HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from USM
For decades, Dr. Joe Paul, Vice President for Student Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi, has inspired numerous student leaders to live by his mantra of encouragement to leave the institution "better than they found it."
Today, Paul, having clearly made Southern Miss better than he found it, announced his retirement from the vice president's position, effective June 30, 2015. Paul, 61, steps down after serving the institution for 39 years, spending the last 21 as vice president.
During his tenure, Paul has overseen the expansion of key student services, founded student programs, and built relationships that now span the globe as Southern Miss alumni explore and enhance the world around them. He leaves behind a legacy that includes, among other significant achievements, the creation of the Luckyday Citizenship Scholars program and construction of more than $100 million in student-dedicated facilities, such as:
The Payne Student Recreation Center McCarty Residence Hall The Sorority Village Student Activities HUB Century Park North & South (7-residence hall complex) Moffitt Student Health Center"One never quite knows the right time for change, but I always wanted to leave the University at a time when things were going well," Paul said. "I am excited about President (Rodney D.) Bennett's leadership and impressed with his passionate concern for our students and their success."
Paul originally approached Bennett about the possibility of retiring at the end of the 2014 academic year, but Bennett convinced the longtime administrator to continue serving as vice president through not only the fall 2014 semester, but also through the end of the current academic year.
"I have tremendous respect for Dr. Paul and the contributions he has made to the Southern Miss story as a student, an alumnus and an administrator, and I am grateful he agreed to my requests to serve an additional year as vice president," Bennett said. "For more than 104 years, our institution has been shaped by individuals who have devoted their time, energy, and expertise to improving the quality of our students' experiences, both in and out of the classroom, and Dr. Paul has certainly been an integral part of advancing our University."
Paul, a true Golden Eagle, says he plans to remain engaged with Southern Miss in many ways.
"The beauty of retiring from Southern Miss is that you don't really have to leave it," Paul said. "We (he and wife Meg) will continue to reside in Hattiesburg, and you will see me at most every Southern Miss event for many years to come. I will continue to serve my alma mater in any way possible."
Bennett has appointed Dr. Tom Burke, current Executive Assistant to the President for Administration, to serve as interim vice president for student affairs, effective July 1. Burke has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, having previously served as associate vice president for student affairs at the University of Georgia; associate director of student life at the University of Alabama; and dean of student life at Middle Tennessee State University. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a master's degree and doctorate from Florida State University.
"I am pleased that Dr. Burke has agreed to lead the Division of Student Affairs on an interim basis," Bennett said. "I am confident that as a seasoned student affairs administrator, he will make valuable contributions to the University's work in increasing the quality of student life as we carefully consider the best way to fill this critical student-centered position moving forward.
"I have decided to forego refilling Dr. Burke's current position in the President's Office until we achieve greater certainty regarding the University's budget."
A True Southern Miss Legacy
Joseph S. Paul, a Bay St. Louis native, earned two degrees from The University of Southern Mississippi, graduating with a bachelor's degree in communications and political science in 1975 and a master's in communication and management in 1978. In 1986, he earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Alabama. His many honors include induction into the Southern Miss Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000.
Before becoming vice president for student affairs in February 1993, Paul held a variety of positions on campus, including assistant director of student activities, assistant vice president and dean of student development. He also holds faculty rank in USM's College of Education and Psychology, teaching in the graduate program in educational leadership.
The relationships he has built extend over many decades. Among his closest colleagues is Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway, who has worked with Paul since 1979.
"I checked him in to Scott Hall in the Fall Quarter of 1971," Holloway recalled. "Throughout the years, our relationship grew, and I consider Dr. Joe Paul to be the ideal student affairs professional. He modeled the ways for his staff members to emulate. Southern Miss is better because of his work ethic and commitment to high quality methods and operations. I'm proud of our years together as teammates at USM."
In many cases, Paul's career has now spanned generations of Southern Miss students.
"If our students are the lifeblood of a university, Joe Paul is most certainly the heart of Southern Miss," said Jackson-based attorney Jim Warren, a Student Government Association president in the early 1980s. "He's been there with us, as students, from orientation all the way through graduation. He's housed us, provided activities, advised our organizations and just generally made the University work for literally generations of students. He knows so many students, and has served as a mentor to so many. My son is a student now, and Joe has been there for him, much in the same way he was for me."
Like alumni, current students have praised Paul's contributions and commitment to Southern Miss.
"Dr. Paul has moved student affairs and this institution forward to the strongest position possible," said Student Government Association President Jeffrey George. "The quality of student facilities, Greek Life, and the work of our many student organizations are all exceptional. He is leaving student affairs with the promise of a bright future. Now, it's up to us –to current students, alumni, faculty and staff—to deliver on that promise. He's exiting his position on the staff, but his encouraging words to, 'Leave Southern Miss better than you found it,' will resonate with the student body for many years to come."
With the respect of his peers and the admiration of the Southern Miss community, Paul will exit the vice president's role, as he intended, better than he found it.
"So many things are going well in student life at Southern Miss," he said. "President Bennett's emphasis on the quality of the student body is changing us for the better. Our state-of-the-art residence halls, student center, recreation center, student health services center and other facilities are as fine as you will find anywhere in the nation. Fraternities and sororities are growing and achieving at unprecedented levels. The number of hours our students are investing in community service is phenomenal. Our student leaders are the best."
More from Southern Miss Alumni
"Simply stated, Joe Paul is one of the most influential people in my life. Joe knew how to get the best out of the students at Southern Miss. He has a unique ability to build friendships that last a lifetime. When I think about my days at Southern Miss, Joe had as much to do with my future success as anyone I can think of. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be molded by someone of Joe's caliber."
Todd Buchanan,Senior Regional Vice President VALIC Financial Advisors, Inc., Southeast Region
"He was one of my favorite people on campus when I was a student. He mentored me through multiple situations, including when my father passed away when I was a sophomore, to while I served as president of my fraternity and the Student Government Association.
"I don't know how we could ever quantify his recruiting impact on the student body – his ability to know students, to know them by name went a long way with a lot of people."
Jared Loftus, Student Government Association President (2003)
College of Business Young Alumnus of the Year (2012)
"Dr. Paul taught my class for leadership scholars my first semester at Southern Miss. While I learned a lot from him in class, I'd learn much more about leadership by watching him my four years on campus. He not only challenged his students to leave Southern Miss better than we found it, he showed us how. While it's sad to see him go, we're blessed to have had him helping our noble institution for so long in such a meaningful way."
Gene Gouaux,Student Government Association President (2006)
"Dr. Joe Paul is the soul of Southern Miss. He is a constant through many seasons of change, instilling in generations of students a belief and ability to leave something better than when they found it. I owe any success in life to my time at our noble institution, and Dr. Paul had the most influence in shaping that experience."
Toby Barker State Representative - House District 102