Three USM Administrators In The Running For University President

Three University of Southern Mississippi administrators are among the presidential candidates expected to be interviewed by the state College Board, officials say.

The board is also sorting through candidates for president at Mississippi University for Women. Finalists for both positions could be announced next week, said College Board spokeswoman Pam Smith.

Getting strong support in Southern Mississippi alumni and business circles is Shelby Thames, a USM research professor and longtime polymer science chief. He is the school's former executive vice president.

"Dr. Thames has got a good background to get things done,'' said Steve Strickland, a 1986 USM alumnus and Jackson financial analyst.

Don Cotten, USM vice president for research, and Tim Hudson, dean of international programs, are also presidential prospects. Board members acknowledged receiving letters in support of the three administrators.

Aubrey Lucas, USM president from 1975 to 1996, is the Hattiesburg-based school's interim leader. The board is seeking a successor to Horace Fleming Jr., who resigned in July.

The board is also taking steps to select a new president at Mississippi State after Mack Portera resigned to head the University of Alabama system in January.