HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi will bid farewell to longtime administrator Dr. Joe Paul at the end of June, when he retires from his position as Vice President of Student Affairs.
"It became pretty clear to me that this is where I was called to be, and I was going to stay," Paul remembered of his time as a USM graduate student in the late 70s.
Paul said he never intended to get into higher education. He returned the year after his undergraduate graduation to work on his Master of Business Administration. After he got a job as assistant union director, he was hooked into the university culture.
"Once I got here and started working, particularly with student employees in the Union building and our activities council, I found my passion," he said. "I said, 'This is what I want to do in life.'"
Unlike most in his profession, Paul was able to stay at his alma mater throughout his entire career.
"That was also fairly serendipitous at times," he explained of opportunities to remain at Southern Miss. "It's been such a grand journey to be able to grow professionally and personally where you're planted at a place that you love dearly."
Paul was later appointed as Dean of Student Development, then to his current and final role as Vice President of Student Affairs in 1993. He worked with five university presidents, and he said he watched USM transform into a place that nurtures students, rather than hold a "sink or swim" mentality.
"It is still up to students to work hard and to get what's here," he said, "but we've got much more of a focus on students and student success."
Paul said he will still remain an active supporter of Southern Miss when his retirement takes effect July 1, and he hopes his motto known across campus will live on: "Leave it better than you found it."