Alumnus Will Simpson '00 was selected for the inaugural Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.

Simpson selected for inaugural Presidential Leadership Scholars Program

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Delta State alumnus William Simpson is one of 60 scholars selected to participate in the inaugural class of The Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, a leadership development initiative supported by former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The program allows scholars like Simpson to interact with distinguished professors and former administrative officials as a way to develop their talents. The initiative also utilizes the presidential centers of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George W. Bush.

Simpson discovered the six-month program while reading the Wall Street Journal, and his interest grew when he watched its promotional video on From there, he logged onto and submitted an application, which required the submission of essays, three references and details of a personal leadership project.

“I almost talked myself out of applying,” Simpson said. “I didn’t want to inconvenience people with writing recommendations for me.”

The program is non-degree bearing, entails approximately 100 hours of informative sessions and case studies, and covers expansive approaches to leadership theory while drawing upon examples from recent presidents.

After being evaluated and later interviewed by three panelists online, Simpson was notified of his acceptance over the Christmas holidays. The inaugural program began in February.

While in the scholars program, Simpson aims to develop the skills he uses daily as deputy administrator at the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

“I want to do my job here better and grow personally,” he said. “I want to help Mississippi. I live and I work here.”

The alumnus, who graduated in 2000 with a degree in social science, is a Jackson, Miss. resident who grew up in Clarksdale. He is also involved in a leadership project, the Oakley Youth Development Center. As part of the initiative, Simpson reaches out and aids troubled youth.

Simpson, a former SGA president at Delta State, credits the university for being a critical source of leadership at an influential time in his life.

“Delta State is where I first recognized what leadership is and its importance,” he said. “Most of what I bring to the table as a leader traces back to a skill or concept introduced to me at the university. Those skills — particularly communication — make me a better lawyer and public administrator.”

His advice to those interested in applying for the scholars program is to “gear your program around helping people.”

This concept is embedded in the scholar program’s curriculum, which concentrates on four principles: vision and communication; decision-making; influence and persuasion; and building coalitions.

Utilizing program features such as leadership skill-building and peer learning group sessions, the program aims to aid its scholars.

During the program’s first week, the group visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where Dr.  Robert M. Gates, former Secretary of Defense, was a speaker.

“It was fantastic because you got to see him up close and personal,” Simpson said. “He was candid.”

Simpson is thrilled to be included amongst his selective peers and be meeting some of America’s most distinguished leaders.

“I almost have to pinch myself,” he said.

This week, the group will visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, followed by the George W. Bush Presidential Center in April, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in May and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in June.

The inaugural class will graduate at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas in July. Learn more about the program at


Delta State Preview coming to Jackson

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Delta State University is hosting an event in the City With Soul April 7 called Preview in Jackson, an interactive college fair for potential students in the greater Jackson area.

Students, parents, counselors, alumni and friends local to Jackson are invited to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum from 4:30-7 p.m. The center is located at 1152 Lakeland Dr. in Jackson.

President William N. LaForge, administrative and academic representatives, and current students will be on hand to talk one-on-one about the university’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs, financial aid, scholarships, campus life, admissions and more.

Southwest Mississippi Admissions Recruiter, Robyn Rouse, said the event is sure to be a beneficial experience for prospective students.

“I look forward to helping Delta State get its name out there,” said Rouse. “There are plenty of students in the Jackson area who don’t know a lot about Delta State, our affordable tuition and all the programs we have to offer.

“A lot of community college students think four-year colleges cost too much, but Delta State has such an inexpensive tuition rate compared to other universities. And the fact we can stack scholarships will also peak the interest of Jackson students and their parents.”

The goal behind Preview in Jackson is convenience and accessibility for those interested in Delta State. More than 20 academic departments will be available to answer questions about classes and career paths.

Door prizes will be given away throughout the event, and light refreshments will be served. The come-and-go atmosphere will include kid-friendly activities.

This is the second Preview for the institution following last month’s inaugural event in Memphis.

For more information, visit or contact Rouse at 662-402-0867.

Delta State alumnus Dr. Doug Scarborough (left), and his uncle and composer Dr. Samuel Jones, recently collaborated with  Whitman College and Walla Walla Symphony for a five-day music festival called “Music 360: ‘Looking Back…Reaching Forward: The Music of Samuel Jones.”

Scarborough shines in Washington

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Dr. Doug Scarborough, Delta State University alumnus and the son of former Delta State physics professor, Dr. James “Tony” Scarborough, recently performed a trombone solo in a music festival at Whitman College in Washington.

The Whitman College and Walla Walla Symphony presentation was a five-day music festival called “Music 360: ‘Looking Back…Reaching Forward: The Music of Samuel Jones.” The event featured some of the musical compositions of the award-winning Dr. Samuel Jones, Doug’s uncle.

Doug said the symphony has about five concerts a year to highlight different people. “This one was kind of special,” he said, since two Mississippi natives and relatives got to merge their talents on stage.

The title of the festival refers to how classical music has changed over the years.

“[Jones’] music stands for the type of music that was able to survive,” Doug said. “The pendulum always swings back.”

Doug, who grew up in Cleveland, has showcased his talent on the trombone and other instruments in various parts of the world, including Asia and the Middle East. He has worked alongside Arturo Sandoval as trombonist, the Gypsy All-Stars as a bassist and Shawn Lane as a keyboardist.

Currently, Doug is an assistant professor of music and director of Jazz Studies at Whitman College, where he has won three Down Beat jazz awards for his performances.

During his youth, he attended Cleveland public schools for 12 years and went on to become an honor graduate at Delta State University. At Delta State, he played trombone in the Delta State Band and played keyboard in Delta State’s Renaissance, a popular vocal group.

In preparation for the festival, Doug practiced and trained meticulously for his trombone solo.

“Musicians are like athletes in many ways,” he said. “There is an immense amount of training before they are seen by the public.”

His piece contained trills and extremely high and low notes, which made the concerto quite difficult.

The composer for the event, Jones, also hails from the Mississippi Delta. He spent part of his childhood in Indianola and graduated from Central High School in Jackson.

He earned his claim to fame working his way up the ranks as a conductor, eventually becoming the conductor of the major American orchestra Rochester Philharmonic. He later founded Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, and he has composed a number of symphonies and chorus, opera and chamber group pieces.

Although some of his compositions are several decades old, “It’s all still as alive as the day I wrote,” said Jones.

Jones was thrilled with the festival performances and honored to take part in an event featuring his nephew.

“Everyone associated was terribly talented,” he said. “The Whitman college faculty are uniformly first class musicians. At the top of the list is Doug. Not only do we genetically bond, but the same is true musically as well.”

Doug’s father, Tony, could not be more proud of his son’s performance in conjunction with Jones.

“We just don’t have such things happen,” Tony said. “It’s a terrific honor for this area.”

Learn more about the festival at








Principals of Gresham Petroleum and Double Quick (left to right), Bill McPherson, Tom Gresham and Walton Gresham, recently supported Delta State University and the Delta State University with record-breaking scholarships to the Delta State University College of Business.

Gresham Petroleum and Double Quick make record-breaking donation

By | Academics, Alumni, College of Business, Community, Faculty/Staff, Foundation, President, Students | No Comments

Thanks to the principals of the Indianola-based sister companies Gresham Petroleum and Double Quick, Delta State University and the Delta State University Foundation are pleased to announce the groundbreaking Gresham-McPherson Endowed Scholarships in the College of Business.

This Gresham Petroleum/Double Quick gift is the largest unrestricted scholarship gift in the history of Delta State University’s College of Business. Contributors include: Thomas & Louise Gresham Endowed Scholarship Fund, $75,000; Walton & Laura Gresham Endowed Scholarship Fund, $75,000; and the Bill & Draughon McPherson Endowed Scholarship Fund.

These monumental gifts total $225,000. Additionally, Gresham Petroleum/Double Quick is donating $10,000 each for the next five years to contribute $50,000 toward marketing.

Discussion of the scholarships began when William N. LaForge, president of Delta State University, and Keith Fulcher, executive director of the Delta State University Foundation, approached Gresham Petroleum/Double Quick — companies with long histories of supporting students through internships and hiring Delta State graduates.

“When President LaForge and Keith approached us about helping Delta State, we decided we wanted to help the College of Business,” said Tom. “We realized the importance Delta State has for the Delta, and we’ve hired so many Delta State graduates.

“We’ve had for several years an accounting internship program through Delta State. Many of those interns have gone on to be our employees, and we realized that Delta State has a great product. The students are ready for the working world and very prepared to join our team as soon as they graduate.”

McPherson added that the quality of students coming out of the College of Business played a major role in designating the funds to the business program.

“They come in able to learn our business, join our accounting team and some even move on to other areas of the company,” said McPherson. “Some came through the accounting internship and some came on right after college. There are Delta State graduates in all facets of our business.”

Giving back to a university that has consistently given them a great product seemed like a no-brainer to Walton and Laura.

“It’s important we give back to the area, and we felt like this was the way we could impact the Delta,” said Walton. “If the Delta is going to continue to grow and prosper, we need to make sure young students can depend on Delta State to further their education.”

LaForge said the contributions would greatly enhance to the quality of students who continue to graduate from Delta State.

“This is a perfect connection between academics at Delta State and business in the Delta. It provides the ideal loop,” said LaForge. “Students benefit from the scholarship support being provided to pursue their studies in accounting, excellent accounting students graduate from our program, and Double Quick/Gresham Petroleum is able to recruit newly-minted accountants to work in their headquarters.

“Delta State is immensely appreciative to Bill McPherson and Tom and Walton Gresham for their contributions and generosity. Their investment in our students is an investment in the Delta, as well as in their own businesses.”

Gresham Petroleum has been around since the late 1920s and is a wholesale fuel distributor throughout Northwest Mississippi and Southeastern Arkansas.

Double Quick has over 50 convenience stores primarily in the same regions. Learn more about both companies at and

Fulcher could not be happier with the generous support to the university.

“The gift amount demonstrates to others that Delta State University graduates are a vital part of the economic engine of the Mississippi Delta,” said Fulcher. “These graduates often comprise a significant percentage of the workforce of successful businesses like Gresham Petroleum and Double Quick.”

Learn more about giving opportunities through the Delta State University Foundation at

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Campus prepares for second Go Green Weekend

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The Delta State University community eagerly awaits the second annual Go Green Weekend, scheduled on campus March 27-29.

The exciting program of activities is sponsored by Delta State’s Office of Admissions, National Alumni Association, Athletics and Student Government Association.

Celebrate the spring season with live entertainment, tailgating, a jambalaya cook-off, athletic games, activities for the family and more. Come out to support the Statesmen and Okra for a weekend of food, fun and sports.

March 28 also doubles as Spring Visit Day — an opportunity for potential students, both high school and transfer, to get a taste of campus. Visitors will be able to directly meet with faculty and staff members, current students and alumni. Those planning to attend are urged to register for the visit online at

Chris Gaines, director of recruiting, said the purpose of Go Green Weekend is to encourage the entire Delta State community to unite and show potential students that Delta State is an outstanding university.

“We want this weekend to build on last year’s success, especially from a student perspective,” said Gaines. “This is a perfect opportunity for everyone to show their support for green and white, and show pride in everything that makes Delta State such a phenomenal institution.”

Student Government Association President Mikel Sykes said the weekend has a little something for everyone, and students are looking forward to this year’s schedule.

“Students had a lot of positive feedback about our first attempt at Go Green Weekend in 2014,” said Sykes. “This year promises to be even better. I really think students and potential students will appreciate that we know how to have fun at Delta State.”

“This wouldn’t be possible without the support from the Union Program Council for organizing and funding activities,” he added.

Events kick off March 27 at 6 p.m. with the jambalaya cook-off at Statesmen Park, followed by live entertainment.

Saturday’s events begin with the Wyatt Golf Classic at 8 a.m. at the Cleveland County Club, followed by the opening of Spring Visit Day at 9 a.m. Tailgating at Statesmen Park picks back up at noon, along with a kids zone and music. The following vendors will also be set up in Statesmen Park: Crustacean’s Crawfish, Domino’s Pizza, Southern Style Snow Cones and Aramark Concessions.

The All-Star Cheerleaders will perform at the park at 1:30 p.m., and awards for the cooking competitions begin at 2 p.m.

Also at 2 p.m., The Statesmen baseball team opens its doubleheader against University of West Georgia at Dave “Boo” Ferriss Field. The second game begins at 5:40 p.m. Lady Statesmen softball takes to the mound for its doubleheader against UWG at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The athletic competitions wrap up on Sunday with Lady Statesmen softball closing out the weekend series at 1 p.m., followed by the men at 2 p.m.

For more information on Go Green Weekend and Spring Visit Day, visit