Joe Paul to come out of retirement to lead USM as interim president

Joe Paul
Dr. Joe Paul

The Board of Trustees for IHL has approved a transition plan for the University of Southern Mississippi that will bring a former administrator back to the Hattiesburg campus.

On Thursday, the State Institutions of Higher Learning OK’d the plan to bring Dr. Joe Paul back as interim president of USM.

Dr. Rodney Bennett, who announced plans earlier this year to step down when his contract expired, will serve until July 15. Paul will take over on July 16.

“The Board appreciates Dr. Bennett’s service to The University of Southern Mississippi,” said Trustee Tom Duff, President of the Board of Trustees. “He has many successes to his credit, including the recovery from the tornado that struck the Hattiesburg Campus just as he began his tenure as president, the university earning the distinguished R1 designation as a top-tier research university, significant improvements in both the facilities and the academic programming at the Gulf Park Campus and other USM sites along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the transition to a new athletic conference for the Golden Eagles. We wish him well as he begins a new chapter in his professional journey.”

Paul is well-known to Southern Miss, having served for 40 years as USM’s administrator for student affairs.  He retired in 2015 and has served in part-time capacities for various organizations as well as a an advisor for Blue Hen Consulting Agency.

“I am honored to serve my alma mater as the IHL Board of Trustees completes its search for The University of Southern Mississippi’s next permanent leader,” said Paul. “I am eager to lead Southern Miss as we chase bold dreams, and I will be happy to return to chasing our grandsons once our next leader is on board. I am fully confident the IHL Board of Trustees will identify a dynamic leader as our 11th Southern Miss President. Our role is to ready the ship, so that the next president finds an institution in good order, energized, and poised for this pivotal transition. I will pursue those ends with full vigor.”

While Paul is serving as interim president, the IHL will be searching for a permanent replacement for Bennett.

The board on Thursday also appointed the members of the search committee for the USM president search:

  • Tommy Duff, Co-Chair
  • Gee Ogletree, Co-Chair
  • Jeanne Luckey
  • Dr. Alfred McNair, Jr.
  • Dr. Steven Cunningham
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