The recent installation of ‘Lofty Return,’ a pair of golden eagle statues, contributed by Chuck Scianna, has put him in the spotlight at Southern Miss once again. The USM alumnus has been the benefactor behind many new campus projects on campus in the last few years.
Even with so many notable contributions made to Southern Miss, Scianna has managed to stay out of the limelight.
“He does not like to brag about things,” said Vice President of University Advancement and Executive Director of the USM Foundation Bob Pierce.
The man behind the $5 million pledge that led to the naming of Scianna Hall, the ‘Lofty Return’ statues, scholarship donations and funding for Eaglepalooza, has a story worth telling.
“He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and doesn’t take himself seriously,” Pierce said. “For someone that has achieved such a high level of professional success, that is important to know.”
A Bay St. Louis native, Scianna graduated from Southern Miss in 1975 with a degree in finance. During his time in Hattiesburg, he worked full time as a co-manager for A&P Food Stores to put himself through school. Currently, he is the co-founder and president of Sim-Tex L.P., based out of Waller, Texas. The company is one of the leading suppliers of oil country tubular goods.
Scianna has hired many people over the years, and to him, the importance of work ethic can’t be understated.
“As an employer, and most employers that I know, give preference to those that worked while they were in school, participated in band or athletics —did more than just be a student,” Scianna said. “It doesn’t show they are smarter, but it shows how they have tenacity, drive and motivation.”
Scianna had plenty of tenacity when he relocated to Texas after he graduated to pursue a career in the oil industry.
“At that time period, there were not a lot of jobs in Mississippi,” he said. “I went west to Texas with a vision of getting into the oil field somehow. A man’s word was his bond. The Texas oil men were bigger than life. The oil field was glamorous, sexy, a huge attraction. It still is.”
Scianna said Texas was and continues to be a state of mind: One of independence and unlimited opportunity. In addition to his career in the oil field, he’s a Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran.
Now the businessman and his wife, Rita, invest time and funds to many charitable organizations including the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Minitz Foundation.
Despite his community involvement, Scianna doesn’t believe he and his wife are charitable people.
“We are not charitable individuals, because we have great expectations that the recipients will be good stewards and invest it properly,” he said. “We want to see a significant return—more people with better educations and better facilities.”
Pierce disagreed with Scianna’s self-assessment.
“He is incredibly generous,” Pierce said. “He refers to his contributions as investments and expects a return on charities he supports. He expects the money not only to make a difference but to see how his investment will pay off.”
Pierce said Scianna has made small monetary gifts to the university throughout the years, but his major gift-giving started in 2011 with a $5 million pledge to the construction of the new business building that will bear his name.
“It was an incredible gift. The building would not be under construction now were it not for Chuck Scianna,” Pierce said. “It was absolutely overwhelming—not many people give such a significant investment so early in the relationship.”
He said Scianna pledged an additional $1 million in May 2012 to get a matching donation.
‘Lofty Return’ was in the same vein.
Pierce said Scianna offered to commission the sculptures without the university asking or expecting the contribution.
“It’s got such an emotional impact for students and faculty to show pride for the golden eagles. And finally, this is the first time the emblem is the same in both Hattiesburg and the Gulf Coast,” Pierce said, referring to the identical statue being installed on the Gulf Coast campus.
Scianna’s pride in his alma mater is clear in his investments, and in his continued involvement on campus. He delivered the commencement address in Spring 2012, and he still wears his Southern Miss class ring. When asked what his advice is for students, he spoke to something that seems to be his area of expertise.
“Don’t lie to yourself and to other people,” Scianna said. “If you are yourself you will be successful.”