Singer-Songwriters to tell of Mississippi’s role in the country scene

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Tricia Walker

Davis Raines

Billy Ray Reynolds

Three successful country music performing songwriters will discuss their craft and the role Mississippi and Mississippians have played in shaping their music on Monday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m. at The Bean Counter in Cleveland.

Made possible through the Mississippi Humanities Council, with funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the event will feature Tricia Walker, Davis Raines and Billy Ray Reynolds and is free and open to the public.  
Walker, now Director of Delta State University’s Delta Music Institute, will facilitate the discussion. She has designed the discussion after the famous “Bluebird in the Round” events that are held at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, where she lived for many years. Tricia’s songs have been recorded by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless and Alison Krauss, whose performance of Tricia’s “Looking in the Eyes of Love” earned a Grammy. A recording artist herself, Tricia’s newest CD, “The Heart of Dixie,” captures her own view of growing up in the South.
Singer-songwriter Davis Raines didn’t get around to a music career until his mid-30s, after he decided to leave behind his job as a captain of a maximum-security prison in Alabama, where, for a time, he was in charge of Death Row. The music on his critically acclaimed debut CD, Big Shiny Cars,” includes hardcore tunes like “Working Homicide’’ and “Hell for Breakfast and Last Hard Man in Elmore County.” His songs have been recorded by Kenny Rogers, Pam Tillis and Pat Green. He recently co-presented “Poetry of the People: Country Music Lyrics and American Social Change” at the 2007 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

As an actor, musician, songwriter, and screenplay writer, Mount Olive native Billy Ray Reynolds uses every means available to record and conserve a balance of historic, natural and personal history. A legendary songwriter, Reynolds has had his work recorded by some of country music’s finest including Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker and John Conlee. His own songwriting resonates with the appreciation he has for the purpose and intent of a country song. "I think that’s just what country music is. It’s about the heritage. It’s about the common man, the working man that built our country,” he contends.

This discussion of country music and the lives of singer-songwriters is part of a weeklong workshop featuring the music and musicians from Mississippi. Funded by the Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the workshop is presented by the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.

Twenty teachers from around the state will explore the rich musical heritage of Mississippi, from shape note singing through the Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock, opera, classical, pop, R&B, and hip-hop to learning how to use Mississippi’s music as a tool to better engage students in the history of our state. For more information about the workshop, contact the Delta Center at 662-846-4311.

Delta State’s Tabb honored with Leadership Award

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By definition, to lead is to show the way to by going in advance; to guide or direct in a course. And with her commitment to community and economic development in the Delta that is exactly what Dr. Myrtis Tabb has established herself as – a leader.

The Women in Higher Education Mississippi Network (WHEMN) recently recognized that fact, as it presented Tabb with the second annual WHEMN “Leadership Award.”
Senior Administrator for Special Projects at Delta State, Tabb was presented the award at a recent spring conference in Columbus. The statewide organization established the award to recognize a woman who has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to promoting initiatives that identify, develop, encourage, mentor and advance women in higher education. Last year’s inaugural winner Gloria Kellum, Vice Chancellor for University Relations at the University of Mississippi, presented Tabb with this year’s award.
"I am deeply honored to receive the WHEMN Leadership Award, especially considering the fact that Gloria Kellum, a woman leader I admire tremendously, was the award recipient last year. I have enjoyed my association with all of the women leaders who are part of the WHEMN network and express my gratitude for this recognition," said Tabb, immediate past coordinator of WHEMN.
WHEMN is comprised of institutional representatives from each of the state’s junior and senior colleges and universities. Its founding resulted from a request to UM Chancellor Robert Khayat from the American Council on Education in 2002, asking him to help establish the statewide network. Khayat appealed to Kellum and Beverly Hogan, president of Tougaloo College, to lead the effort.
"There were 13 outstanding Mississippians nominated by college and university presidents this year for consideration for this award," Kellum said. "We are proud of Dr. Tabb and her service to Delta State University and the entire Delta region."
Tabb has served as the B. F. Smith Chair for Regional Development, Director of the Center for Community Development at DSU and Program Leader of the Mid-South Delta Leaders and Delta Emerging Leaders Program. Her interests are concentrated in the field of economic and community development, with special emphasis on human development, leadership and education. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in education. She has devoted her career to providing opportunities for others to develop leadership skills.

Delta State announces inaugural winners of Foundation Awards for Staff Excellence in Service

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In an initiative geared to recognizing individual staff memberswho have made outstanding contributions to the university, their colleagues or the university’s relations with communities in the region, the Delta State University Foundation funded “Awards for Staff Excellence in Service” this year. The University announced the award’s inaugural winners today, with Patsy Burchfield, Jessie Eatmon, Becky Foster, Ann Giger, Judy Godbold, Deborah Moore and Jane Waldrop all earning honors.


Delta State President, Dr. John M. Hilpert, explained, “The purpose of these awards is to encourage and recognize the outstanding achievements of our staff at Delta State. We are appreciative to the Foundation for supporting the awards.”
Award winners will each receive a $3,000 cash prize, as well as a commemorative plaque which will be presented at the Foundation Board’s spring meeting. The awards are separated into three categories with up to three winners in each category – Service to the University, Service to University Colleagues and Service to the Community. Winners were selected by a representative committee, appointed by the Vice President of Finance and Administration with advice from the Administrative Staff Council and the President’s Cabinet.
Honored in the category of “Service to University Colleagues,” Patsy Burchfield, Administrative Assistant for the Provost/Vice President for Academic affairs, has worked for Delta State 19 years. She and her husband, Mike Burchfield have two sons – John and Jay – both DSU graduates. A native of French Camp, Patsy graduated from French Camp Academy before going on to Mississippi State University to receive her undergraduate degree.
On being named an inaugural winner of a Foundation Award for Staff Excellence in Service, she said, “In my work at Delta State University, I take great pride in building working relationships that promote an environment of trust, support, and assistance to colleagues. This a great honor and I am so humbled.”
Recognized in the category of “Service to the University,” Jessie Eatmon has served the past eight years as the Assistant Supervisor over Grounds in the Physical Plant. Always willing to assist others and “go the extra mile,” Eatmon offered, “"I enjoy it here at Delta State and I try to do the best I can everyday. I try to make it a good place for my co-workers and those who work under me.

“I have much respect for the students and they respect me,” he continued. “When I see them moving in or out of the dorms each semester, I try to help them with the heavy things – no telling how many televisions I’ve moved in and out of dorms. Those kids remember me and they wave when they see me around campus later. I’ve boosted cars, changed tires – just anything they need help with. I just do it. Nobody tells me to, I just do it when I see they need the help."
Judy Godbold was honored for her “Service to the University.” As Coordinator of Commencement and Assistant to the Registrar, Godbold is instrumental in seeing to it each fall and spring commencement exercise is as fluid and successful as possible. She has worked at Delta State for 25 years, serving in the areas of Management and Marketing as departmental secretary; Academic Affairs as Publications Secretary; and Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Arts and Sciences prior to her current position. She and her husband of almost 30 years, Bob, also a Delta State alumnus, have two children – a daughter, Ryanne Elise, who is also married to a DSU alum, Kristopher K. Strait; and a son, Russell Ethan, a seventh grader at Bayou Academy.
Of her award, Godbold proudly declared, “I am so excited and honored to be nominated by my co-workers and selected for the Foundation Award for Staff Excellence. I love Delta State University and have enjoyed my more than 25 years of service here.”
A native of Gadsen, Ala., Ann Giger can always be counted on to lend a hand. Her countless hours of volunteer work earned her a Foundation prize in the category of “Service to the Community.” An Administrative Secretary for the Delta State Foundation, Giger has a combined 17 years of service to the University. She is the proud grandmother of three grandsons – Jared, Brett and Jason. She and her husband, Dennis, have two grown sons – Chris, married to Lisa; and Daniel, married to Elizabeth.
What an honor to receive one of the DSU Foundation Awards for Staff Excellence in Service when there are so many deserving and dedicated people at DSU,” she said. “In a time when so many universities and businesses are consumed with numbers, I can honestly say Delta State University still concentrates on their faculty, staff and students along with emphasis on family atmosphere.”
Recognized in the category of “Service to University Colleagues,” Becky Foster has been with Delta State since 1981. She has worked under three Vice Presidents for Finance in various positions, including her current role as Director of Accounting. A Cleveland native, she was educated in the Cleveland school system and received her bachelor’s of business administration in accounting from Delta State in 1971. She has two sons – Porter, a Delta State grad, and Michael.
“I am so honored to be one of the recipients of this award for service to the University. Delta State not only educated me and my family, but has been my home for most of my life, nurturing me through all its highs and lows. I am proud to be able to give back to ‘my’ university,” Forster explained.
Honored for her “Service to the Community,” Deborah Moore graduated from Delta State University with a bachelor’s of business administration degree and a master’s of business administration degree. She began work with the University’s Center for Community and Economic Development in 1998, eventually elevating to the rank of director in 2005. In her role as director, she assists grass-root communities by developing projects and programs to strengthen communities.
The wife of Dr. Billy C. Moore, interim Provost at Delta State, the couple has two daughters – Andrea, 25, and Alicia, 18. She is currently pursuing certification as an Economic Development Finance Professional from the National Economic Development Council and will enroll in a PhD. program this fall at the University of Southern Mississippi in Human Capital Development.
“The best part of this job is not only being able to work for Delta State University, but having the opportunity to serve the community as well. Satisfaction at the end of the day comes from knowing communities are being empowered to become self-sustainable,” Moore offered of her honor.
Jane Waldrup has been a valued member of the Delta State community for the past 25 years, having served in the Roberts-LaForge Library. Her current post is Head of the Circulation Department. She was nominated for the award by Jeff Slagell, Director of Library Services, in the category of “Service to the University.”
In his nomination form, Slagell praised, I have interacted with hundreds of library staff members throughout my professional career and I have never met a more dedicated or responsible individual than Ms. Jane Waldrup.”
He continued, “I have repeatedly witnessed Ms. Waldrup come into the library after her normal working hours and weekends to assist her staff, provide additional service, and check on the facility. On several occasions, she has taken the lead in directing and informing library patrons in times of emergency (i.e., fire alarms, severe weather situations).
“She provides a high level of customer service resulting in positive feedback from students, staff, faculty, and community members. Typical comments focus upon her willingness to go above and beyond the normal call to ensure their needs are met. I can’t imagine a more qualified or deserving candidate,” he concluded.
Nomination calls for the 2008 Foundation Staff Awards for Staff Excellence in Service will go out in early fall. Nominations can be made by employees, students, alumni, community members or the individual, themselves.
For more information on the awards or process, please call University Relations at (662) 846-4675.

Delta State University outstanding staff and faculty awards announced

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Frances Scarborough (at left), library assistant at Roberts-LaForge Library at Delta State, was presented the H.L. Nowell Outstanding Staff Award, and, Dr. Scott Hutchens, associate professor of psychology at Delta State University, was presented the S.E. Kossman Outstanding Faculty Award during the 80th Spring Commencement at Delta State University, Saturday, May 12, inside Walter Sillers Coliseum on the campus.

The Administrative Staff Council of Delta State offers the award to an extraordinary staff member. Scarborough, as the 14th annual H.L. Nowell Outstanding Staff Award winner, will receive a cash award and a plaque. The names of all recipients are displayed in the H.L. Nowell Union.
Delta State recognizes exceptional performances by professors through the annual selection of one outstanding faculty member. The S.E. Kossman Outstanding Teacher Award honors the memory of a prominent Cleveland business and civic leader who supported Delta State University. Hutchens, as the 25th winner overall, will receive a cash award, a commemorative medallion and a personal plaque. The names of all Kossman Award recipients are displayed in Kethley Hall.

Delta State celebrates one of the largest commencement exercises in schools history

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Delta State University’s commencement speaker, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools delivered an uplifting and inspirational keynote address that drew a standing ovation. Delta State University celebrated its 80th Spring Commencement this morning inside Walter Sillers Coliseum with one of its largest graduating classes in the school’s history.

Dr. Patricia A. Thrash is hooded by Dr. John Hilpert, Delta State University President, after being awarded an honorary degree at Delta State University’s 79th Spring Commencement, Saturday, May 13, inside Walter Sillers Coliseum. Delta State University’s commencement speaker, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools delivered an uplifting and inspirational keynote address that drew a standing ovation.

It was a historic day inside Walter Sillers Coliseum this morning, as Delta State University celebrated its 80th Spring Commencement with one of its largest graduating classes in the school’s history.

Close to 500 degrees were conferred in front of a capacity crowd, as one doctor of education degree and 12 educational specialist degrees were conferred during the commencement exercise. Numerous master’s and bachelor’s degrees were awarded through the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Education and the School of Nursing.
Commencement speaker, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, President of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools delivered an uplifting and inspirational keynote address that drew a standing ovation. The first African-American and first woman to serve as President of the Commission, Wheelan’s distinguished career spans 32 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education. 
She opened her address by asking the graduates to put their programs on the floor, to sit up tall on the edge of their seat, and when she said, to stand up and scream “Hallelujah.” Wheelan, then, laughed, “In the years to come, you may not remember your commencement speaker’s name, but you will remember she had you on the edge of your seat, screaming ‘Hallelujah.’”
In what she titled, “The Last Lecture,” Wheelan delivered her own Top 10 List of “things to remember now that you are in the top two percent of the world (as college graduates). You have an awesome responsibility ahead of you as future leaders. You will be in charge and I would hope you would remember the following,” she urged.
“One, keep dreaming. The minute you stop dreaming, you die, so always keep dreaming,” Wheelan charged. “Two, lighten up. Learn to laugh. Did you know it is biologically impossible to get an ulcer while laughing, so why not laugh? Laugh loud and laugh hard.
“Three, live with no regrets. Four, be as kind to the janitor as you are the President of the Board. Five, say thank you. If we lose our civility, we lose the war,” she cautioned. “Six, please continue to ask questions. Just because you are graduating today does not mean you have all the answers. Ask questions.
“Seven, give back. Eight, keep learning, as it is a life-long project. Nine, keep playing, and finally, ten, overcome the road blocks. Remember, we are all Americans, and American ends with ‘I can.’ You ‘can’ do it,” she ended.
Also, on the day, Delta State bestowed onto two of its alumni the University’s highest honor – an honorary degree. Dr. James (Jim) T. Rogers and Dr. Patricia (Patsy) A. Thrash – two leaders in the field of higher education – were conferred with the fourth- and fifth-ever honorary degrees presented by Delta State. Each received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, for which they were unanimously approved by the Institutions of Higher Learning’s Board of Trustees.

The pair has dedicated nearly their entire lives to the advancement of higher education, having served a combined 96 years. Until their retirements, they sat atop two of the nation’s six accrediting agencies in higher education.

“It is amazing that one institution produced two of the most important higher education leaders in the nation,” Dr. John M. Hilpert, Delta State President noted. “At one time, these two Delta State graduates led regional associations that accredit institutions in 30 of the 50 states.

“We are proud of these two successful alumni and thrilled that we can honor them at our Spring Commencement. Furthermore, we are proud of the history of quality education at Delta State University,” he concluded.
In response, both Rogers and Thrash showed their deep appreciation, as Rogers said, “I appreciate you allowing me to be a part of this important day.”

Thrash seconded, offering, “This is an extraordinary honor from an institution that means the world to me.”