USM dedicates new Joe Paul Student Theater

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -Students at the University of Southern Mississippi can now get a movie theater experience without leaving campus.

On Saturday, the university officially dedicated the new Joe Paul Student Theater.

The 9,000-square foot facility is in the Thad Cochran Center and it is named in honor of Joe Paul, Vice President Emeritus for Student Affairs, who retired from USM in 2015.

“(The fee) would be for the sole purposes of supporting student facilities,” said Rodney Bennett, president of the University of Southern Mississippi. “We applied every bit of that money in the early years just for this project alone, because we wanted to get it completed.”

The total cost of the project was about $2 million. It was paid for by student fees of $35 per semester. The fee was created by the Student Government Association and approved by the Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

“The theater itself was constructed throughout students assessing themselves a modest fee, so they built it as student leaders,” said Joe Paul. “Around the Joe Paul Theater, we did a fundraising campaign to pay back to those student leaders to create a half million dollar scholarship endowment for future student leaders, so we’re really proud today to celebrate both of those, the scholarship and the building.”

The building has 324 seats and will be used for different types of entertainment for students.

“Ideally, we're going to show movies here that students who have limited transportation and especially on the weekends, can come and have some campus entertainment,” said Bennett. “There will be speakers here, lectures here.”

Additional donors contributed to the project by purchasing individual movie seats.

“I'm honored, I'm humbled to have this student theater named for me,” said Paul. “I'm more excited for future generations of students. This is great space. They're going to enjoy it so much.”

Also, Doug and Susan Fasano Williams provided the lead gift to name the theater’s stage.

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