Morganti honored with President’s Award at BPAC

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David Dallas (left), Executive Director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center, with Dr. Leroy Morganti.

Given annually in recognition of outstanding service to the Bologna Performing Arts Center, Dr. Leroy Morganti of Benoit, was recently named the 2006 President’s Award Winner.

“This recognition is long overdue,” David Dallas, Executive Director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center, offered. “This award honors the vision and dedication of Dr. Morganti.”

As the Center neared completion in spring 1995, then Delta State University President, Dr. Kent Wyatt, decided he wanted the grand opening to be help in September. He, further, decided Morganti would direct the event and the operations of the Center, in addition to his role as Vice-President of Executive Affairs.

“It was in addition to all of his other duties,” Wyatt said. “Leroy had a vision of what the Performing Arts Center could become and do, not only for Delta State, but for the entire Delta region. He, more than anyone else, is responsible for the many successes of the Bologna Performing Arts Center.”

Morganti worked closely with Pat Halloran of The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis in developing a box office management strategy, a technical team and a plan for selecting an Executive Director. Additionally, he formed an Advisory Board consisting of campus and community leaders.

The BPAC would become the centerpiece of the Delta State Foundation’s then capital campaign, with Morganti determined to raise $2 million as an endowment to support BPAC programming.  Roger Malkin, of Delta and Pine Land, gave $500,000 toward the campaign, while seats were sponsored at $1,000 each.

Most significant, though, still remains the call placed by Dr. Nino Bologna of Greenville, to Wyatt. Bologna inquired about the building, and soon after pledged $2 million to name the performing arts center in memory of his children.

Morganti served at the helm of the BPAC from its inception in 1995 until his retirement in 2002. He was instrumental in securing famed composer and songwriter Marvin Hamlisch as the BPAC’s inaugural performer.  

Currently, Morganti is enjoying retirement and writes occasionally for The Delta Democrat Times.



Walk the ‘Green Mile’ at Delta State

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Delta State University Health and Wellness Committee members (front row, l. to r.) Dr. John Alvarez, associate professor of HPE&R; Dr. Richard Houston, director of Counseling; Dr. Paula Norris, professor of Mathematics; and Corlis Snow, instructor in Elementary Education; stand in front of one of the many “Green Mile” painted markings.

In an effort to promote overall health and wellness, while also advocating healthy lifestyle choices, Delta State University, through the work of its own Health and Wellness Committee, has officially marked the “Green Mile” on campus. Green painted arrows across campus sidewalks and paths now direct visiting walkers or runners along the “Green Mile.”

While there is no official start or ending point, bidirectional arrows along the course allow participants to begin at any point, as the arrows will always return them to their original starting point. Popular starts include in front of the H.L. Nowell Union, Forest Earl Wyatt Gymnasium, the O.W. Reily Student Health Center or Brumby-Castle Residence Hall.

Health and Wellness Committee chair, Dr. John Alvarez, associate professor of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, maintained, “Our committee really wanted to provide fellow staff, faculty, students; as well as the community an opportunity and a place to get moving, whether it’s walking or running. The “Green Mile” is a marked route, so you can calculate exactly how far you’ve gone.

“Much of the credit should go to Dr. Richard Houston,” Alvarez continued. “He took it upon himself to paint the trail and was instrumental in designing the route. We’re hopeful providing the space will motivate folks to get moving and include exercise in their daily routine.”

For more information on Delta State’s “Green Mile,” please call Dr. Alvarez at (662) 846-4564.



Delta State graduates over 420, Freeman conferred with honorary degree

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Delta State University President John Hilpert (at right) presents Dr. Morgan Freeman with a framed honorary degree from Delta State University

Delta State graduates and audience rise for the playing of the National Anthem in Sillers Coliseum.

NASA CFO Gwen Sykes (at right) visits with Delta State students Tarishan Winder-Esters (at left), of Greenville, and Andrea Tatum, of Southaven. Both students received a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication & Theatre Arts.


It had all the trimmings traditionally associated with a graduation ceremony – camera flashes popping; loud thunderous applause; standing ovations; and proud, beaming, barely containable smiles from graduates, friends and families.


But Delta State University’s 79th Spring Commencement, held this morning inside Walter Sillers Coliseum on the campus, had one additional element that only elevated and intensified the camera flashes popping; the loud thunderous applause; the standing ovations; and the proud, beaming, barely containable smiles from graduates, friends and families – Hollywood icon, Morgan Freeman.


Delta State conferred Freeman for the degree, Doctor of Arts and Letters, honoris causa (“for the sake of honor”) in front of a filled-to-capacity coliseum. “Mr. Freeman’s commitment to the Delta has been steadfast and solid. He has never forgotten his roots and we appreciate him for that,” Delta State President, Dr. John M. Hilpert, lauded. “We are privileged to honor Morgan Freeman, an outstanding Mississippian whose long and distinguished career has brought great pride to his everyone in his home state and particularly to all of us who live in the Delta.”


Freeman, amidst countless cameras flashes and an extended standing ovation, accepted his large framed degree, smiled brightly and acknowledged, “I had two pages of remarks written, but for the sake of being shorter, I will simply express my appreciation, my gratitude and say, ‘Thank you.’”


Later at a reception following the commencement services, Freeman acknowledged Leola Gregory Williams, an elementary teacher in his native Greenwood. “She was a magician, a true magician.” Williams inspired Freeman and challenged him “to make something of my life, to do good.”


Williams would become the first African-American instructor in English at Delta State. Annually the University awards The Leola Gregory Williams Award to students who have written outstanding papers in general education classes.


Freeman becomes the third recipient of an honorary degree from Delta State, joining alumnus Elbert R. Hilliard, Director Emeritus, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; and Charles W. (Charlie) Capps, a native of Cleveland, and former District 28 Representative in the Mississippi House of Representatives.


In 2004, he appeared in “Million Dollar Baby,” for which his on-screen performance as ex-prize fighter Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris, was critically acclaimed and won Freeman his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar.


On the day, Delta State also welcomed Gwen Sykes, Chief Financial Officer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to campus, as she delivered an uplifting and inspiring keynote address.

Sykes joined NASA in November 2002 when she was selected as the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Financial Management. Since that time, she has made significant strides towards improving agency-wide financial integrity. She has launched several management initiatives, aligned with principles of the Federal Government’s Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP), designed to improve NASA’s financial health and performance. Her leadership and resourcefulness are invaluable assets to the NASA community.

In 2003, Sykes was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for outstanding budgetary and financial management leadership of the NASA financial community.

From the lectern, she urged graduates, “to dream and dream big. Be hopeful and optimistic. Be inspired to reach for something you would have thought could never have happened.


“Be resilient. See the opportunities in life, remembering opportunity may disguise itself as a challenge, at first,” she continued. “Stay true to your family and friends, always.”


“I am awed by what you will achieve. You carry the torch of discovery with you now and I ask you to remember, education is a gift that can’t be taken away,” Sykes offered, repeating again for emphasis and clarity. “Education is definitely a gift that can not be taken away.”


Delta State graduated over 425 graduates, all of which were able to shake, both Sykes and Freeman’s hands, before collecting their conferred degrees. Some graduates even asked for hugs, to which Freeman agreed cordially.


Two doctor of education degrees and six educational specialist degrees were conferred during the commencement exercise, while 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.



Delta State University outstanding staff and faculty awards announced

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Betsy Bobo Elliott (at left), director of community college relations at Delta State, was presented the H.L. Nowell Outstanding Staff Award, and, Dorothy Shawhan, chair of Languages and Literature and professor of English at Delta State University, was presented the S.E. Kossman Outstanding Faculty Award during the 79th Spring Commencement at Delta State University, Saturday, May 13, inside Walter Sillers Coliseum on the campus.

The Administrative Staff Council of Delta State offers the award to an extraordinary staff member. Elliott, as the 13th 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. Shawhan, as the 24th winner, 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 awards First and Second diplomas

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Robert Adam Martyn (at left), a Delta State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Social Science of Greenville, was awarded the Second Diploma, while Rebecca Carter, a Delta State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music of Grenada, was awarded the First Diploma during the 79th Spring Commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 13, inside Walter Sillers Coliseum on the Delta State campus.

The First Diploma is presented to the four-year graduating senior with the highest grade point average on a minimum of 112 hours of academic credit at Delta State. The Second Diploma is presented to the two-year graduating senior with the highest grade point average on a minimum of 60 hours of academic credit at Delta State University.  This policy permits a transfer student with at least two years at Delta State to compete for this honor.