Cochran to keynote LaForge inauguration ceremony

By October 18, 2013President

LAST UPDATED: 10.22.13

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi will be the keynote speaker for President William N. LaForge’s inauguration ceremony as the eighth president of Delta State University on Nov. 1.

The investiture ceremony is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Bologna Performing Arts Center on campus. The public is welcome to attend this historic Delta State celebration.

In keeping with academic traditions, the ritual will also include a processional of faculty, staff, students, alumni and honored guests. Delegates from other colleges and universities; Institution of Higher Learning board members; government leaders from the national, state and local level; community leaders; and key supporters of Delta State will be among the invited guests.

President Emeritus Dr. Kent Wyatt will provide the principal welcome, followed by greetings from Gov. Phil Bryant, Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell and a number of Delta State University leaders.

Prior to LaForge taking the official oath of office, the highlight of the ceremony will be the address by Cochran, whose personal and professional connections to President LaForge span more than 30 years.

First elected to Congress in 1972, Cochran is currently the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, having previously chaired the committee from 2003- 2005. He also chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee from 2005-2007.

His conservative approach and steady hand have helped shape local, state and national policy for over 40 years.

LaForge, who made a name for himself in Washington, eventually became Cochran’s chief of staff — marking the second state university president to hold this title. Mark Keenum from Mississippi State University is the other.

LaForge said Cochran was one of the first people to call him when the board appointed him as Delta State president in February.

“I am very pleased to accept the invitation to speak at the inauguration ceremony of Bill LaForge as president of Delta State University,” said Cochran. “His educational background, which includes teaching and experiences in government, are unique qualifications for his service as president of this university.

“He is well qualified to challenge the student body to take advantage of the special blessings of education, opportunities and freedoms secured by the Constitutional protections of a successful democracy.”

While their relationship transcends the political arena, their time together in Washington helped bring about an era of change in Senate operations and office structures.

“In the mid-1980s, the senator decided to reorganize his office operations,” said LaForge. “He asked me to come up with a plan that would encompass his personal office in Washington, his Mississippi offices, his leadership office and his committee responsibilities.

“The result was the beginning of the chief of staff concept that charged the chief of staff with a large portfolio of responsibility in all those areas, but also created semiannual staff evaluations, professional staff development opportunities, improved internal communications and a higher level of accountability.”

“It also seemed to result in a boost in staff morale, “ LaForge added. “The senator and I worked on the plan meticulously and we implemented it in 1985. It worked well from the beginning and continues in place today.”

Most other senate offices have adopted the same structure and organization.

“I was privileged to be his first chief of staff under the new organizational structure,” said LaForge. “I will always be grateful to the senator for placing the trust in me both to serve in that position, and to help develop these organizational changes because the experience has been beneficial to me in my career many times over.”

While the inauguration ceremony is sure to bring great joy to campus and the community, dozens of highlight activities are planned in a weeklong celebration leading up to the main event.

Some of these prominent events include a special lecture series featuring nationally recognized speakers; a fine arts exhibit; musical performances; a community gathering and fireworks show, and more. The activities will conclude on Nov. 2 with Homecoming festivities.

For a complete inauguration schedule, please visit the inaugural website at

— All inauguration events are funded through private support to the Delta State University Foundation. No university funds are being used during the week of activities.

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