Message from President Dan Ennis

June 12, 2023

Dear Delta State Colleagues:

I write you at the beginning of my third week on the job as your president. As you might imagine, I had to hit the ground at a dead sprint — meeting folks in the community, becoming more familiar with the campus, and getting to know the leadership team. It has been a busy and delightful fortnight.

As to the community, I was fortunate to arrive on the eve of the Delta Council meeting, an event which afforded me the opportunity to meet dozens of Delta State University supporters. Both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor were complementary of our institution, and of course our local legislators were enthusiastic about our future. We’ll need friends in Jackson and Washington D.C. to increase our resources, and we have them. The Delta Council meeting also allowed me to meet many of our alumni, and their affection for Delta State is undiminished by time. That motivated and loyal alumni base has been and will continue to be a source of strength for Delta State, and I will cultivate those relationships wherever and whenever I can.

I was also able to visit the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce this week. There, too, I was pleased to receive offers of support for this place of higher learning. Regional business and civic leaders are behind us. Not every university enjoys such a strong town-and-gown relationship.

I capped last week by attending the Delta Soul Big Night Party Auction and Celebrity Jam at the invitation of Steve Azar, one of Delta State University’s proudest and most accomplished alumni. While there I was able to enjoy substantive conversations with two other proud and accomplished Delta State Graduates — IHL Trustee Teresa Hubbard of Cite Armored and David Abney of UPS. Both had positive things to say about their time at Delta State and expressed their faith in the future of the institution.

In terms of internal activity, I have now hosted my first Cabinet meeting and my first session with the Executive Committee. I don’t pretend that there are not challenges ahead — not the least of which are the budget deficits caused by weak enrollment — but, I am pleased to report that we have had frank conversations about what needs to be done. I commit to respecting your tradition of collaborative and transparent decision-making, and I expect the larger good of the institution to outweigh local preferences. And of course, as Harry Truman put it, the buck stops here. I will solicit opinions, weigh competing priorities, consider this university’s history and practices, and accept responsibility to secure the fiscal viability and academic vitality of this remarkable university.

I doubt anyone wants to hear much from the President — indeed, some of you may have stopped reading already — but I will close by mentioning significant events in our immediate future.

  • This is an accreditation year, and you will find the attention of many is turned toward our SACSCOC report and preparation for a spring, 2024 site visit. Accreditation is our license to operate as an institution of higher learning, and many of you will be called upon to help this process come to a successful conclusion.
  • I have formed a working group to focus on enrollment and retention, a body I will chair personally and a group that — not to be too dramatic — is essential for the future of Delta State. This is an extraordinary place, with much to recommend, and I am convinced that assembling talented and intelligent individuals and focusing on the task at hand will bring the results I expect, and you deserve.
  • This fall, when the entire campus community is reassembled, I will form a Budget Committee with the task of advising me and the Chief Financial Officer on the creation of the FY25 budget. I expect the next budget to be a document that aligns expenses with revenues and presents a sustainable fiscal model.
  • It is not too soon to think about the 100th anniversary of Delta State University — both from the point of view of philanthropy, and from the perspective of history. On the former, a campaign to increase our endowment is already underway. As to the latter, you will find me quite keen to celebrate a century of excellence in this place. I’m so pleased I have arrived in time for the festivities.

Circumstances have made it difficult for me to thank Dr. Caston properly and publicly for his stewardship of Delta State University as Interim President. I owe him a personal debt for his support, advice, and hospitality, and I hope you will join me in wishing him well.

I feel the heft of responsibility — how many students need this place to be at its best, how much the community craves a thriving Delta State University, and how the lives of our faculty and staff are entwined with the fate of the institution. I am both humbled and encouraged. Humbled, because I know my own flaws too well and want to be worthy of your trust.  Encouraged, because the goodwill of the entire Delta State University community surrounds me. Legions will work, sacrifice, and advocate for Delta State University. I’ve joined in. We’re all going to stand out.


Dan Ennis

P.S. Throughout my career I’ve operated on a first name basis, but I’ve picked up a note of formality here that I’m willing to honor. President Dan? Too casual? Some folks have defaulted to President Ennis, which is fine as well. You can call me anything you want, just don’t call me late for a fried catfish dinner