apologized for not being in attendance due to the storms that recently plagued Mississippi and other parts of the Southeast.
President emeritus of the University of Georgia and long-time friend of Bennett’s, Michael Adams gave one of the most poignant speeches of the afternoon. He addressed the historical matter of the occasion. Bennett is the first African-American to be named president of a university in the state of Mississippi.
“I dreamed of days like this,” Adams said.
Bennett worked under Adams for 12 years at the University of Georgia, where Bennett previously held the position of vice-president of student affairs. Bennett calls Adams a mentor and a friend.
The State Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds and Aubrey Patterson, president of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, then formally invested the man of the hour.
Bennett was then given time to speak on his own behalf and behalf of the university. He gave thanks to his family, friends and mentors, such as Adams. He then thanked many guests in attendance. He spoke of his goals for the university and how he plans to take Southern Miss even farther to the top.
“It’s a great day for the state of Mississippi,” said Adams.