In November, Dr. Joe Paul was named as the next president of The University of Southern Mississippi – to the delight of his friends, the USM community and his former classmates.
- By Maurice Singleton
In fact, when Paul was named interim president, many hoped the first step had been taken and the appointment would become permanent, should he agree to the opportunity.
Paul’s connection with the many alumni, whether it be former classmates or the many contacts he has made during his 40-year tenure at USM, are countless. Everybody knows Joe Paul. They know his love for the University, and they know the energy that he gives to support the development of young people through their college years and beyond. The appointment of Dr. Paul fulfilled the wishes of many alumni across the state and country.
“I am honored to be president of this University,” said Paul. “I wake up every day going after it. It’s immediately gratifying and enjoyable. It’s good work.”
Paul added that the challenges are steep, and he has set his goals high for the four years he has committed to the University. “In some ways it’s like drinking from a firehose,” said Paul. “Four years: that's not a very long time to affect real positive change.”
Dr. Paul has many goals planned for his tenure over the next four years. In particular, he plans to increase enrollment and reinvigorate campus life — especially after the limitations the pandemic placed on campus events. “Our students are the reason we are here,” said Paul. “We must provide the highest level of engagement as we help them chase their dreams.”
Another goal is campaigning to raise $150 million. This campaign was originally launched in March 2022, well before Paul’s appointment. However, he is committed to exceeding the $150 million. To date, $138 million has already been raised, $13 million since his arrival. The campaign has three primary goals: student success, academic excellence, and innovation and discovery. Funds are expected to be used to increase scholarship opportunities, expand programs, and expound upon research efforts.
As a native of Bay St. Louis and a 1971 graduate of Bay High School, Paul credits his parents and his upbringing in the Bay as key factors contributing towards him becoming the person he is today. “I just had a wonderful childhood and great friends growing up in the Bay,” he recalled. “I always felt challenged and nurtured.”
Past teachers were crucial to Paul’s success, as they broadened his horizons. Paul said, “My education in Bay St. Louis has helped me immensely, especially because of Mrs. Patricia Griffin and Mr. Douglas McQueen.”
Paul also recalled times he spent with his friends, David and Ricky Kidd. His father was a close friend of their father, so he visited them after school often. “Joe and I grew up playing baseball together,” said David. “We had Joe’s dad as our coach, and in those early years, every kid wanted him as their coach. We all loved him. Sportsmanship was a must.” David says that he and Paul have remained the best of friends, getting together whenever possible.
David added, “I believe Joe's position as the president of The University of Southern Mississippi is perfect for him. He’s helping the young future leaders develop, grow, and chase their goals, learning success and failure along the way. I am so proud of him.”
Another of his friends and former classmate, Janet McQueen, says she is not at all surprised by what Paul has accomplished in his career at Southern Miss. “Joe has always been smart, creative, quick and well-liked,” said McQueen. She said his intelligence and wit has translated well into the business world, allowing him to not only formulate solutions, but articulate and implement them well. “Joe also has a great sense of humor, a quality critical to successful leadership,” added McQueen.
Paul doesn’t get back to Bay St. Louis as often as he would like, since his mother, Helen, moved to the Hattiesburg area. She is 98 years of age “and thriving,” said Paul.
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