HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi
Spring commencement at The University of Southern Mississippi promises to be special for Willie Tubbs and Dr. David R. Davies, with Tubbs set to receive his Ph.D. and Professor Davies serving as commencement grand marshal.
Dr. Davies, director of USM's School of Mass Communications and Journalism, is Tubbs' dissertation advisor so he'll be juggling grand marshal duties while also hooding Tubbs upon receipt of his degree.
Concerned that his mentor might be too overwhelmed with his ceremonial obligations to perform the hooding, Tubbs offered to pass the duties to one of Davies' colleagues.
"I asked if he needed to tag out of hooding me, assuring him I didn't mind asking a different member of my (dissertation) committee," Tubbs said. "He said, 'No, I can do both. It will just take a little planning. And if I can only do one, I'm doing the hooding. That's the more important moment.'
"The man was willing to give up a well-earned personal honor to do something for one of his students. To me, that cements him as the perfect grand marshal."
Nominated by colleagues and students, the role of Grand Marshal is bestowed upon a Southern Miss faculty member with a minimum of 10 years of experience. The awardee is selected based on research, teaching and service, and serves in this capacity at USM commencement ceremonies for one calendar year.
A former dean of the USM Honors College, Davies joined the University's Department of Journalism faculty in 1991. His research specialties include the press and Civil Rights Movement, and trends in American newspapers since World War II. He was an associate dean of the College of Arts & Letters in 2006-2007 and dean of the Southern Miss Honors College from 2007-2014. Before entering academia, he was a reporter for 10 years in Arkansas for both the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette.
"I'm very humbled and honored to be selected as grand marshal," Dr. Davies said. "For me and for so many faculty members, commencement represents the culmination of all of our university work, as we get to see students complete the long process of securing a university degree."
Davies has served on the board of directors of the American Journalism Historians Association, and since 2005, on the board of directors of the University Press of Mississippi. He is a graduate of the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Reporting at Ohio State University, where he earned a master's degree in journalism. He also holds a master's degree in American history from Southern Miss and a Ph.D. in mass communication, specializing in media history, from the University of Alabama.
In addition to his duties as director of the School of Mass Communications and Journalism, Davies directs the Southern Miss British Studies Program. He also directed the Southern Miss semester in France initiative, the Château Program, from 2014 to 2016; was chair of the USM Journalism Department from 1998 to 2001; and interim director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism in 2004-2005.
He has written two books: The Press & Race: Mississippi Journalists Confront the Movement (University Press of Mississippi, 2001) and The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, 1945-1965 (Praeger, 2006). With Pam Parry of Eastern Kentucky University, Davies is co-editor of the Women in American Political History book series published by Lexington Press. Two books in the series are already in print, and four more are in progress. In 1998, his doctoral dissertation won the prize for best dissertation in media history from the American Journalism Historians Association.
Like Davies, Tubbs worked as a journalist before deciding to pursue a career in academia, including as a reporter for Alexandria, La.'s The Town Talk and the Leesville (La.) Daily Leader. A native of Erwinville, La., Tubbs also served as sports information director at Louisiana College, his undergraduate alma mater.
Impressed by his mentor's "blue collar" approach to his work as a professor, administrator, advisor to students and all-around ambassador and advocate for USM, Tubbs plans to emulate Davies in his own career.
"I think most people in the know would agree the university is truly fortunate to have Dr. Davies," Tubbs said. "His extensive list of accomplishments is evidence you can do all things, if only you apply yourself."