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10/25/2010 - Jackson, Miss.

The Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning recently voted to offer new four-year contracts to Delta State University President Dr. John M. Hilpert and University of Southern Mississippi President Dr. Martha Saunders, becoming effective as current contracts expire.

"We feel very fortunate to have such dedicated and visionary leaders at these universities," said Dr. Bettye Neely, president of the Board of Trustees. "We appreciate their leadership and commitment to putting students first, even in the difficult economic times we are facing today."

Dr. John M. Hilpert has served as president of Delta State University in Cleveland since 2003 and has worked with the campus community toward becoming the Best Regional University in America. Delta State has met enrollment and fund raising goals. Budgets are sound and faculty leaders participate regularly in institutional governance.

Since 2003, he has served as board president for the Delta Health Alliance and was elected president in 2008 of the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities. He also serves as chair of the Commission on Colleges Board of Directors (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), the regional accrediting body for more than 800 colleges and universities.

Hilpert's degrees include a Ph.D. from the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Michigan, an M.Div. from Concordia Seminary in Missouri, and a B.A. from Concordia Senior College in Indiana. He also holds a two-year diploma from St. Paul's College in Missouri.

Dr. Martha D. Saunders is the ninth president of The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss. She took office on May 21, 2007, continuing an illustrious career of higher-education leadership.

As the new president at Southern Miss, Dr. Saunders worked quickly to bring the campus together in a widely inclusive strategic planning process. Under her leadership, the university has identified four overarching areas of strategic emphasis including:

  • a climate for academic success
  • an enhanced national image
  • stronger connections with the community
  • a culture of healthy minds, bodies and campuses.

She and campus officials planned the many celebratory events surrounding the university's 100th anniversary this year.

A native of Mississippi, Dr. Saunders earned her B.A. in French from The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg; her M.A. in journalism from the University of Georgia in Athens; and her Ph.D. in communication theory and research from Florida State University in Tallahassee.

"Both Dr. Hilpert and Dr. Saunders are exceptional leaders," said Dr. Neely. "The Board of Trustees is very pleased to offer them an additional four years to continue reaching new heights at their respective universities."

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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