In a swift decision, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning ended its search for the 11th president of the University of Southern Mississippi by selecting Dr. Joe Paul, who is currently serving as interim president, to fill the role.
“During the listening sessions held on the campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, the campus community spoke clearly and passionately about why Dr. Paul is unquestionably the right person to fill the role on a permanent basis,” said Gee Ogletree, co-chair of the board search committee, in a news release.
“I have known and witnessed Dr. Paul’s exceptional contributions to the university for over four decades. I recognize Dr. Paul’s energy, relationships, affection and years of service to Southern Miss have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the right person to guide the university into its next chapter of leadership and excellence in teaching, service and research in the state and nation.”
Paul, a Southern Miss alumnus, retired in 2015 after he served as an administrator in student affairs for the university for more than 40 years. He’s also had the opportunity to hold other positions, among them assistant director of student activities, assistant vice president and dean of student development, before taking on the role of vice president for student affairs in 1993. Also included on his diverse résumé is his experience as a USM faculty member in the College of Education and Psychology.
“Dr. Paul is well-known to the campus community and truly needs no introduction. At the Listening Sessions, scores of Southern Miss alumni and students described the way Dr. Paul keeps the needs of the students first and foremost and gives each one the support needed for them to soar,” said Tom Duff, co-chair of the Board Search Committee. “The personalized experience students receive at the university is one of the many attributes that make The University of Southern Mississippi special. Dr. Paul is the best person to build on these strengths and help the university reach the next level of success.”
As USM’s newest president, Paul, “honored and humbled,” will seek to bolster the university’s enrollment and set ambitious goals to create an environment that supports its students and faculty.
“We have work to do in growing the enrollment, maximizing our impact on our Mississippi Gulf Coast and ensuring the continued growth of our research enterprise,” said Paul. “I am also deeply committed to creating an unparalleled student life and leadership experience. A spirit of shared governance will be front and center for me. I want to assure all that I will attack these next four years with the energy and urgency with which I have approached these first four months. We will chase audacious goals with passion and persistence. Our Southern Miss grit will prevail.”
Paul, a Bay St. Louis native earned his Ph.D. in the administration of higher education from the University of Alabama and was named the Most Outstanding Doctoral Student in the field in 1985. He graduated magna cum laude from USM in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science and went on to earn a master’s degree in communication and management from Southern Miss in 1978.
Most notably, Paul was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000.
“I believe the USM faculty will be pleased with the selection of Dr. Paul as our next president,” said Dr. Denis Wiesenburg, president of the USM Faculty Senate. “We told the IHL Board Search Committee that our next president should be someone who shares Dr. Paul’s vision of how a university operates. He is the type of leader who will work in true partnership with the USM faculty and staff to guide our university toward a bright future.”