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Dr. E.E. "Butch" Caston

University recognizes Caston’s career

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

Delta State University is paying tribute to one of its most dedicated retiring employees — Dr. E.E. “Butch” Caston.

Caston, a graduate of Delta State in 1966, retires Friday after serving as interim vice president for Student Affairs since July of 2015. He has come out of retirement multiple times to serve interim roles for the institution.

“I’m looking forward to returning to retirement,” said Caston. “I have a good feeling about our accomplishments this year.”

Caston first made his professional mark at the university by serving as dean of the College of Education from 1989-2002.

“The one thing that I found coming to Delta State initially as a student, was that it’s a close and accepting environment,” said Caston. “Many years later, returning as an employee, I found that quality still existed, and it still does today.”

Caston said he leaves Delta State with nothing but pride for the university that has been a part of his life for decades.

“I’m a product of the university. I came here as a student. Delta State held me up until I could grow up. I’ll always be grateful for that,” he said.

He returned to the university in 2013 at the request of President William N. LaForge to serve as interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. His return in 2015 followed the retirement of Dr. Wayne Blansett, who served the university for 40 years.

“Butch Caston has evidenced outstanding service to Delta State by coming out of retirement twice, first in 2013 as provost, and in 2015 as vice president for Student Affairs,” said LaForge. “He was incredibly successful in both posts. The Delta State family, and I in particular, will be eternally grateful to him for his dedication and loyalty. He was on outstanding member of Delta State leadership for years. I deeply appreciate him for his commitment of time and effort to the university.

“I’ve joked with him already, but I wish him better luck in his next effort at retiring.”

President Emeritus Dr. Kent Wyatt, who worked with Caston when he was dean, echoed LaForge’s praise.

“Delta State University was fortunate to attract Dr. Butch Caston back to his alma mater when he accepted administrative roles in the College of Education,” said Wyatt. “Through his leadership and innovative ideas, he helped make Delta State University the outstanding regional university it is today. Dr. Caston’s love for Delta State has been continuous and an inspiration to all. After retirement, he stepped forward in top administrative roles when his all alma mater needed him. Personally, I want to thank Butch for his loyalty and never failing friendship.”

Dr. Michelle Roberts, vice president for University Relations and Chief of Staff, said she will greatly miss Caston’s presence on campus.

“I have had the opportunity to watch Dr. Caston excel in many different areas at Delta State, and in every role, he has shined,” said Roberts. “But, in my view, his role as vice president of Student Affairs has been his crowning moment. He was a natural when it came to working with students. It’s like his personal family grew to include the thousands of Delta State students as his children.”

“Dr. Caston did not play the typical interim role,” added Roberts. “He did not view this position as simply keeping a seat warm. He rolled up his sleeves, and was determined to leave Delta State a better place than he found it. His love and passion for Delta State, our students, and this community are admirable, and the service he has provided our university has been extraordinary. Dr. Caston exemplifies the spirit of the Delta State family, and he is indeed a true Statesmen.”

Mikel Sykes, a senior at Delta State, has worked closely with Dr. Caston, most recently during Sykes’s two terms as Student Government Association president.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Dr. Caston the past couple of years, especially seeing how much he cares about the student experience,” said Sykes. “He’s been a leader I’ve looked up to during my time in the SGA. We all wish him the best in retirement.”

Taking over for Caston is Dr. Vernell Bennett. Bennett arrives at Delta State after previously serving in the same role at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her extensive experience at KSU enabled her to foster collaborations between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, faculty, staff, students, the administration and community.

Follow all Delta State University news at www.deltastate.edu.

Fireside Chat: BPAC adds new series in upcoming season

By | Community, General, President, Uncategorized | No Comments
Joining President LaForge is Laura Howell, Executive Director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center, to discuss the 2016-17 season.
Delta State University is proud of the stellar entertainment and cultural options brought to the community by the Bologna Performing Arts Center, a 1,200-seat state-of-the-art theater that features everything from Broadway musicals to GRAMMY-winning musicians. The BPAC recently announced its 2016-2017 Season, which promises to be one of the best seasons in the center’s history and will include concerts, Broadway tours, family programming and school-time matinees.
 
The new schedule will feature four different series: The Main Stage, consisting of evening public performances; the School-Time Matinee Series, which provides educational programs for school groups; and two new series, the Recital Hall and Family Series. For more information, visit www.bolognapac.com.
 
In other news on campus, the BPAC also is hosting a Summer Movie Series for the community. All tickets are $5 for general admission seating, and popcorn and other movie-style concessions will be available. The movie series continues tomorrow, June 14, with “Batman versus Superman”. Other movies set for the summer include “Miracles from Heaven,” “A Hologram for the King” and “The Jungle Book”. For other news, events and activities, visit our web site www.deltastate.edu.
Laforge GSC

LaForge elected president of Gulf South Conference

By | Athletics, President | No Comments

Delta State University President William N. LaForge will add another prestigious leadership post to his list of accomplishments this week, as he officially takes office as the president of the Gulf South Conference at the league’s annual summer meetings. He has spent the past two years as vice president of the GSC.

“I am thrilled and honored to be able to serve the GSC and Delta State in this new capacity,” said LaForge. “I look forward to working with the CEOs, ADs and staffs of our member institutions, Commissioner Matt Wilson and the conference office staff in advancing the interests of the league. We are in a position of strength to expand and I welcome the opportunity to work with colleagues as we move the GSC forward.”

The president of the GSC oversees the board of directors for the league and is responsible for chairing all board and general session meetings; appoints all standing and special committees and their chairs; calls all special meetings of the conference and executive committee; represents the conference in all of its business; and is legally empowered to bind the GSC when the commissioner is unavailable.

The GSC, with offices in Birmingham, Alabama, sponsors 17 sports at the NCAA Division II level and features membership across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee. In its 46-year history, the GSC has won 49 national team championships in 13 sports and more than 100 regional titles.

“The Gulf South Conference is lucky to have President LaForge serve as president of the GSC and chair of our board of directors,” said Wilson. “He is a great supporter of the Division II model and is a consistent advocate for the GSC, its member institutions and student-athletes. I look forward to working alongside President LaForge during his term.”

LaForge’s election as president of the GSC continues Delta State’s longstanding tradition of leadership within the league. In the summer of 1970, DSU was one of six charter institutions that formed the GSC. Since that time, the Statesmen and Lady Statesmen have won 44 league championships, including the 2015-16 women’s basketball and baseball titles.

“The GSC is one of NCAA Division II’s premier conferences, and President LaForge’s leadership will be a major asset to the league as we move forward,” said Ronnie Mayers, DSU director of athletics.

Earlier this spring, LaForge was selected to serve on the NCAA Division II Presidents Council, the highest governing body of Division II responsible for implementing policies adopted by the NCAA Board of Governors.

LaForge represents those active Division II institutions in Region 2, which include schools in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The council is a 16-member body that is based on a weighted regional representation by institutions and includes one president or chancellor per region for every 22 institutions in that region. In addition to setting policies adopted by the NCAA Board of Governors, the Presidents Council establishes and directs the general policy for Division II, with all other Division II committees reporting either directly or indirectly to it.

Dr. Vernell Bennett has been named the new vice president of Student Affairs.

Bennett named VP of Student Affairs

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

Delta State University President William N. LaForge recently announced the hiring of Dr. Vernell Bennett for the position of vice president of Student Affairs.

Bennett replaces Dr. E.E. “Butch” Caston, who had filled the role on an interim basis following the retirement of Dr. Wayne Blansett, who served the university for four decades.

Bennett will officially take office July 1, pending IHL Board approval, but will begin the transition process on June 15.

I am honored to join Delta State University as the newest member of the great executive team President LaForge has built,” said Bennett. “To say that I’m eager to work with the students the university educates is an understatement. It is truly exciting to join forces with engaged faculty, staff and community members to help Delta State University continue its long legacy of service and excellence.”

In the role, she will serve as the chief student affairs officer for the university. This position is responsible for providing leadership and administrative direction to a comprehensive Student Affairs Division, which complements and supports the academic mission of Delta State.

Bennett arrives at Delta State after previously serving in the same role at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her extensive experience at KSU enabled her to foster collaborations between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, faculty, staff, students, the administration and community. At KSU, Bennett oversaw a personnel and operating budget of $5 million and a scholarship budget of $2.6 million.

Prior to her VP role at KSU, she served as the university’s assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion, the senior advisor to Academic Affairs, and as a presidential liaison.

She holds a doctorate in instruction and administration from the University of Kentucky, received her master’s from Eastern Michigan University and her bachelor’s degree from Fisk University.

Bennett’s professional memberships include: The Council on Student Affairs; The National Association of Student Affairs Professionals; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated; The Links, Incorporated; and the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

Additionally, she has a background in teaching music courses, including voice instruction, elements of music, phonetics and dictation, and more.

President LaForge said he was thrilled to bring Bennett’s leadership to campus.

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Bennett to Delta State,” said LaForge. “She brings a wealth of talent and experience to the position of vice president for Student Affairs, and I know she will have a terrific impact on our students and our campus culture. I look forward to her contributions to our leadership team.”

A selection committee, chaired by Dr. Temika Simmons, assistant professor of psychology, was formed in order to guide the national search for the position. Finalists recently visited the Delta State campus and spent time meeting with various groups including the President’s Cabinet, Academic Council, division directors and the search committee, along with addressing open forums attended by faculty, staff and students.

Along with Simmons, search committee members included: Michael Lipford, Dr. David Hebert, Marilyn Read, Mike Kinnison, Diana McLemore, Dr. David Breaux, Betsy Elliott, Porter Leftwich, Mikel Sykes (student), Allie Rose Parker (student) and Lisa Giger (ex-officio).

Follow all Delta State University news at www.deltastate.edu.

President William N. LaForge (right) recently visited with Senator Thad Cochran and fellow Mississippi lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

LaForge meets with Mississippi lawmakers in D.C.

By | President | No Comments

Delta State University President William N. LaForge visited the nation’s capital in late April to touch base with Mississippi’s federal lawmakers.

“This was an opportunity to visit with the Mississippi congressional delegation and their staffs,” said LaForge. “There are issues that we want them to support or oppose, and we had an opportunity to express our concerns with them.”

LaForge personally spent time with Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and the staffs of Mississippi’s four members of the House of Representatives.

The conversations focused on grants, federal funding and alternative funding sources to support Delta State.

“Government relations and public policy advocacy are necessary in order to keep issues in front of our lawmakers so they know what our interests are, and so that they can vote and act accordingly. It allows us to express our needs and interests to our government.”

“It’s all about directly addressing the issues that are important to us as a constituent institution,” added LaForge. “We are always exploring possibilities for Delta State assistance.”

LaForge is no stranger to Capitol Hill, having spent time in the ‘70s with Congressman David Bowen and in the ‘80s working as Cochran’s chief of staff.

“Senator Cochran is very special to me. We have a unique relationship that goes way back,” said LaForge. “It was great to see my mentor again and have a visit with him. He has a deep interest in education in general, and certainly higher education. He’s a great resource for us at Delta State.”

LaForge also has a connection with Wicker, as the two were law school classmates at the University of Mississippi.

Follow all Delta State University news at www.deltastate.edu