Former USM President Horace Fleming passes away

MACON, GA (WDAM) - A former president at The University of Southern Mississippi has passed away.

Dr. Horace Weldon Fleming, who served as the seventh president of The University of Southern Mississippi from 1997-2001, died Friday morning at his home in Macon, GA. He was 65.

Dr. Fleming is survived by his wife, Orene; a daughter, Susan; and a son, Patrick. An opportunity to pay tribute to Dr. Fleming and his family will be announced soon by university officials.

During Dr. Fleming's tenure as president, Southern Miss made several significant advancements, including attainment of Carnegie Doctoral Research Extensive University status; initiation of the university's first comprehensive university fund raising campaign, which succeeded in surpassing its goal of $100 million; and the implementation of four new doctoral degrees, seven new masters programs and eight new undergraduate programs.

Other accomplishments included a university-wide comprehensive technology upgrade; a 50 percent increase in research funding; a $150 million building program; the offering of online courses; improved grade-point averages and graduation rates for student athletes and several upgrades in athletics facilities; and freshman and sophomore courses at the university's Gulf Park campus;

"Today, the Southern Miss family mourns the loss of a former leader of our beloved university, Horace Fleming," said Southern Miss President Martha Saunders. "However, we also celebrate the life of a loving husband and father, a military veteran, a distinguished scholar, and, most importantly, our friend. We appreciate deeply the contributions that Dr. Fleming made to Southern Miss."

A native of Elbert County, Ga., Fleming earned his bachelor's degree in political science in 1965 and a master's degree in political science in 1966 from the University of Georgia, where he was a distinguished graduate of the university's Army ROTC program.

Fleming served in the Vietnam War as an Army captain. His military decorations include the Bronze Star and South Vietnam's Regimental Cross of Gallantry. After completion of his military service, he earned a doctorate in political science from Vanderbilt University in 1973. His dissertation on the First Amendment and the rights of free speech was supported by a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship.

His postdoctoral education included a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the University of Texas; an American Bar Association Legal Education Program Grant; and a fellowship from the Williamsburg Development Institute.

Fleming joined the Clemson University faculty in 1971. In 1982, he founded and was first director of Clemson's Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs. An annual award given to an outstanding political science student who interns at the institute is named in Fleming's honor.

He took a leave of absence from Clemson to serve as staff director of the Office of the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and chief economist for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In 1990 Fleming became executive vice president and professor of business and public administration at Pacific University. He left Pacific to assume the post of executive vice president and provost at Mercer University in 1992, where he remained until being selected president of Southern Miss.

After leaving Southern Miss, he rejoined the Mercer University administration as executive vice president and provost. Last year, Mercer honored Fleming with an appointment as distinguished university professor.

Dr. Fleming was the author of multiple journal articles, monographs and contributions to books, and made presentations at many panels, lectures and seminars during his career.

His academic research interests included community and economic development; government organization theory; natural resources policy; state and local government finance and volunteerism and management of non-profit organizations.

He was a member of several honorary and civic organizations and was an active philanthropist. After leaving Southern Miss, he continued to help raise funds for the university's capital campaign.

In July 1997, Dr. Fleming responded to a 10 percent raise approved for all of the state's university presidents by making a $10,000 gift to the Southern Miss Foundation to support scholarships and other needs of faculty and students.

"Dr. Fleming and I had a wonderful relationship," said Southern Miss President Emeritus Dr. Aubrey Lucas, who chaired Fleming's capital campaign for the university. "We respected each other and always enjoyed being together. He was my first successor, and I hope I never tried to tell him what do.