Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at email@example.com.
We sing to thee our alma mater,
USM thy praises be:
Southern mem’ries we shall cherish,
Loyalty we pledge to thee.
Spacious skies and land of sunshine,
Verdant trees and shelt’ring walls,
Now our hearts lift ever to thee,
As we praise thy hallowed halls.
— The University of Southern Mississippi alma mater
Mother Nature put a stake through the hearts of Golden Eagles everywhere on Sunday, when a tornado tore across Hattiesburg, Miss., and part of our beloved university’s campus and the surrounding area.
A jazz studio for the music school was all but destroyed. There are reports that there is now a hole in the university’s performing arts center. All of the windows of a dorm I once lived in were ripped out.
Trees collapsed all around the beloved rose garden and Lake Byron, furthering destruction already done to foliage in that area by Hurricane Katrina seven-and-a-half years ago.
However, perhaps the most heartwrenching damage was that done to the Ogletree Alumni House, which was probably the second most beloved building on campus after our iconic domed administration building. The walls of half of the second floor of the alumni house collapsed, taking out half of the first-floor porch with it.
News of that the house had been severely damaged was already heart-stopping. Seeing pictures of the damage was enough to make any loyal Southern Miss alum’s heart drop through the floor.
You see, the alumni house is a part of our history. It is the embodiment of our history as a university.
When new Golden Eagles first arrive at Southern Miss, one of the first things they drill in our heads is the history of the school.
Chief among that history lesson is learning the five original buildings, which have been around since the first classes were offered in 1912.
Those buildings are:
• Ogletree Alumni House, which started life as the university president’s home but is now home to the Southern Miss Alumni Association.
• The Honor House, which began as the Industrial Cottage and now houses the Southern Miss Foundation.
• College Hall, an academic building which just underwent a major renovation and restoration to become home to the School of Mass Communications and Journalism.
• Hattiesburg Hall, which has always been a dormitory (I lived here for a few semesters).
• Forrest County Hall, which was originally a dormitory, but is now home to the school’s business office.
Amazingly, the tornado passed only about 50 yards by College Hall, its 1920s-era twin, Southern Hall, and the 1930s era administration building, but the damage to those buildings was moderate at the worst from what I’ve heard.
The administration building is the heart and soul of the campus. Its dome is the centerpiece of the University of Southern Mississippi seal. Southern Hall is near and dear to my heart because it also houses journalism-related programs. The offices of the student-run radio station, WUSM, and The Student Printz newspaper are also located in Southern Hall.
But, just as Hurricane Katrina did not break that university’s spirit, this tornado has also failed to best us.
In the hours after the tornado hit, some supporters of the university were already tweeting the hashtag #SMTTT — which stands for the university motto “Southern Miss To The Top” — and lines from our athletics fight song.
There is comfort for us in singing, “So lift your voices high, show them the reason why, that Southern spirit will never stop.”
Curt Yeomans is the Senior Reporter for the Clayton News Daily and an avid traveler. He can be reached by phone at 770-478-5753, ext. 247, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CYeomansCND.