The University of Southern Mississippi kicked off a 100 million dollar fund raising campaign Friday.
USM president, Dr. Horace Fleming, calls the campaign a significant milestone in school history.
The three year effort will raise money for merit scholarships, faculty development and ongoing expansion plans at the Gulf Coast campus.
USM alumni and friends filled Hardy Hall to hear the historic announcement. Amid growing concern about state support for public schools, the university is turning to the private sector.
"We've always felt that the state cannot support us to achieve the level of excellence that we need to achieve. They can support us for adequacy, and are having a lot of challenge in doing that, but if we're to be the institution that we envision, it will take private support to achieve it," university president, Dr. Horace Fleming, said.
The University of Southern Mississippi quietly began the fund raising several years ago and has already received more than 45 million of the 100 million dollar goal.
"Now, obviously, we're going to be positive about this," said the campaign chairman, wearing his trademare bow tie.
A familiar friend to USM will lead the fund raising. Dr. Aubrey Lucas has agreed to take on that challenge.
"The important thing is good friends, is we can do it. We can do it. Each of us can. We can do it. We must do it. We must do it."
Money raised in this campaign will help fund five priority areas: merit scholarships, faculty and staff development, libraries and technology, athletics and continued expansion of the Gulf Coast campus.
Expansion of the Long Beach campus is already well underway. The fund raising campaign will allow those facilities to be first class.
Dr. Jim Williams is dean of the Gulf Park campus.
"We've had a very limited library here and we're very excited about the possibility of building a truly strong library. So that's going to be one of the impacts of this campaign. We think we'll be able to properly build the resources to go with the new building there."
USM leaders say the campaign theme is appropriate: "Our time is Now".