USM receives grant for Bennett Auditorium

Bennett Auditorium was awarded $235,000 as a part of a Community Heritage Preservation grant.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:15 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Exciting news for the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus as a historical building recently received a grant for repair and restoration work.

Bennett Auditorium was awarded $235,000 as a part of a Community Heritage Preservation grant. Miss. District 102 Rep. Missy McGee said this is yet another example of great projects in Hattiesburg.

“We all have memories of orientations and watching movies and listening to the symphony here at Bennett. So this investment by the state through the department of archives and history is going to be so important that we can make restorations and continue to protect this beautiful building,” said McGee.

Improvements for the 93-year-old building will include plaster stabilization, electrical and lighting upgrades and exterior and window repairs.

With prominent artists, political figures and authors who have walked through the auditorium’s doors, Colin McKenzie, director of USM’s School of Music, said these improvements are critical for future education.

“The aim of our facility here is to provide a place for excellent training, a place for our students to come and experience wonderful musical events, the honors forum, all the wonderful things that happen in here,” said McKenzie. “An investment like this helps ensures this can happen for our students for many, many years to come.”

University president Dr. Joe Paul says this 1,000-seat facility has been an integral player in the development of history and culture at Southern Miss.

“I would venture to say more students have sat in this building, faculty, and staff through our university’s history more than any other building,” said Paul. “So this is a wonderful investment and it’s critical to maintaining this beautiful and historic building.”

The building was named Bennett Auditorium in 1972 in honor of the university’s second president, Claude A. Bennett.

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