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Delta State honors area leaders with 3rd Annual Community Recognition Luncheon, continue to celebrate new theme ‘Health & Wellness in the Delta’

By November 29, 2006General

Calvin Johnson of the Delta Regional Council of the Mississippi Hospital Association, “Delta Region Champion;” Ned Mitchell of SouthGroup Insurance, “College of Business Person of the Year;” Ricki Garrett of the Mississippi Nurses Association, Keynote Speaker; William Ray of The Asbury Foundation of Hattiesburg, Inc., “School of Nursing Visionary;” Robert Smith of Cleveland, “Hometown Champion;” and Dr. John M. Hilpert, President of Delta State University.

“Today is a day to recognize those that have made significant contributions to the economic and social well being of our community,” heralded Delta State University President, Dr. John M. Hilpert at the start of the 3rd Annual Community Recognition Luncheon. “We are privileged to work with them; we are privileged to live with them.”

“They” are those men, women and agencies recognized Tuesday inside the State Room of the H.L. Nowell Union on campus, including Ned Mitchell, William Ray, Robert Smith, Dean Spradling and the Delta Regional Council of the Mississippi Hospital Association.

All those that spoke or were recognized “focus on, maintain or carry on in the spirit of advancing” Delta State’s current theme for the year, “Health and Wellness in the Delta.” Ricki Garrett, Executive Director of the Mississippi Nurses Association, returned to the Delta State campus to deliver the day’s keynote address.

As director, Garrett represents nursing at regulatory meetings of the State Health Department, the Board of Nursing and the Board of Medicine. Further, she represents nursing interests to legislators and other public officials, while advocating for the best interests of the nursing profession and the health care of Mississippians.

“There is no single, more important issue in this country, right now, than healthcare,” she opened declaratively and emphatically. Citing nursing shortages nation-wide and state-wide, along with instances of declining patient care, Garrett painted a very real picture, but reminded, “we have enormous capacities at our disposal to deal with the problems facing this country.

“To many times, people get caught staring at the door closing when there is a window opening. We cannot make that mistake. We mustn’t stare at the closing door,” Garrett urged. “Now is the time to do something, do anything.”

And, the luncheon’s honorees are “doing something.” Delta State’s College of Business recognized Ned Mitchell as its “Outstanding Business Person of the Year.” A Delta State graduate, Mitchell serves as managing partner of SouthGroup Insurance Services in Cleveland. He has served as President of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, the Bolivar County Industrial Foundation, the Cleveland Arts Council and the Delta State Foundation. Previously awarded as the “Distinguished Statesmen of the Year, 1993” and the “Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, 1998,” Mitchell started his insurance career in 1963, buying his first agency in 1973, The Mitchell Group.

Of the recognition, Dr. Billy C. Moore, Dean of the College of Business, offered, “Ned Mitchell has a made a difference, he has contributed to success of his industry and he is committed to business excellence. That is why we recognize him today.”

Also being recognized was William Ray as the inaugural School of Nursing Visionary. Currently, Ray is President/CEO of The Asbury Foundation of Hattiesburg Inc. His healthcare administration career first began in Clarksdale as the President/CEO of Northwest Regional Medical Center from 1964-1977.

It was during that time Ray became instrumental in launching the School of Nursing at Delta State, an institution he attended in 1954 and 1955 as a member of the championship football squad and track program.

Just as Ray did, the day’s third honoree “saw a need and filled it,” according to Hilpert. Robert Smith, retired rice and soybean farmer and philanthropist, saw the need for highly qualified and well trained nurses in Mississippi, and to that end, endowed five scholarships at Delta State’s School of Nursing.

His generosity and genuine concern for his community earned the Cleveland native recognition as this year’s “Hometown Champion.” Tuesday’s praise comes on the heels of his recent selection as the Gladys Castle “Friend of Delta State” Service Award winner.

Smith is a former board member of the Delta State Foundation and currently serves on the Wesley Foundation Board of Directors. An active member of the First United Methodist Church, Smith supports numerous charitable causes and outreach ministries.

Recognized as this year’s “Delta Region Champion,” Dean Spradling of Clarksdale, is the founder and president of InfoLab, Inc. The business involves the sale and distribution of laboratory equipment and supplies, while employing over 220 people in 20 different states.

Hilpert acknowledged, “His success is a testament to his hard work, and he has never overlooked, nor forgotten his earliest roots at Delta State University.”

A native of Itawamba County, Spradling earned his bachelor’s of science degree from Delta State in 1953. To this day, he still cites the impact the Biology and Physical Sciences department has had on his career.

The day’s agenda closed with the final recipient being recognized, as the Mississippi Hospital Association’s Delta Regional Council earned “Delta Region Champion” honors.

In Mississippi, there are over 100 hospitals with approximately 50,000 employees serving the healthcare needs across the state. The Mississippi Hospital Association is the statewide trade organization that represents and serves hospitals, their employees, patients and communities. Founded in 1931 MHA provides education for state healthcare leaders and is a source of data and information on healthcare issues and trends. The association is a strong voice advocating healthcare legislative and regulatory issues at a state and national level.

Within the hospital association, the Mississippi Delta has a regional council of hospital chief executives that meets quarterly to address key issues facing hospitals in the Delta. Members of the MHA Delta Regional Council work together to address challenges related to the financial viability of hospitals in the region, the adequacy of the healthcare workforce, the importance of collaboration across sectors of the healthcare industry and the role of hospitals in assuring access to quality health care.

The 3rd Annual Community Recognition Luncheon was an official “Health & Wellness in the Delta” event.