Skip to main content

Colloquia series continues during inauguration week

By October 12, 2013President
colloquia logo

Delta State’s recently established Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series will be in full swing from Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in conjunction with inauguration week for President William N. LaForge.

LaForge, who will be inducted as the university’s eighth president on Nov. 1, has a personal connection with most of the speakers scheduled during the week.

“As a university, we need to make available to Delta State and the community marquee speakers from across the country and the world,” said LaForge. “Great universities have great programs, and this is another step in the right direction. This is one of the hallmark items of what we’re trying to do here.”

The highlight speaker will be U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi as he keynotes the president’s investiture ceremony. Cochran and LaForge have a personal and professional history that spans more than 30 years.

LaForge, who once served as chief of staff to Cochran, became the second former Cochran chief of staff to lead a Mississippi school. The College Board named Mark Keenum the Mississippi State University president in 2009.

“I am very pleased to accept the invitation to speak at the inauguration ceremony of Bill LaForge as president of Delta State University,” said Cochran. “His educational background, which includes teaching and experiences in government, are unique qualifications for his service as president of this university.”

Each day leading up to inauguration, the Colloquia speakers will celebrate a different constituent college or school. Monday will focus on the School of Nursing, Tuesday on the College of Education and Human Sciences, Wednesday on the College of Arts and Sciences and Thursday on the College of Business.

The schedule kicks off at 5 p.m. on Oct. 28 in rooms 141-143 in the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing. The first speaker, Dr. Marcella McKay, is the Chief Operating Officer of the Mississippi Hospital Association.

McKay also serves as president and CEO for the MHA Health, Research & Educational Foundation. Her areas of expertise include health policy, regulatory compliance, patient safety, quality of care and healthcare administration.

McKay has been an active member of the Advisory Committee for the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce since its inception in 1996. She currently is a co-lead for the leadership development track of work within the Mississippi Action Coalition.

She has bachelor’s degrees in biology and nursing; a master’s in special education; a Master of Science degree in nursing; and Ph. D. in Clinical Health Science. She completed the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellowship, a world-class leadership program to enhance the effectiveness of nurse leaders to impact the U.S. health system.

Tuesday’s College of Education and Human Sciences guest is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Jacob Conference Center inside James M. Ewing Hall, featuring Doris Dixon.

Dixon and LaForge worked together on various projects while in the nation’s capital, including an earlier stint Dixon had with the U.S. Department of Education. According to LaForge, Dixon was an outstanding legislative assistant dealing with education policy during the time LaForge was chief of staff for Senator Cochran.

In the early 1980s, Dixon served as the membership director for the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce, where she earned two national awards for innovative membership development strategies. She currently works as a legislative policy staff member in the office of Legislation & Congressional Affairs for the U.S. Department of Education.

In the 80s and 90s, she served as a professional staff member to both Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress, the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

Dixon left Capitol Hill in 1995 to become the first director of Federal Relations for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, where she established and managed the legislative affairs office for the nation’s preeminent college sports organization.

Wednesday’s College of Arts and Sciences guest is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the auditorium of E.R. Jobe Hall, featuring James W. Morhard.

LaForge and Morhard have been close friends for more than a quarter-century and were colleagues on Capitol Hill. They fought many policy battles together during their staff years in the U.S. Senate.

Morhard holds a degree in accounting from Saint Francis University in Loretto, Penn., an MBA from George Washington University and a juris doctorate from Georgetown University. He is admitted to the practice in the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania.

In 1978, he became an analyst for the Secretary of the Navy and the Navy Comptroller in the Pentagon, where he reviewed procurement and research and development appropriations.

Morhard became the chief of staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2003, where he managed a staff of 68 and assembled, personally negotiated, and passed the fiscal year 2004-2005 Omnibus appropriations bills.

After leaving the Senate in the winter of 2005, he founded the law firm of Morhard & Associates, LLC. He has also been a guest lecturer on the legislative process at Harvard University, the Naval War College and Georgetown University. Morhard is an adjunct professor at the Naval Post Graduate School and is a member of the board of Saint Francis University. He also serves on the advisory board for the U.S. Institute of Peace

Amazingly, Morhard is also a survivor of the 2010 plane crash that claimed the lives of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and four others.

The final speaker, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of E.R. Jobe Hall, will be Dr. Jeff Lenn, professor of strategic management at George Washington University.

Lenn and LaForge worked together for more than 30 years at GWU, where Lenn was his department chair, dean and vice president. He has remained LaForge’s great friend and mentor since their time together in the school of business.

Lenn teaches in GWU’s School of Business in the department Strategic Management and Public Policy. His areas of expertise include: business-government relations; corporate political strategy; strategic management; executive leadership; managerial ethics; corporate social responsibility; and organizational change.

His current research includes: design and implementation of political strategy; values and ethics in executive decision making; corporate social responsibility; and business as a vocation and occupation.

Lenn has served as a consultant to corporations, trade associations, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. He also has extensive experience in management and executive development programs, both domestic and international.

He has been a featured speaker at academic, professional and business conferences in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. His writing includes a number of case studies about management and corporations.

While these Colloquia events will be back-to-back during the week of inauguration, the program will continue throughout the course of the academic year. The lecturers will come from a wide variety of backgrounds and will also be available to the faculty and students throughout the day they are scheduled to present.

“These are all folks our students can look up to,” said LaForge. “This is just part of what a university should be doing.”

To view the upcoming Colloquia schedule go to For all the events related to inauguration, visit the official website at

All Inauguration events are funded through support provided to the Delta State University Foundation.