CLEVELAND, Miss. — Delta State University officially welcomed its ninth president, Dr. Daniel J. Ennis, to campus Thursday, April 6. DSU students, faculty and staff gathered with members of the Cleveland community in Jobe Hall Auditorium for the presentation and reception.
Tom Duff, President of the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning, opened the program by saying, “We are delighted to be here. It is a great day for Delta State.” He briefly introduced the other IHL board members in attendance and former DSU presidents Dr. Aubrey Lucas and Dr. Kent Wyatt, then recognized and publicly thanked outgoing Interim President Dr. E.E. Caston.
“Dr. Caston didn’t want the position he took,” said Duff. “He took it because of the love he has for this school.”
Duff then turned the podium over to IHL Trustee Teresa Hubbard, who led the search for DSU’s new president. Hubbard said, “Together, we conducted a thorough search and selection process that resulted in the appointment of an exceptional leader. I have no doubt that our new president will be a valuable addition to our college community.”
Hubbard introduced the incoming president by saying, “It is now my great privilege to introduce you to your president. Dr. Daniel J. Ennis is a veteran educator and administrator with more than 20 years of experience in higher education.”
Hubbard continued, “Since 2019, he has been listed as a Fullbright Specialist. Currently serving as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, Dr. Ennis successfully led efforts to increase enrollment. He is an accomplished friend and fundraiser who connects donors, faculty and the community to see the potential in an institution.”
Hubbard brought Dr. Ennis and his wife, Jen, to the stage and then called upon nine representatives from campus and the community to present gifts to the Ennises. Included in the gift presentations was a key to the city of Cleveland, presented by Mayor Billy Nowell. “We are going to have a long history together,” said Nowell.
Dr. Ennis came to the podium and thanked the IHL Trustees, the gift presenters, his wife, daughters Katie and Caroline, and friends.
He said, “This is not the occasion to describe the things that I have been hired to do. To make data-driven decisions. To review policies and tweak procedures. To align resources with strategic goals. I assure you that all that will come. All that is the day-to-day work that keeps the doors open and the students on track for their degrees. At a later time, after consultation with so very many stakeholders, I will tackle what is to be done, and explain how we will do it. But today, I feel the need to rise to this historic occasion. I want to say something that is worthy of all your attention.”
He then quoted a poem from 1925 by the first dean of Delta State Teachers College, Dean William H. Zeigel, written in reflection on the founding of Delta State.
Dr. Ennis said, “While his entire poem is too long for me to recite today, a couple of stanzas will capture the flavor. Dean Zeigel writes, ‘Sons and daughters of the Delta, see you Cleveland as your Mecca. Meeting place of school and scholar, not far distant now. Forward, now, our college calls us to our state’s most useful service. Countless children will rise to bless us. Country, school, and God.’”
Dr. Ennis continued, paying homage to Delta State’s history with quotes from a 1970 yearbook and the 1996 retirement ceremony of longtime DSU employee Jimmy Williams. He closed with a quote from Charlie Patton. He said, “(This is from) my favorite Charlie Patton song, a song recorded not long after this institution was conceived. A song that was probably sung out at Dockery even as the bricks were being hauled to this patch of land to build this university. Charlie Patton sings, ‘My hook is in the water, and my cork is on the top. My hook is in the water, my cork is on the top. How can I lose, Lord, with all this help I got?’”
The presentation closed with Hubbard introducing Head Football Coach Todd Cooley, who led the football team and the audience in singing the Delta State fight song. Following the presentation, Dr. and Mrs. Ennis mingled with guests, all eager to welcome the new president and wish him well.
Dr. Ennis formally begins his duties as DSU’s ninth president on June 1.
Video from the live stream of the event can be found by clicking here.