Mississippi university president and his wife give back with $300,000 scholarship endowment

Published 9:35 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023

University of Southern Mississippi President Joseph S. Paul and his wife, Meg, have committed $300,000 to support the Leadership Scholarship Program. Dr. Paul announced the program as a priority early in his presidency, understanding that engaged students are a bellwether of growth and success for the University.

The Joe and Meg Paul Leadership Scholarship Endowment will support the recruitment of highly engaged high school seniors to attend Southern Miss.

“An ACT score doesn’t tell the whole story of a student. Character, leadership, passion and grit can’t be quantified,” Dr. Paul said. “We want all students to come to Southern Miss with a purpose, to take the wheel and chart their path. These leadership scholars will positively impact and alter USM for the next generation. The perpetuity of an endowment is a game-changer; it will provide scholarships long after Meg and I are gone. That’s a cool legacy and larger than any two people.”

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This gift combines with earlier generous commitments from Mollie Magee Van Devender, Chuck and Rita Scianna, and other funds to put the Leadership Scholarship Program well on its way to the total goal of $30 million. Ultimately these funds will endow approximately 200 leadership scholars in perpetuity.

Dr. Paul, the University’s 11th President, earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science from USM in 1975, graduating magna cum laude from the Honors College, and received a master’s degree in communication and management from Southern Miss in 1978. He also holds a Ph.D. in administration of higher education from the University of Alabama.

He served as the vice president for student affairs before retiring in 2015. Prior to that role, he held a variety of positions at the University, including assistant director of student activities, assistant vice president and dean of student development.

Mrs. Paul holds a degree in special education from Mississippi State University. After graduating and returning to her hometown of Hattiesburg, she taught at Hattiesburg Public Schools. Later, she earned her nursing degree at Pearl River Community College, graduating in 2003. She has provided end-of-life care as a hospice nurse for the past 20 years.

Dr. and Mrs. Paul are members of the USM Foundation Honor Club at the President’s Circle Level, the Aubrey K. Lucas Society, the Circle of Champions and Partners for the Arts. The Pauls are also Life Members of the Southern Miss Alumni Association.

Learn more on supporting the USM Leadership Scholarship initiative. We are also here to connect you philanthropically with The University of Southern Mississippi. To reach us, please call the USM Foundation at 601.266.5210.

Founded in 1959, the USM Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to serving the University community by overseeing fundraising efforts to raise private support for scholarships and other academic needs at Southern Miss.