Delta State hails new student chief

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Delta State University Student Government Association outgoing President Valerie Orcutt (at left), a junior nursing major of Lorman, presents the president’s gavel to recently elected Student Government President, Emily Jennings, a junior political science major of Clinton. The presentation of the gavel and the inauguration of elected Student Government Association officers was held this past week at the Lena Roberts Sillers Chapel on the Delta State campus.



Delta State dedicates Ada Swindle Mitchell Foods Laboratory

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Ada Swindle Mitchell 

Dr. Lynn House, Dean of the College of Education at Delta State University, visits with members of the Mitchell family, Irene Swindle, Ricky Mitchell and Mary Ann Stinson.

Delta State University, as part of its on-going “Year of Cleveland” celebration, recently dedicated its renovated foods laboratory in the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences in memory of Ada Swindle Mitchell, a long-time employee of Viking Range Corporation. 

The Viking Range Corporation generously donated all new appliances for the foods lab, according to Dr. Jan Haynes, Chair of the Division of Family & Consumer Sciences at Delta State.

As part of the dedication ceremony held Tuesday, March 28, the program included a demonstration of “Elegant Hors d’oeuvres,” presented by Elizabeth Heiskell of the Viking Cooking School. Delta State President Dr. John M. Hilpert delivered dedicatory remarks with Dale Persons, Vice President of Public Affairs for Viking Range Corporation, offering a response, followed by a tour of the facilities.

Mitchell, an employee of Viking Range Corporation from 1988-2003, first served as administrative assistant to Fred Carl, Jr., and handled all personnel issues. She would be promoted to Viking Range’s first full-time human resources manager before earning the title Director of Human Resources. Prior to her work with Viking, she worked 19 years at WABG-TV in Greenville.

One of her most notable contributions to Viking Range was her single-handed initiation of an “education assistance program,” which allowed Viking Range employees to earn college degrees. “Ada felt very strongly about education and the value it had, not only for one’s company and career, but to the individual as a personal accomplishment,” said Viking President Fred Carl.

Mitchell pursued her own college education and was scheduled to graduate in May 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Delta State. The degree was awarded posthumously to her husband, Ricky Mitchell. She was recognized as a member of the President’s List as a result of maintaining a 4.0 GPA while at Delta State.

A member of the Society for Human Resources Management and the American Management Association, Mitchell was a Personnel Decisions, Inc., certified interviewer and a Birkman International, Inc., certified assessment user.  She was an alumna of the Walt Disney World Approach to Human Resources Management and was named by the Delta Business Journal as one of the “The Delta’s Top 75 Women in Business.”

Ada Swindle Mitchell passed Tuesday, April 1, 2003 at the age of 49. She was survived by her husband, Ricky and a son, Jared.


Local rice pioneers honored with scholarship at Delta State

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James and Jessie Simmons

Decades after revolutionizing rice drying procedures in the Mississippi Delta, James and Jessie Simmons, of Cleveland, will be recognized for their agricultural ambition and innovative spirit. A scholarship fund in honor of the couple has been established by the Delta State University Foundation, Inc.

“The James and Jessie Lee Simmons Scholarship will assist children and dependents of rice farmers in attending Delta State University. This is a fitting way to pay tribute to the couple who were so instrumental in transforming the rice industry,” said Keith Fulcher, Executive Director, Delta State University Foundation, Inc.

After returning from service as a Navy pilot in World War II, James Simmons received a degree from Mississippi State University. In 1949, he joined the staff of the Bolivar County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).

While working for the ASCS office, Simmons aided in the evolution from sack drying rice to the more lucrative method of bin drying and in turn stimulated the rising rice economy that led to farmer-owned bins rather than those purchased through ASCS loans.

After taking a position with H.O. Ward Lumber Co, Simmons managed grain bins for ten years, formed friendships with local farmers and gained a vast knowledge of the rice business.

In the early 1950’s the standard procedure for storing and drying rice included the use of bins with concrete floors and manifolds that ran the length of the bin itself. After researching the rice industries in surrounding states, Simmons began to experiment with perforated floors and the use of horse powered fans. The process involved pulling air down through the rice, inverting the rice, discharging the air under the perforated floors and forcing it up through the grain bin.

Simmons led the rice industry of the Delta in the use of scaffolding on both the interior and exterior of the bin, as well as the method of using rising ratchet jacks. By raising each ring individually, the time and cost of labor and construction was reduced by half.

Five years later, the innovative Simmons perfected the use of large 6,000-bushel grain bins and large centrifugal fans. In 1962, with the encouragement of his wife, Simmons partnered with J.C. Belk and developed the Simmons-Belk Company.

Throughout his career, Simmons’ wife, Jessie, remained the driving force behind his inspiration. She encouraged his development in the rice industry and held the position of secretary at his company. 

Though he left the company in 1970, Simmons produced $10 million of agricultural bins by 1979 and within five years averaged $8 million in sales. Simmons maintained his stake in the company until 1988, when he began the process of allowing his employees to purchase the business.  

“The Simmons’ have left a legacy in the rice industry and the scholarship in their name will allow future generations to continue to benefit from their lives,” said Fulcher. “The Delta State University Foundation invites all friends and business associates of the Simmons to make a gift in their honor.”

Gifts can be mailed to the Delta State Foundation, Box 3141, Cleveland, MS 38733. For more information, please contact the Foundation Office at (662) 846-4708 or e-mail at


Trace your family tree in Delta State sponsored workshop

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Mike Brubaker


Have you always been curious to map your family tree, but just weren’t sure how to begin? Help has arrived, as Delta State University’s Charles W. Capps, Jr. Archives and Museum has partnered with the Clarksdale Carnegie Library to present “A Genealogy Workshop,” under the direction of visiting professor Mike Brubaker, Research Manager for the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Scheduled for Saturday, April 8, the workshop will be broken up into two sessions with participants encouraged to attend both the morning and afternoon lectures. The morning session, which will run from 10 a.m. – noon will be held in the Capps Archives and Museum’s Reading Room on the Delta State campus. The session will focus specifically on getting started in one’s genealogy research, as well as the types of materials most often found in library and archival repositories.

After a break for lunch (on your own), participants will move to the Roberts-LaForge Library’s Bibliographic Room on the Delta State campus for the afternoon session, scheduled from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Professor Brubaker will demonstrate how to access and locate online resources, as well as answer any specific questions attendees may have.

The workshop is free and open to public. For more information or to reserve your seat, please call the Delta State Capps Archives and Museum Building at (662) 846-4780.



BPAC tops in state

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Recently heralded as the Best Performing Arts Venue in Mississippi by the readers of Mississippi Magazine, Bologna Performing Arts Center Executive Director David Dallas is hoping that’s just the momentum the center needs as it prepares to, both, announce its 2006-2007 season and launch its annual membership drive.


“We know that there aren’t many facilities in the nation that compare to what we have here, but it’s wonderful to know that there are others out there who feel the same,” Dallas proclaimed. “This is a huge honor because it was voted on by readers all over the state, not just the Delta readers.


“Being recognized is a high honor. But more than that, I think it speaks to our continued commitment to bring our patrons and supporters the best in both stage productions and arts education programs,” he continued.


But, like many of the most successful performing arts centers across the country, ticket sales and other earned income cannot cover the cost underwriting the season’s programming alone. Annual memberships are vital to the success of any arts venue, including the BPAC.


“We would urge one and all to become an annual member for the 2006-2007 season,” Dallas advocated. “Yearly contributions are critical to fulfilling our cultural mission. Private contributions will ensure the future success of the Bologna Performing Arts Center.”


For loyal patron and perennial annual member Wilma Gilbow, the decision is simple, offering, “The Bologna Performing Arts Center has been repeatedly recognized as one of the premiere venues for the performing arts in the Southeastern United States, and we are very fortunate to have the BPAC at home in the Mississippi Delta.


“By supporting the annual membership program, I consider it an investment, not only in this outstanding facility and its phenomenal main stage series, but particularly in the superlative arts education programming the BPAC offers to the children of the Delta. The return on this investment is incalculable,” she finished.


And, Dallas feels confident your “investment” would be well worth it, as the BPAC is expected to deliver another stellar season of programming.


“While we’re still ironing out some of the final details, what I can share with you is this – you won’t be disappointed,” Dallas lauded. “We have high standards with our programming, and this year is no different.”


The Bologna Performing Arts Center will first welcome CeCe Winans, Sunday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. as the inaugural performance of the 2006-2007 season.  A pure musical delight, Winans has received nine Grammy Awards, 21 Grammy Nominations, 18 Dove Awards and numerous Stellar Awards, as well as being named Female Vocalist of the Year twice in her 20-plus year career as one of the gospel greats. Her heavenly voice will amaze your ears and relax your soul.


Also slated for this year’s season – KODO, Thursday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. “We are very, very excited to be able to bring KODO to our mainstage. Just as the Sowetto Gospel Choir had audiences riveted last season, I am sure KODO will be just as exciting, energetic and truly,  a performance you will not want to miss,” Dallas boasted.


Based in Sado Island, Japan, KODO is one of the elite taiko drumming groups today. Showcasing traditional dance and vocal arrangements based on the traditional rhythms of regional Japan, their energetic renditions will have you leaving the theater in awe and amazement.


The complete BPAC season schedule is set to be announced in late August. For more information on the season schedule or to become an annual member, please call (662) 846-4625 or visit