LaForge surpasses 75,000 lifetime running miles

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Delta State President William N. LaForge (in white jacket) leads an early morning run during his inauguration ceremonies in 2013.


Off the heels of Health and Wellness Week at Delta State University, President William N. LaForge reached a major fitness milestone — surpassing 75,000 lifetime running miles.

The total eclipses a little more than three trips around the Earth’s circumference. And the president shows no signs of hanging up his shoes soon. He can still be spotted early mornings on campus racking up the miles.

“At first glance, running the equivalent of three times around the globe sounds daunting, even bizarre,” said LaForge. “But when you break it down over 41 years of running, it’s a bit more comprehensible — a little more than 1,800 miles a year. I hit the 75,000 mark this fall.”

LaForge began running seriously in the mid-1970s, but it was not with the intention of accumulating such high mileage. The running started when he moved to the Washington, D.C. area for his political career.

The so-called “running boom” was underway after elite runners like Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter captured the attention of Americans with their stellar performances in the Olympics and Boston Marathon. LaForge said he just got caught up in the running movement.

“The miles just accumulated as I trained and raced,” he said. “I’ve kept a log since 1978, so I know where and how much I ran each day for four decades. Recently, my daughter Caroline and I were trying to recall what year our family took a certain trip. All I had to do was to consult my running log for the answer.”

In his peak racing years, LaForge sometimes ran more than 3,000 miles annually, with the highest total of 3,300. Occasionally, he would put in 80-100 mile weeks in training leading up to a marathon. His marathon personal best of 2 hours and 40 minutes was set at the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans in 1982.

And his commitment to running has allowed LaForge to test his physical fitness around the globe. A few of his favorite runs include the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in China, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Marrakesh, Bermuda, Moscow, Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak, Berlin, the Golden Gate Bridge, Baghdad, along the Seine in Paris, and all around the trails and parks of Washington, D.C.

“At 67, I don’t race any longer, but I still run everyday, wherever I happen to be — just not as fast or far,” said LaForge. “The exceptions have been times when I was ill or under doctor’s orders to refrain. I had a couple of streaks when I went eight years without missing a day. Since the late 1970s, I’ve missed only 159 days running.”

Remaining physically active has always been at LaForge’s forefront.

“Early on, I bought into the idea of a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “Running is convenient, efficient and rewarding in many ways. It’s a great physical activity, and it also serves to clear your mind and make your day more productive. It’s good for the body and the mind, and provides both energy and relaxation.”

And LaForge believes it’s important for everyone, including college students, to include these health and wellness factors in their daily lives.

“College is a great time to establish healthy life-long interests and habits,” said LaForge. “Whether it’s intercollegiate sports, intramurals, occasional gym or pool workouts, or casual walks around campus and town — I encourage all students to make time for an activity of their liking.

“Running happens to be one activity I enjoy. It’s not for everyone, but there is a healthy lifestyle fitness or recreational activity to suit everyone’s interest and need. Staying active, including frequent aerobic activity, is a key to a healthy life, especially as one ages. And it is a priority that can and should start early in life. College is a great time to make the commitment. Even a small investment of time and effort to exercise can yield great dividends over a lifetime.”

LaForge continues to show his dedication as a runner and as the tireless leader of Delta State University.

“Friends have sometimes joked that I’ll go the distance or the extra mile,” he said. “Perhaps I owe that to running.”

Paige to provide colloquia address Oct. 10

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The Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series continues this semester featuring Dr. Rod Paige, the former United States Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush.

Paige’s speech, titled “The Future of Higher Education in America,” will begin at 6 p.m. Oct. 10, in the E.R. Jobe Hall Auditorium on campus.

Those unable to attend the event can view the live stream speech online through the university’s official LiveStream channel:

Paige served under Bush from 2001-2005. During his tenure, he helped create the No Child Left Behind Act, which was based in part on his work as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. After the measure was signed into law in January 2002, Paige oversaw the new law’s implementation.

Born in Monticello, Mississippi, he is the son of public school educators. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University and master’s and doctoral degrees in physical education from Indiana University.

Before beginning his career in education administration, he was a college football coach for two decades. In 1967, while coaching at historically black Jackson State University, his team played in a game that broke the color barrier at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

Paige became superintendent of the Houston Independent School District in 1994, and was known for his successful leadership and innovative reforms as head of the large district. He also served as the dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University.

He was the first African American and the first school superintendent to serve as education secretary. After leaving the Education Department, he became a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He recently served as the interim president of his alma mater, Jackson State University.

Delta State President William N. LaForge established the colloquia program when taking office in 2013. The platform is an ongoing series of top-flight lectures and addresses featuring prominent speakers. William F. Winter, former Mississippi governor, was honored as the first speaker in 2013.

LaForge said the Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series is another commitment to bringing excellence to Delta State.

“The university colloquia program brings distinguished, high-profile professionals to campus who can share career and life stories with our students and faculty. A distinguished lecture series is one of the exciting features of a university, and we are fortunate to be able to host outstanding professionals such as Dr. Paige,” said LaForge. “It especially allows our students and faculty to rub elbows with professionals and resources we sometimes have the rare opportunity to engage. Great universities have great programs, and this is one.”

Learn more about the series at


LaForge named Mississippi Top 50

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge recently received the distinct honor of being named to the Mississippi Top 50 list for 2017.

The annual awards, which started in 2016, recognize those who are judged to be the most influential leaders in the state. Additionally, the awards recognize those who help, by virtue of their position and talent, to move the conversation in Mississippi forward.

This bipartisan selection of leaders comes from the ranks of elected and appointed officials, economic development professionals, business, media and government affairs. The program is sponsored by Y’all Politics and Supertalk Mississippi, and awardees are nominated through an open process.

“I’m very grateful to Y’all Politics and Supertalk Mississippi for this recognition,” said LaForge. “If there is anything to the issue of influence, I owe it to, and share it with, my colleagues at Delta State who make up a super team of faculty, staff and administrators who are devoted to our students.”

LaForge and other awardees will be honored at a ceremony at The Old Capitol Inn in Jackson, Mississippi on Oct. 17.

To view award winners for the previous two years, visit Follow MSTop50 on Twitter @MSTop50 or on Facebook to keep up with news and updates about MSTop50 winners and events.


Delta State enrollment increases over five percent

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For the fourth year in a row, Delta State University is proud to announce an increase in university enrollment.

The preliminary numbers, as of Sept. 8, were 3,035 undergraduate students and 743 graduate students, for a total enrollment of 3,778. The increase of nearly 5.5 percent was the largest increase among the state’s eight public universities this year.

According to Delta State University President William N. LaForge, the growth is due to a number of major institutional efforts.

“I am very pleased with the increase in enrollment for the fall of 2017,” said LaForge. “Early reports indicate we are up 190 students, or nearly 5.5 percent over last year. This significant uptick represents the fourth consecutive increase, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

LaForge credited six major reasons for the enrollment increase:

  • A great team of faculty and staff across campus.
  • Smarter and more targeted recruiting in high schools and community colleges. This includes doubling community college recruiters, and increasing partnerships with high schools.
  • Improved retention rates thanks to engaged faculty and programs such as the Student Success Center and First Year Seminar.
  • Signature programs that continue to attract more students, including the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing, Delta Music Institute, Health/Physical Education/Recreation, and Aviation.
  • Doubling the number of international students in the last three years.
  • Offering a competitive tuition rate with stellar academics, including capstone projects for every major — all at an unparalleled value.

“I would be remiss not to mention that we have a welcoming student environment,” added LaForge. “Students feel very welcomed here and have the total college experience. There’s a buzz on campus, and there’s excitement all around.”

Caitlyn Thompson, director of recruiting, said recruitment efforts have focused on directly communicating with potential students.

“The recruiting staff worked very hard over this past year to reach new students, and one effort that may have contributed to the enrollment increase is the E-Communication Center that was implemented last fall,” said Thompson. “Current Delta State students contacted prospective students to speak with them about topics like campus events, scholarships, admissions deadlines, application reminders and more.”

Tricia Walker, director of the Delta Music Institute, said the DMI program has experienced significant growth over the past few years.

“The sustained growth of the DMI program brought the opportunity to add a faculty member and a studio manager to our ranks in order to better serve our students,” said Walker. “We are grateful to the administration for their support of this unique program. With an incoming class of more than 30 new students this fall, the DMI will exceed 120 majors in our entertainment industry studies program. We are packed and we like it that way.”

Tim Colbert, chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said HPER is one of the fastest growing majors.

“HPER has good degree options in multiple areas that lead not just to employment, but also sustainable careers with a chance for advancement,” said Colbert. “Our faculty understand how to relate to students on a personal level and help them to deal with their issues to become successful.”

Additionally, Delta State saw another uptick this year in the number of international students. Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of the Student Success Center and International Student Services, is proud that the university has doubled its international student body since the spring of 2013.

“We love that our international student population is growing each year,” said Riddle. “International students contribute so much to campus because of their global perspectives and diverse cultures. We welcome them to Delta State and look forward to even more international students for years to come.

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University to celebrate 92nd anniversary

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All campus members, friends and supporters of Delta State University are invited to a university birthday celebration Sept. 13, as the institution marks the 92nd anniversary of its opening.

The public is encouraged to visit campus for the celebration of 92 years of excellence.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge, joined by members of the Dedicated Statesmen Association, will start the ceremony at noon at Whitfield Hall, the current home of the Delta Music Institute.

The anniversary program will focus on the decade of the 1940s, which will include a brief introduction of Governor James Whitfield, the man for whom Whitfield Hall was named. The former Mississippi leader signed the bill establishing Delta State Teachers College in 1924.

The program will highlight the historic events that took place in and around Whitfield Hall, and how its renovation has given rise to the thriving entertainment industries studies program at the DMI.

The event will conclude with a light lunch for attendees.

Dr. James Robinson, president of the DSA committee, is excited to once again celebrate the university’s founding.

“We will continue to celebrate each year with growing excitement as the 100th birthday of Delta State approaches,” said Robinson. “A yearly celebration allows us to embrace the school’s history and its bright future. Each year, the anniversary brings us closer as students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends.”

Emily Jones, university archivist, has been working closely with the DSA to bring the event together.

“We celebrate Delta State’s anniversary to pay tribute to those who have come before us, and all the great Statesmen and Lady Statesmen yet to come,” said Jones. “As an archivist, it brings me great honor to help highlight our history. We look forward to shining light on the ‘40s and former Governor Whitfield.”

The Delta State Wind Ensemble will join the program again this year, performing a selection of the green and white’s most popular tunes.

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