USM throws memorable 100th birthday bash - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

USM throws memorable 100th birthday bash

HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - State leaders and USM students placed their mementoes into a vault.  The items included scrapbooks, footballs and posters.  They are pictures of the past and memorabilia, marking 100 years of Southern Miss history.

"Once it's buried, we'll come back in the year 2060, on March 30, and dig it up.  Hopefully, we're still around to dig it up," said J.R. Robinson, outgoing USM SGA President.

Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday for the time capsule dedication.  Clear skies and sunny weather provided a picture perfect day for the university's Founder's Day celebration.

"It's a wonderful day for the university and it's a day we've been planning for a long time," said USM President Dr. Martha Saunders.  "We are now the premier research university of and for the Gulf South."

The driving force behind the Hattiesburg campus was a group of educators, who pushed for a college for teacher training.  The university was created in 1910, with 227 students enrolled on opening day.   It has grown to two campuses and multiple teaching sites.  Today, signs of progress are still obvious, with four new dorms under construction in Century Park.

"So many new buildings.  The size of the university has grown exponentially.  The number of degrees that we're granting has grown exponentially," said IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds.  "It really is special to come back and see lots of old friends, and relive some wonderful memories, and celebrate the good things that are happening in the university."

And USM has a more prominent presence now, thanks to another USM alum.  A new Centennial Gateway now graces the main entrance at Hardy Street.  The university unveiled the name of the lead donor.  Grand Bank founder Ed Langton donated $200,000 to build the brick and cast stone structure.

"Thousands of people have gone through the portals now, through the gateway, and it has a dramatic effect on their lives. I mean, this is how you build a community, the economy, humanities, you name it," said Langton.

The plaque on the gateway reads: "Enter this gateway to fortify the mind.  Depart this gateway devoted to the betterment of mankind."

"The Gateway, of course, is symbolic of the last 100 years," said Saunders.  "It is a reflection of a place that you are coming to, where things happen for you, and that you remember well as you leave."

The day-long celebration included a Centennial Convocation, community picnic, and a special soda bottle.  A Model-T delivery truck brought the first shipment of Southern Miss Centennial soda to the campus. Coca-cola has produced 24,000 bottles with the commemorative logos.  They will be sold throughout the campus and money raised will go towards USM scholarships.

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