Virginia Thompson collection highlighted by Mississippi Digital Library

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Documenting letters from American war heroes with ties to Delta State is just one of the many things University Archivist Emily Jones has been up to lately.

Jones and graduate assistant Jessica Tubbs spent over 300 hours uploading the entire collection of letters sent to campus during World War II from former student-soldiers.

The compilation is titled the Virginia Thompson collection because most of the letters were addressed to Thompson, who served as the secretary to Delta State President William Kethley.

The assortment was recently featured on the website of the Mississippi Digital Library,, and in its email newsletter. The site is dedicated to the state’s rich abundance of cultural and historical resources held by institutions and repositories.

“We have finally finished digitizing and have uploaded the entire Virginia Thompson collection,” said Jones. “Jessica created the metadata to make this collection searchable online.”

Throughout the process, Tubbs found numerous side stories that remind readers these letters are just moments in the lives of former student-soldiers. An example of Tubbs’ archiving is available at:

For the past three years on Veterans Day, volunteers have lent their voices to these letters at a public reading at the Capps Archives & Museum building on campus. Only a mere handful of letters from the enormous collection are read.

Jones said selecting which letters to read is akin to choosing a favorite friend to invite to lunch.

“It’s a hard decision. I’m just thrilled that the entire collection of letters are available for family members, alumni and all of our other friends to review at their leisure,” said Jones. “As we look to celebrate 90 years at Delta State, remembering and celebrating the gift of freedom secured by those who fought and served in the war effort will be made that much easier now that this collection is online.”

Jones added that she hopes the increased public access to the Virginia Thompson collection will encourage others in the Mississippi Delta to deposit their materials with the Delta State University Archives.

For more information, visit

Five Delta State presidents

More than half of presidential history

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Amidst all the energy and excitement during the inauguration week of Delta State University President William N. LaForge, one quick gathering brought together more than half of the university’s presidential history.

The five living Delta State presidents managed to assemble on Nov. 1 for a private portrait following the Delegate’s Breakfast, shortly before LaForge was officially honored as the institution’s eighth president.

In order of service, Dr. Aubrey Lucas, Dr. Kent Wyatt, Dr. David Potter, Dr. John Hilpert and LaForge came together for the five presidents photograph.

“At the institutional level, it was a wonderful tribute to Delta State to have the four previous living leaders here to join in as we celebrated excellence,” said LaForge. “The photo was a unique moment because so much of the history of Delta State was encapsulated in one space and one moment in time.”

Hilpert, who passed the torch to LaForge after leading the green and white for 10 years, said he was thrilled to be associated with the presidential past and present.

“I enjoyed seeing colleagues who also served as presidents of Delta State,” said Hilpert. “During our years of service, each of us met particular challenges and mined unique opportunities. Events prompted our decisions, and the efforts of the university community led to any and all successes.

“I join everyone in well wishes for the future.”

Potter, who served from 1999-2002, said Delta State’s future is bright in the hands of its new leader.

“I think the board made an excellent choice in President LaForge,” said Potter. “He knows the institution and its place in the Delta community, has an impressive statewide network of relationships from his years in D.C., and has strong academic credentials as well.

“In his inauguration speech, he articulated a strategy for development of the university that is right on target given the challenges Delta State faces — a remarkable understanding of the issues given the short time he has been in office.”

Wyatt (1975-1999), who remains a constant figure of support to the university, was reminded of the distinct connection the five share.

“It was very special for me coming together like that because I have served with all four of them,” said Wyatt. “I was an administrative assistant for Aubrey Lucas, and of course, served as President Emeritus with David Potter, John Hilpert and now, Bill LaForge.

“I feel fortunate to have become friends with this distinguished group of gentlemen, each providing unique leadership to Delta State.”

Wyatt added that the highlight of inauguration week was witnessing the official investiture and seeing LaForge take the realms of the beloved institution.

“I look forward to lending my voice in support of President LaForge’s quest for excellence in all of Delta State’s endeavors.”

For Lucas, who served from 1971-1975, convening for the photo provided a humorous realization.

“I’m getting older — all of them arrived at Delta State after I was there,” joked Lucas. “Being together gave me a sense of history and also reminded me, that through the years, Delta State has been blessed by the people of the institution who have wanted to serve it well.”

According to LaForge, it is his true honor to follow in the footsteps of the group’s great commitment. All of the past presidents have been faithful advisors in his transition.

“There are three moments that stick out as highlights during inauguration week,” said LaForge. “The first being when the picture was taken. I think it gave all of us a sense of pride by representing generations of leadership at Delta State.

“Second, when we were robing. Each of them came up to me to wish me well before the ceremony. And third, looking over at them all together on stage just after my investiture — it made me realize what a responsibility this is, and I thank them for their guidance.”

While it was just a brief occasion during the hectic inauguration schedule, the portrait brought all five leaders together for a notable presidential moment in Delta State history.

“It was extremely special to have all of them here for inauguration,” said LaForge. “They showed flags of unity and solidarity — as the Delta State family always should.”


Minority vendor workshops planned

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Delta State University will host a series of minority vendor workshops throughout the region on Nov. 25 in an effort to strengthen its ties to the minority business community.

The workshops will focus on the needs of the university and how minority vendors may be able to partner with the institution to meet those needs. Each event is free to all minority vendors who preregister, however space is limited to the first 25 preregistered vendors at each event.

The time and location for each workshop is: Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale, Lewis Annex, Room 301, 9:30 a.m.; Delta State University, Janice Wyatt Conference Room in Kent Wyatt Hall, noon; and Greenville Higher Education Center, Conference Room, 4:00 p.m.

“Our primary goal behind this is to reach out to minority business in the Delta and see how we can work with them — help them get involved with the university spin,” said Sam Washington, workshop facilitator.

“Hopefully we can work out some agreements as we see this as another way for Delta State to be a good steward of public trust.”

For more information or for those wishing to attend, contact Washington at 662-719-3911 or e-mail at Please provide your business name, business type, mailing address, phone number and the name of the person(s) who will attend.

LaForge to speak at United Family Life Center

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As a center for local involvement and outreach, the United Family Life Center in Cleveland hosts events year-round that are community oriented. Some of these events include sporting activities, youth programs, summer feeding platforms and theatrical events.

On Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., the UFLC will host a distinguished banquet in celebration of a few community members who have shown outstanding responsibility and leadership. Delta State University President William N. LaForge will be a guest speaker at the affair.

The event, appropriately themed “Working with the Power to Change Lives: Pitch In and Serve,” will serve as a fundraiser for the center and awards will be presented for ministry, education, humanitarian, business, public service, health care and Angel Among Angels.

“I am looking forward to visiting with the United Family Life Center congregation to speak with them about exciting things that are going on at Delta State and how we can work together as community partners,” LaForge said.

The banquet is an annual event for the UFLC, and it serves as both a way to recognize outstanding individuals and raise funds for the center’s wide range of activities and programs.

The awards are given to those who have stood out in their field and who have proven themselves valuable in contributing to the community.

This year, the ministry award will be presented to Rev. Larry King, the educational award to Dr. Billy Moore, the humanitarian award to Ola Kirk, the business award to Sadie’s Alterations, the health care award to Dr. Degail Hadley and the Angel Among Angels award to Mary Williams.

The event will be held at the center and admission includes a meal at the ceremony. A social hour will take place from 6-7 p.m. with the banquet immediately following. For more information, contact 662-843-3097.

Staff Council participates in statewide meetings

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Four members of Delta State’s Administrative Staff Council’s Executive Committee traveled to Hattiesburg to participate in MASCO Day on Oct. 30.

The Mississippi Association of Staff Council Organizations (MASCO) is a statewide group representing staff from the eight institutions in the Institutions of Higher Learning system.

Held at the University of Southern Mississippi, the meeting was attended by 25 staff members representing seven of the eight universities; Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Representing Delta State University’s Staff Council was Robin Boyles, chair; Marilyn Read, chair-elect; Vickie Williams, secretary/treasurer; and Suzanne Simpson, public relations coordinator. The trip was made possible through a Bryce Griffis grant.

“Meeting with other Staff Council officers affirmed for me that our Staff Council here at Delta State is an active and integral part of our campus,” said Boyles. “We clearly have the most structured and comprehensive Employee of the Month program in Mississippi and that is primarily due to the contributions of Dr. James Robinson and the dedication of Bert Herbison and the Incentives and Recognition committee.

“Our community outreach that is led by our Projects Committee is second to none.”

The event began with a dinner at the home of President and Mrs. Rodney Bennett on Tuesday evening. Wednesday’s schedule consisted of sharing activities that each council engages in, a discussion of challenges and issues facing university staff, and an open forum with Toby Barker, State Representative and State Senator Billy Hudson.

The mission of Delta State University’s Staff Council is to serve as a liaison between the administration and the staff of Delta State University to provide a formal process for staff to discuss issues involving University policies and procedures and to present ideas, recommendations, and opinions to the President; to institute programs to provide individual and university-wide staff development; to promote increased communication among departments and employees; to enhance job satisfaction and motivation; and to recognize outstanding achievement and work performance by members of Delta State University.

Delta State’s Staff Council is dedicated to excellence in service and the continued growth and development of the university.