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Delta State legends recognized with new award

By November 17, 2014Alumni, Community, Faculty/Staff
Three inaugural members of the "Legends of Delta State University" program were honored this weekend — Coach Margaret Wade, H.L. Nowell Jr. and President Emeritus Dr. Kent Wyatt.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge and the President’s Cabinet proudly announce the most distinguished and prestigious program recognizing lifetime achievement, service, excellence and success in serving Delta State.

The Cabinet recently approved the prominent program titled “Legends of Delta State University.” Recognition for the five members of the inaugural class will come at different times over the next year.

Three of these initial honorees were announced this weekend during 2014 Homecoming festivities. The remaining two will be revealed at a later date.

“The Legends of Delta State University recognition is bestowed in a most selective manner,” said LaForge. “It is the highest public honor which may be conferred by Delta State. The program recognizes individuals who have demonstrated long and sustained commitment and significant service to the institution.

“The establishment of this program is a great day for Delta State. This select group of heroes and all-stars from throughout Delta State’s storied history has a legendary record of success, excellence, achievement and distinction.”

Recipients of this recognition will have earned the individual and collective respect and admiration of people throughout the university family.

Awards will be bestowed only to former employees of the university, living or dead, who have long embodied the essence of the meaningful purpose of the award, and who have repeatedly demonstrated the high moral character so symbolized with the award.

Acknowledgement is made through the Triangle Crystal Award. This trophy will contain the seal of Delta State and the words “Legend of Delta State University.”

The first Legend to be granted the award was the late coach Margaret Wade, who was also recognized Friday with the dedication of her statue on the campus of Delta State.

Wade served as head coach of the Lady Statesmen from 1973-79, leading Delta State to three consecutive AIAW National Championships from 1974-75 through 1976-77. During that time, Wade amassed a remarkable 157-23 record and helped pave the way for future female head coaches like Pat Summitt to excel in the sport they love.

Known as the “Mother of modern women’s college basketball,” Wade’s winning percentage (.789) remains one of the greatest of all-time. The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association named its player of the year award her, and the Lily Margaret Wade Trophy is annually awarded to the nation’s top women’s Division I basketball player.

Coach Wade retired in Cleveland following the 1979 season. In 1986, she became the first woman and first women’s coach to be inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. She is also a member of the Delta State University and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Second to be granted Legend status was H.L. Nowell, who was honored at the Kappa Alpha Chapter Room on Saturday.

Henry Lee Nowell Jr. graduated from Delta State in 1943 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, and served a two-year stint during World War II as a member of the 58th Fighter Group of the 5th U.S. Army Air Corps in the South Pacific Theatre.

Nowell began working at Delta State in November of 1948, serving as director of public relations. He served the university in many capacities during his nearly 38-year tenure, often being the first to hold that position and, thus, having to build from the ground floor. Some of his other positions included: Dean of Men, director of Student Activities, dormitory supervisor, cheerleader sponsor, and director of the Union.

He was also the person most responsible for the creation of Delta State’s Greek system, and he personally helped guide many of the local fraternities and sororities to national affiliation.

Nowell loved Delta State as much as any person, and was named Delta State’s Outstanding Alumnus in 1964. Perhaps the greatest honor bestowed on him was in 1993 when the Union was named the H.L. Nowell Union. In 1994, members of the Administrative Staff Council named the annual staff service award for him — The H.L. Nowell Outstanding Support Staff Award.

The third recipient during Homecoming weekend was one of Delta State’s most revered leaders — President Emeritus Dr. Kent Wyatt ‘56.

Wyatt assumed the presidency of Delta State on July 1, 1975, and served with distinction until his retirement on June 30, 1999.  His tenure as the fifth president of the institution was characterized by dramatic growth and advancement in virtually every area, including student enrollment, physical plant, academic recognition and private giving.

In 1964, Wyatt was named Delta State’s first full-time alumni secretary and served in that position until 1968 when he was named administrative assistant to President James M. Ewing.  He continued in that capacity during the administration of Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas (1971-75), and was named president in 1975.

Wyatt was also honored this weekend as 2014 marks 50 year’s of Wyatt’s association at Delta State. Alumni, friends and the Delta State family gathered Saturday to pay tribute to a true living legend. Wyatt, forever present on campus, remains a leader and mentor to many, including President LaForge.

University Archivist, Emily Jones, will also spearhead efforts to collect oral histories on each awardee and preserve information in the university’s archives.

“This could be the first time these awardees have been interviewed to document their life stories,” said Jones. “Collecting oral histories of these legends begins the process of getting to know who these folks are. One of the greatest resources we have in archives is the spoken word.”

Any current or former student or member of the Delta State University community, or any friend of Delta State, may nominate someone for the award. Additional letters of support and/or other brief materials, which might appropriately support the candidate, may accompany the nomination.

All nominations are to be sent to the university’s president, will be filed in the Office of the President and are retained for a period of three years. In addition, the President’s Cabinet is empowered to identify and consider additional candidates.

The award is not required to be given each year. Display of the recipients’ names will be made public in the President’s Suite in Kent Wyatt Hall.

LaForge said he is honored to take part in recognizing some the institution’s most respected contributors.

“As these individuals, both living and diseased, are recognized from time to time, Delta State will be honoring its most distinct sons and daughters,” he said.