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Delta State dedicates Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research

Dr. Lynn Varner, Director/Chair for The Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research, smiles moments after unveiling the plaque bearing Senator Thad Cochran’s name. The Senator looked on with Delta State University President, Dr. John Hilpert.

Senator Thad Cochran addresses the crowd, minutes after the official dedication of The Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research on Delta State University’s campus.

Delta State University dedicated The Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research with a ceremony honoring the United States senator yesterday afternoon inside the atrium of Kent Wyatt Hall.

The senior senator, who was in attendance for the ceremony, has long been a proponent of education in the Magnolia State, and the dedication seemed most fitting, as Dr. John M. Hilpert, Delta State University’s President, directed, “Senator Cochran, your work on behalf of our state makes all of us proud and grateful. 

“We are particularly thankful for the attention you give to the universities and to our students.  Delta State and the other seven public institutions are better in all dimensions – teaching, research, and service – because of you and your purposeful public service.  This day is not only about you and for you, it is because of you,” Hilpert observed.

Housed in the College of Education, The Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research works to prepare educational leaders who can address the unique challenges of the Mississippi Delta region, by providing the knowledge necessary to improve leadership effectiveness, teacher quality, and thus, student achievement. Dually, the Center promotes a vibrant learning community committed to the development of exemplary educational leaders.

Its Masters’ in Educational Leadership program remains a vital cog to the Center. First conceptualized in 1997 by a group of nation-wide, high-powers in education, the Center’s first class entered into the 14-month, intensive program in 1999.

The Program has since earned recognition as winner of the 2006 Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Award for Best Practices; been  featured in Education Week and the Delta Business Journal; and probably most significantly, received honors from Stanford University, after an intense national study,  as one of the top eight leadership programs in the nation.

As Delta State’s seventh president noted, “Most often, Senator, these ceremonies occur in front of a building or a suite of offices that will bear your name, but today we will name a center that is too big in its scope and mission to be identified only as a fixed place.  Of course there are offices and classrooms in our College of Education where some of the work happens, but the Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research embraces all of the Mississippi Delta as its place.  Beyond the Delta, the rural schools of this nation will benefit from the efforts and expertise of our faculty and students, as well as the hundreds of Delta educators who work with us.”

The Center’s director, Dr. Lynn Varner assisted in the presentation, as the plaque bearing Cochran’s name was unveiled to an audience of about 200. Delta State University also presented the Senator with his own plaque commemorating the day, as well as a certificate heralding the Mississippi Republican as an honoree Delta State alumnus. Some of Delta State’s best and brightest students have interned inside Senator Cochran’s office, with some having gone on to become members of his staff.

In response, the Senator offered, “I am deeply grateful and appreciative of your kind words today. It is no secret; education is a personal love of mine. Growing up in a school teacher’s household, education was so important and so valued.

“We must continually work to strengthen our state’s education system, and this center is an important first step, a step in the right direction,” Cochran concluded.

Born in Pontotoc, Mississippi in 1937 to William Holmes Cochran and Emma Grace Cochran, a school principal and a teacher, respectively, William Thad Cochran graduated from Byram High School near Jackson and received a B.A. degree from the University of Mississippi with a major in psychology and a minor in political science in 1959. After a time in the United States Navy (1959-1961), he attended the University of Mississippi School of Law and graduated in 1965. He then practiced law for seven years.

For more information on The Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership and Research at Delta State, please contact Dr. Varner at (662) 846-4395 or lvarner@deltastate.edu.

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