Clemons named Employee of the Month

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The Delta State University Staff Council recently honored Craig Clemons, manager of custodial and support services, as the June 2018 Employee of the Month.

Clemons has worked in custodial services at Delta State since 1997. He said he remains motivated to lead his staff after being tasked with managing a crew shortly after being hired by President Emeritus Dr. Kent Wyatt.

“It warms the heart to receive this recognition,” said Clemons. “In 21 years, there have been some times where I felt beat down, but it picks me up to know that the hard work doesn’t go unrecognized.”

Clemons is a native of Duncan, Mississippi.

Made up of volunteers from the Staff Council, the Incentives & Recognition committee meets monthly to review nominations for the Employee of the Month award. The committee has been celebrating staff performance in this manner for over 15 years.

Delta State’s Staff Council serves as a liaison between the administration and the staff to provide a formal process for staff to discuss issues involving university policies and procedures and to forward ideas, recommendations and opinions to the president.

Smith wins gold medal for memoir

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty/Staff | No Comments

Mike Smith, associate professor of English at Delta State, is the recent recipient of a gold medal at the 22nd annual Independent Publisher Book Awards for his memoir “And There Was Evening and There Was Morning.”

The Independent Publisher Book Awards, also known as the IPPY Awards, is an annual book awards contest conducted to honor the year’s best independently published titles from around the world.

Smith’s memoir-in-essays explores the loss of Smith’s first wife to cancer after the birth of the second child, offering a portrait of marriage, family and tragedy. In honest and, at times, darkly comic terms, Smith documents the strange set of coincidences between his first wife’s illness and his stepdaughter’s similar battle the year his second marriage began. He examines blended families, remarriage, the efforts to help children find ways to cope with loss, and the influence of spirituality upon bereavement.

Novelist Tony D’Souza said, “Rarely does a book demand so much strength of a reader. Smith is a reflective and precise writer, [who] invites us to walk each step with him as his heart is annihilated.”

Mississippi Poet Laureate, Beth Ann Fennelly, stated, “Smith has written a book for all of us who are dying — which is to say, all of us who are living, and our lives will be the better for having read it.”

Launched in 1996 and conducted each year to honor the year’s best independently published books, the IPPY Awards recognize merit in a broad range of subjects and reward authors and publishers who “take chances and break new ground.” These winners from university and small presses give experimental authors a platform to share their stories, impart wisdom, and speak out against ignorance and prejudice.

IPPY medal-winning books will be celebrated on May 29 during the annual BookExpo publishing convention in New York, with gold, silver and bronze IPPY medallions awarded.

This year’s contest drew 4,500 entries in a variety of categories, and medals will go to authors and publishers from 43 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, and 12 countries overseas.

The work was published by WTAW Press, an independent publisher of exceptional literary books and builder of literary community.

Learn more about Smith’s book at

Doyle to exhibit cowboy photography in NYC galleries

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Delta State University photographer and news writer, Rory Doyle ‘11, will be exhibiting his ongoing documentary photography project on Mississippi Delta African-American cowboys and cowgirls at two New York City galleries in June.

On June 17 at 4 p.m., Doyle will lead an exhibit opening talk at Tikhonova+Wintner Fine Art Gallery in Harlem. On June 19 at 7 p.m., Doyle will also host an exhibit opening talk at the Half King Photo Series in Manhattan.

Doyle has been working on the project for nearly two years, traveling across the Delta to photograph a unique cowboy sub-culture.

“Everything started when I met an African-American cowboy riding his horse backwards in the Cleveland Christmas parade,” said Doyle. “He told me about an upcoming rodeo celebrating black cowboy heritage in the area, and the project expanded from there.”

Doyle took on the personal project to compliment his work at Delta State.

“Delta State has instituted a meaningful Winning The Race race-relations conference, and I feel this body of work closely aligns with conference objectives,” he said. “The conference challenges us to break down racial barriers and be more socially conscious of our neighbors. Making an effort in this regard has been such a meaningful experience. Everyone has been extremely welcoming of my camera and me.”

“Many people are unaware of the local black cowboy scene, and it’s been truly educational meeting all the riders here. Thinking about the bigger picture, black cowboys have been under-appreciated in American history.”

Throughout the project, Doyle has been researching the historical impact of black cowboys. He said historians have estimated that one in four cowboys were African-American following the Civil War — yet this population was drastically underrepresented in popular accounts.

“This work sheds light on a prominent sub-culture historically overlooked — one that’s also overlooked here in the Mississippi Delta,” Doyle said.

In April of 2018, Doyle also exhibited photos from the project at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.

“I have made strong connections in many towns, but each meeting reveals how deep and diverse this community is,” added Doyle. “Through word of mouth and social media, I’ve been introduced to a web of cowboys and cowgirls of all ages. Their advice on who to meet, and which upcoming events to attend, guides me as I continue the body of work.”

View some images from the ongoing project at

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Delta State University mourns veteran professor’s passing

By | Academics, College of Education and Human Sciences, Faculty/Staff | No Comments

The collective Delta State University community is reeling with the devastating news of the passing of Dr. Cheryl Cummins on May 19.

Cummins passed away in a car accident in Leland, Mississippi. Cheryl’s husband, Mark, was airlifted from the scene and is recovering at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Mark is an aircraft repair technician and inspector in Delta States’ Department of Commercial Aviation.

Police reports indicate that the Cummins’ were struck head-on by a vehicle that was traveling in the wrong lane.

“The Delta State University family is grieving the loss of Dr. Cheryl Cummins,” said Delta State University President William N. LaForge. “She had been actively involved with Delta State since her time as an undergraduate student in the 1980s, to her most recent role as the head of our Field Experiences program in the College of Education and Human Sciences. We are praying for a full recovery for Mark, who is also a member of the Delta State family, employed in our Commercial Aviation department, and have offered our assistance and support to their daughters, Kellie and Hayley, who are students at Delta State.”

Cummins was the Director of Field Experiences and professor of teacher education in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the university. She began working at the school in 1996 as an adjunct faculty member in elementary education.

In her role as Director of Field Experiences, she guided countless Delta State education majors as they took on their student-teaching roles.

“The legacy Dr. Cummins leaves through her varied roles in Teacher Education is manifested through the teachers she prepared and supported,” said Dr. Leslie Griffin, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences. “Her dedication to Delta State began in her undergraduate years and extended through a 21-year career in the College of Education and Human Sciences. “Dr. Cummins’ genuine caring and ability to consider the needs of students while guiding them to implement best practices in education — this is what made her the ideal person to direct their teaching experiences and prepare them for schools. We will never get beyond the ‘missing’ of this special colleague, but will endeavor to keep her memory alive through fidelity to the ideals she lived by.”

Griffin said the college established the Cheryl Jackson Cummins Memorial Scholarship in her honor. Contributions can be made at

In addition, the Faculty Senate and Staff Council at Delta State have set up a donation account at Renasant Bank under the Cheryl and Mark Cummins Fund. Details for an online donation link will be announced at a later date.

“Dr. Cummins was a very knowledgeable and giving person who always made time to help a student or a colleague,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Charles McAdams. “She was held in the highest regard by her many colleagues across campus due to her expertise in teacher education and the caring manner she treated people each and every day. She exhibited the perfect balance of character, competence and compassion, and she contributed in many important ways to the operations of the College of Education and Human Sciences. She will be greatly missed.”

Cummins received her bachelor’s degree from Delta State in elementary education in 1988, and she received her master’s degree from Delta State in elementary education in 1989. In 1996, she received her doctorate from the University of Mississippi in curriculum and instruction.

“Cheryl was one of the kindest people that I have ever worked with,” said Jamie Rutledge, vice president for Finance and Administration at Delta State. “She did so much for the university and our community without ever asking for praise or credit. The university and everyone that knew her has lost a close and dear friend. Our prayers are with her entire family.”

Funeral services will be announced at a later date.

The Campus Counseling Center is providing counseling services to members of the Delta State family seeking assistance with the grieving process.

In keeping with university protocol, Delta State will lower the university flag on the day of Dr. Cummins’ service.

Munroe hired as Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations

By | Alumni, Faculty/Staff, President | No Comments

Delta State University recently announced the hiring of Rick Munroe for the position of Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations.

Munroe comes to Delta State with an impressive background in institutional advancement with over 30 years of experience in administration, management, public relations, marketing and fundraising.

His areas of expertise include planned giving, major gifts, annual funds, endowment fundraising, capital campaigns and strategic planning.

In 2010, Munroe became a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), a measure of his professional fundraising experience.

“It is an honor to be a member of the DSU team under the leadership of President LaForge,” said Munroe. “I am looking forward to working with the alumni and friends in the community to continue and advance Delta State’s reputation as a premier regional university.”

Munroe said his immediate goals are to prepare Delta State for a successful capital campaign and to successfully communicate the amazing things happening on campus.

“My door is always open, and I want to be accessible to both the local community and the campus faculty and staff to hear their stories and understand how I may be able to best support Delta State University in my new role,” added Monroe.

He joins Delta State from his most recent position of Vice President for Alumni and Development at Trine University in Angola, Indiana. Prior to his role at Trine, Munroe served as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana from 2014-17.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge is thrilled to welcome Munroe to the administrative leadership team.

“With great anticipation, I am looking forward to Rick Munroe joining the Delta State team,” said LaForge. “His considerable experience and knowledge in the fields of fundraising, alumni relations, and communications/marketing make him the ideal choice to serve as our Vice President for Advancement and External Relations. Rick will be a terrific addition to the campus leadership and to the university.”

Munroe is also an active lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve. In the Navy, he was a division officer responsible for over 100 sailors. As the ship’s Damage Control Officer, his primary duties included the training of the entire ship’s company in fire prevention and fire suppression.

He received his MBA from Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia in 2006 and his Bachelor of Science in public affairs from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in 1985.

“I have over 30 years of leadership experience from my time as a Navy officer to vice president of three universities,” Munroe said. “Higher education changed my life, and it is my honor to be a part of something that continues to change lives today.”

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