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Dr. Daniel J. Ennis inaugurated as 9th president of Delta State University

IHL Commissioner Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr. (left) congratulates Dr. Daniel J. Ennis after formally investing him as DSU’s ninth president.

CLEVELAND, Miss. — Dr. Daniel J. Ennis was officially inaugurated as the ninth president of Delta State University during an investiture ceremony held Saturday, February 24, at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. The ceremony was the culmination of an Inauguration Week that emphasized the contributions of past Delta State presidents, celebrated the centennial of the creation of Delta State Teachers College by the Mississippi legislature, and focused on the role of the university as a beacon of education and service to the Mississippi Delta.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) speaks at the inauguration of Dr. Daniel J. Ennis as Delta State’s ninth president.

The processional was led by Chief Marshal Dr. Christopher Jurgenson, Faculty Senate President and Sullivan-Outlaw Associate Professor of Biochemistry. The Marshals were senior faculty members, with an average service time of 25 years at Delta State University. The presentation of the Colors, a distinguished honor, was carried out by Cadet Second Lieutenant Jai Patel in the Civil Air Patrol and a student in Delta State’s Commercial Aviation program. The singing of the National Anthem was performed by Delta State University student Keveon Beavers, a junior Music major, and the invocation was given by Evelyn Greer, a Junior, Pre-Nursing major, Vice President of the African American Student Council, and a Student Government Association Senator.

Ennis was welcomed into his new role by distinguished guests Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mississippi Transportation Commissioner for the Central District Willie Simmons, Cleveland Mayor Billy Nowell, President of the DSU Foundation Dr. Hugh Smith, President of the DSU Alumni Association George Miller, Chair of the Administrative Staff Council Holly Ray, Faculty Senate President Dr. Christopher Jurgensen, and Student Government Association President Haley Rooks.

Wicker spoke of his family’s long association with Delta State, including an aunt who was among the first graduates of the institution in 1929. He said, “In the nearly 100 years since the doors opened with my Aunt Myrle, the school has proven itself to be a major force in higher education, and I can say that your federal delegation is determined that you remain a force.”

Simmons holds two degrees from Delta State and has served as a visiting instructor. He said, “As a two-time graduate of this university and one who has spent most of my adult life in the Mississippi Delta, I am proud of this great university and the leadership role it has played since it was created in 1924.” Simmons also recognized State Treasurer David McRae, who joined the Presidential Party on stage.

Delta State SGA President Haley Rooks was among those who officially welcomed Ennis to Delta State during the investiture ceremony.

Nowell said that he has quickly grown to have faith in Ennis’ capability. “He is the perfect man to take Delta State to new heights, and I want to welcome him and his family to Cleveland, and we look forward to many years of his leadership.”

Other special attendees included Delta State’ fourth president, Dr. Aubrey Lucas, Dr. Kent Wyatt, Delta State’s fifth president, Dr. Butch Caston, interim president from 2022-23, Bill Dossett, grandson of the second president of Delta State, William Kethley, and Margaret Ewing Thomas, daughter of the third president of Delta State, James Ewing.

The Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. Michael Benson, the president of Coastal Carolina University. Prior to coming to Delta State, Ennis served at Coastal Carolina University for 24 years. Benson said that Ennis is exceptionally suited for his role as Delta State’s president and expressed optimism for the future of the university with Ennis at the helm. He reminded everyone that the Marshall Plan that helped the world recover from World War II was first presented at a Delta Council meeting on the DSU campus. “You have greatness in your institutional DNA,” he said. “You have a leader equipped to draw on that greatness as you enter your second century. I’m so proud of my friend, Dan. Listen to what he says. Believe in the bold and daring vision he has for this place. Follow his lead. Support him in his efforts, in the good times and the bad, because I promise you there will be plenty of both. I will tell you; the greatest days of Delta State lie ahead.”

Commissioner of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr. charged Ennis with providing effective leadership for the university. He said, “Dr. Ennis brings to this institution a resume of both a scholar and a leader. His academic history demonstrates his dedication and value to education.”

He told Ennis, “Delta State University has been placed in your trust and care. The members of the board of trustees and I are confident that you will fulfill all these expectations.”

Ennis was joined onstage by (from left) daughters Caroline and Katie, and his wife, Jennifer.

The President of the IHL Board of Trustees Dr. Alfred E. McNair, Jr. joined Rankins to formally invest Ennis as Delta State’s ninth president. He said, “You have the high privilege and opportunity to provide strong leadership and wise council to this institution. By virtue of the power and authority vested in me as president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, I install you, Dr. Daniel J. Ennis, as president of Delta State University, and invest with you all the power and authority of that office.”

Ennis said, “I owe thanks to so many. It’s humbling to contemplate all the effort that has gone into making this day possible. I am profoundly moved by this responsibility and will do everything I can to pay back that trust.”

Ennis spoke to his vision of his role as one of a custodian charged with maintaining a valuable institution and invited the Delta State family to join him in that role. He said, “The future of this university requires that we all – students, administration, faculty, staff, alumni, community — accept custodianship, accept our role and responsibility in maintaining, protecting, and improving this place so it can exist for another century.”

Dr. David Abney, former CEO of UPS and a Delta State alumnus, provided closing remarks. He said, “I can tell you that I feel very confident that Dan is the right man to lead this institution.”

The ceremony was led by Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Leslie Griffin, and included music from the DSU Wind Ensemble, the DSU Chorale, and Freshman Music Industry Studies Major Drew Pulliam. Senior Computer Information Systems major and Delta Diplomat Kanav Kaushal read “Theories of Time and Space” by former Mississippi Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, and the benediction was given by Reverend Les Hegwood, Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church. Recent Vocal Performance graduate Tico Jones closed the program with the Delta State Alma Mater, and guests were invited to a celebratory luncheon in the State Room of the H. L. Nowell Student Union.

To view a replay of the live stream of the event, visit