Dr. Bob Watson '89 (with plaque) was recently honored as the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for the South Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter. Joining him for the celebration were: (l to r) Alumni Director Jeffrey Farris, chapter president Geralyn Russell '03, and Watson's daughter, Cameron.

South Central chapter names Outstanding Alumnus

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The Delta State University National Alumni Association recently held its annual South Central Mississippi Chapter event in Brookhaven. This year, the chapter recognized Dr. Bob Watson ’89 as its Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.

Originally from the Delta, Watson graduated from Cleveland High School and Delta State University before graduating from Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine in 1994. In 1996, he married Dr. Dianne Watson, also a veterinarian. Together, they own Brookhaven Animal Hospital.

Watson was selected as Mississippi’s Young Veterinarian of the Year in 2004. He served as vice president of the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association in 2009 and as president of the MVMA in 2010.

He and Dianne attend Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon. When not following his children’s’ ballgames or rodeos, Watson enjoys hunting and fishing.

Over 50 alumni and friends attended this year’s event at Mitchell’s Steak and Seafood, with 11 prospective students in attendance.

Alumni Director Jeffrey Farris gave a report on the university. Assistant Alumni Director Jordan Thomas was also in attendance and streamed the entire program live on Periscope. Sponsors for this year’s event were: WGK Engineers and Surveyors, Inc., Nena Smith School of Dance, Trustmark Bank and Magnolia Electric Company.

To view photos from the affair, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/dsualumni/albums/72157664530756642.

To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), Tumblr (http://www.dsualumni.tumblr.com), LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1). Save the date for this year’s Go Green Weekend (April 2), Pig Pickin’ (Sept. 24) and Homecoming (Oct. 15).

Delta State honorees at the 29th annual HEADWAE program in Jackson included student Mikel Sykes and the late Dr. Ethan Schmidt. Pictured are: (l to r) Sen. Buck Clarke, Sykes, Sen. Willie Simmons, Dr. Chuck Westmoreland and Elizabeth Schmidt.

Sykes and Schmidt honored by state

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Two Delta State honorees were recently recognized at the 29th annual HEADWAE program in Jackson.

Higher Education Appreciation Day — Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) was established by legislative resolution to honor individual academic achievement and the overall contribution of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning.

The annual event honors outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities.

This year’s Delta State honorees included Mikel Sykes, a senior social science and history double major from Winona and the late Dr. Ethan Schmidt, a history professor who was the victim of a fatal shooting on Sept. 14, 2015.

Sykes is a two-term SGA student body president, former orientation leader, vice president of the IHL student body presidents council, and the recipient of the Delta State University Bobby Rowe Outstanding Leadership award.

“It is always great to be recognized for something, especially on the state level, but I have to say that the highlight of the event for me was opening up the program and seeing the picture of Dr. Ethan Schmidt,” said Sykes. “I usually don’t keep copies of programs like that, but I made an exception for this one.”

Schmidt, who taught at Delta State for two and a half years, worked as an assistant professor of American history in the Division of Social Sciences and History. On campus, he served as the director of the First Year Seminar Program and organized the university’s inaugural Native American Heritage Month celebration. He was also a member of the Delta State University Diversity Committee.

Elizabeth Schmidt, wife of Ethan, accepted the award on his behalf. Dr. Charles Westmoreland, assistant professor of history, represented the university at the ceremony.

“I was extremely humbled and honored to represent Delta State on this important occasion,” said Westmoreland. “Ethan had a profound impact on Delta State because, above all else, he loved being part of a university family. He loved teaching. He loved listening to and imparting advice to students. He loved working with colleagues to find ways to improve our academic programs and enhance student success. He loved going to campus lectures, plays and sporting events. Furthermore, as much as possible, he loved making his own family a part of this university’s culture.

“In just two short years, Dr. Ethan Schmidt left an indelible mark on Delta State and made it a better place for everyone who walks on this campus. His legacy will be felt for many, many years to come.”

Honorees began the day with a visit to the State Capitol, where they were welcomed by Governor Phil Bryant, recognized by the Senate and House of Representatives, and given a tour of the Capitol.

Click here http://www.ihl.state.ms.us/headwae/downloads/headwaehonorees2016.pdf for a list of 2015-16 HEADWAE honorees.

(Left to right) SGA President Mikel Sykes, President William N. LaForge, Captain Mark Kimbell, Chief Lynn Buford, Captain Donald Bradshaw and Butch Caston, interim Vice President of Student Affairs, during a recent ceremony honoring first responders to the Sept. 14 shooting on campus.

First responders receive Medal of Valor for selfless service

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Three Delta State police officers who were the first to respond to the shooting on campus this past September were recently awarded Medals of Valor for their selfless service.

In a ceremony attended by members of the officers’ families, members of the President’s Cabinet and the officers of the Student Government Association, the three men received formal medals as well as pins to be worn in everyday service. Receiving medals were Delta State Police Chief Lynn Buford, Captain Mark Kimbell and Captain Donald Bradshaw.

“These heroes of Delta State went room-to-room and office-to-office in Jobe Hall – not knowing what they might encounter behind each closed door – in order to secure the building and to safely remove all occupants,” said President William N. LaForge. “Your bravery during this most difficult time was the ultimate commitment to the students, faculty and staff, who you protect every day.”

Assisting LaForge in the ceremony were Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Butch Caston and Mikel Sykes, president of the Student Government Association.

“On behalf of the students, I want to thank you so much for what you did and what you do every day to keep us safe,” Sykes added.

The Medal of Valor, which was presented to each of the three men, is an award for bravery, given for individual acts of extraordinary heroism performed in the line of duty at extreme, life-threatening personal risk. It recognizes offers whose actions are considered as having gone above and beyond the call of duty, and to recognize an officer who has performed an act of bravery – displaying an extreme amount of courage while knowingly facing imminent danger, LaForge explained.

Members of the Delta State University African American Student Council include: (front row, left to right) Aja Buckhalter, Selena Trotter, (back, l to r) Ashley Blackburn, Letia McGee, Symmbol Sanderlin, Veronica Suggs and Alandria Ramsey.

African American Student Council hosts Black History Month events

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The African American Student Council at Delta State University has been busy hosting events in honor of Black History Month.

This year’s theme is “Honoring the Past, Inspiring Our Future.” Visit the group’s Facebook page to view the full schedule of activities at https://www.facebook.com/Delta-State-University-African-American-Student-Council-1675536429393413.

AASC exists to allow the participation of all people in the promotion of black cultural, intellectual and social interests at the university and the surrounding community. Established on campus several years ago, membership is open to every undergraduate and graduate student at the university.

The council works to uplift the conscious awareness of the African American student politically, culturally, and intellectually; promote leadership and scholarship; encourage positive contributions to the community; stimulate the interest of African American students in university affairs and functions; and to cultivate an increased awareness and appreciation of ethnicity and the contributions of African Americans and others throughout history to the benefit of all mankind.

AASC will hold its fall induction ceremony Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lena Roberts Sillers Chapel.

Delta State University benefits from the on-campus presence of African American Student Council as the group works to further explore and acknowledge the scope of cultural diversity within the university and community from many perspectives,” said advisor Stedmond Ware. “AASC offers opportunities to work together toward planning university events, promoting unity on campus and in the community, and enhancing African American culture.

The group has actively been involved in promoting awareness of breast cancer and sickle cell anemia by providing information to students, and financially contributing to the Delta Cotton Belles of Greenville. Additionally, AASC continues to support the university’s annual Winning the Race Conference, provide canned food donations for local African American church stewpot programs, and host an annual Christmas get-together.

Those interested in becoming a member, or to learn more about AASC, contact Aja Buckhalter, president, at abuckhal@okramail.deltastate.edu.


A delegation of Delta State students and faculty recently attended the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge at the state capital. Pictured (l to r): Dr. Billy Moore, dean of the College of Business; Sen. David Parker; Emily Riley Herrington, student; Sen. Willie Simmons; Dr. Virginia Webb, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences; Sen. Gray Tollison; Elizabeth Stitt, student; Melody Fortune; assistant professor of health care management; and Liz Quinn, student.

Delta State places third in BlueCross BlueShield competition

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Delta State University recently placed third at the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Social Business Challenge hosted at the state capital Feb. 10. The competition, in coordination with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, was open to all Mississippi public universities and addressed one of the state’s most pressing problems — obesity and related health issues.

Delta State’s team was comprised of students Emily Riley Herrington, Elizabeth Stitt, Liz Quinn, and faculty advisors Dr. Virginia Webb and Melody Fortune.

The competition platform provided each institution’s team of students the opportunity to showcase their ideas, creativity and ingenuity as they presented plans for businesses focused on reducing obesity, rather than making a profit. Formal presentations were made to judges as well as elevator pitches to Mississippi state legislators.

The Delta State team proposed LEE Activity Center, a program for kindergarten through sixth grade students that incorporates learning, eating and exercise (LEE). In the proposal, students would arrive after school, have a tasty and nutritious snack, then rotate between sessions focussing on homework, tutoring, nutrition lessons and exercise activities. Outcome measures included management of time and resources, mastery of nutrition information, and level of physical activity.

“Taking part in the competition was a lot of hard work but very rewarding in the end,” said Quinn. “It was nice to meet students from other universities in Mississippi and hear their ideas and proposals, as well as having lunch with three Mississippi senators. We hope to see nutrition education and physical activity increase in the Mississippi Delta, and hopefully this will be the healthy start to impact our community.”

Webb was thrilled with the group’s winning proposal.

“As students, the links between improving society and operating a business are not always evident. This challenge allowed the students to be creative in their approach to dealing with societal issues while working within the business environment,” said Webb. “I am very proud of our third place out of 11 competitive entries from other higher education institutions in Mississippi.”

Learn more about the annual competition at http://www.mississippi.edu/ihl/newsstory.asp?ID=1221.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.