USM honors post-tornado restorations in ceremony

DSC_0015Hattiesburg, MS —  The University of Southern Mississippi celebrated the reopening of the Ogletree House and recognized the completion of numerous  restoration projects along the front of campus Friday morning. More than 100 people in attendance including Gov. Phil Bryant, alumni, current students and board members came together to honor the state-of-the-art campus area.

On Feb. 10, 2013, an EF-4 tornado ripped through the campus, causing severe damage to the Ogletree House, several buildings across the southern edge of the university, destroyed 75 trees and scattered debris across the front portion of campus.

“Over the past year and a half, the transformation that has taken place on the southernmost edge of the Hattiesburg campus has been nothing short of incredible,” said Jerry DeFatta, executive director of the Alumni Association. “The restoration of the Ogletree House has been a complete success. As our alumni and friends return to the Ogletree House, I have no doubt they will be impressed by the quality of work done to this historic facility.”

The Ogletree House serves as an on-campus home for all alumni of the university. The facility was restored exactly to its original standing. Structural repairs, technology upgrades and the addition of student oriented and leisure space were among the changes made.

Other facilities damaged from tornado include the Jazz Lab, Mannoni Performing Arts Center and Marsh Hall, facilities used by students within the School of Music and Southern Hall.

USM President Rodney Bennett acknowledged the damage of the tornado and the resilience of the university. “…To keep moving forward, we do not lose hope at USM, we do not give up at USM, at USM we rebuild, we restore and we recover,” Bennett said. “These academic programs being impacted by the tornado, however this did not burden the resilient spirit of Southern Miss.”

The Southern Miss Foundation conducted a campaign to raise funds for recovery as well as for campus beautification, raising $2.3 million for landscape rehabilitation and landmarks to highlight the southern “front porch” of the University.

Donors who contributed to the restoration campaign were recognized on the Southern Miss Tornado Relief and Landscape Restoration Honor Wall, a wall that was created with the restoring of Lake Byron.

Following the ceremony, the audience gathered in front of the Ogletree House for the ribbon cutting down by Mrs. Frances Ogletree, the wife of the late Powell Ogletree.

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