The University of Southern Mississippi and the College of Nursing celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday at 10 a.m. for the new nursing building, Asbury Hall.
University President Rodney Bennett opened the ceremony, welcoming the many esteemed guests.
“Our experiences are shaped by which the environments we live, we work and we grow,” he said. “I am excited will be offering the opportunity to learn.”
The ceremony was filled with people from the community and even the state, with dignitaries like Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, President Emeritus Aubrey K Lucas, State Senator Joey Fillingane and USM’s own SGA President Jeffrey George.
The ceremony continued with an invocation prayer from Lucas and on to a speech from Dean of the College of Nursing, Katherine Nugent. Nugent spoke passionately about the journey it took for Asbury Hall to become a reality.
“It has been an eight year journey, beginning with a statement that a college of nursing building was not going to happen,” she said. “Persistence, telling our story, and the support of people here today are what brought us to this event.”
She then spoke about the importance of the new nursing building on USM’s campus, stating that the new building would join the rest of the new buildings gracing the campus. She also addressed the benefit to the nursing students specifically, saying that a new building would create a synergistic relationship between the students and the community.
“This building is more than a beautiful building. “ Nugent said. It is a building that will extend the rich history and legacy of Southern Miss into the future.”
Reeves spoke of the positivity not only for the Hattiesburg community, but also for the entire state of Mississippi. He said that with the rising age in the general population, the shortage of nurses could not be ignored. “In Mississippi, we need more healthcare professionals. Because of the aging demographic in our state and nationally, we are going to continue to see an increase in need for healthcare professionals.”
Reeves also stressed the importance to the state of the employment rate of students and how the new school would benefit the state financially. “I am absolutely convinced of every single person that graduates from the nursing school is that when they graduate, is that they are going to be able to get a J-O-B,” he said.
Bill Ray, President of the Asbury Foundation, also addressed the audience. The Asbury Foundation was the driving force behind the design, construction, and execution of the new building.
He addressed his experience with the shortage of nurses in the Mississippi Delta and spoke intimately to the nursing students in the audience. “Many of you will come to know the profession will know that when five o clock comes, you’ll come home satisfied,” he said.
After the indoor ceremony, participants exited to the construction site, where the ceremonial “ground-breaking” took place.
Asbury Hall is currently under construction and has no published finishing date.
“What a great day it is for the University of Southern Miss, “ Reeves said. “What a great day for Hattiesburg, and what a great day for the state of Mississippi.”