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4/21/2022 - Jackson, Miss.

Trustee Walt Starr passed the gavel to incoming President Tom Duff at the meeting of the IHL Board of Trustees held today in Jackson. Trustee Duff will officially take office on May 8.

"Mississippi's public university system provides an excellent return on investment to our students and the state," said Trustee Duff. "Our universities forge Mississippi's future through outstanding academic programs, pioneering research and service to communities across the state. I have enjoyed my service on the Board and look forward to taking a new role as President."

Trustee Duff served as Vice President of the Board during Trustee Starr's term. Trustee Alfred E. McNair Jr. will serve as Vice President during Trustee Duff's term.

"The university leaders, faculty, staff, and students have faced tremendous challenges over the past two years due to the global pandemic," said Dr. Starr. "I am very proud of the way they have continued to adapt and persevere, while maintaining the quality of the academic programs, research efforts and the service they provide. Despite many hurdles, thousands of students will graduate this spring with the degrees necessary to achieve their career and life goals. This is a testament to hard work of the students and university faculty and staff."

Mississippi Public Universities served approximately 89,000 students and awarded 19,681 degrees in Academic Year 2021. Over the past five years, there has been a 10.8 percent increase in the number of degrees awarded and a 25.9 percent increase in the number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates.

Mr. Tom Duff was appointed to the Board by Governor Phil Bryant in May 2015 to represent the Second (Southern) Supreme Court District for a term to expire May 7, 2024.

Mr. Duff is a resident of Hattiesburg and is co-owner, along with his brother Jim, of Duff Capital Investors, the largest private business in Mississippi. In 1980, Mr. Duff received his bachelor's degree in business from the University of Southern Mississippi. In 2012, in recognition of Jim and Tom Duff's significant contributions, the University of Southern Mississippi named its athletic center 'The Jim and Tom Duff Athletic Center.' The center is located on the north end of Roberts Stadium and houses the football players locker room, weight training area, and coaches' offices.

Mr. Duff serves on the advisory board of Trustmark National Bank and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is the father of two children and four grandchildren.

Dr. J. Walt Starr was appointed to the Board by Governor Phil Bryant in May 2015 to represent the Third (Northern) Supreme Court District for a term to expire May 7, 2024.

Dr. Starr is a native of Starkville and graduated from Mississippi State University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry, from University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry in 1984 and completed a periodontal residency from the University of Alabama Birmingham in 1988.

Dr. Starr practiced general dentistry from 1984 - 86 in Starkville and Macon at which point he entered his residency for periodontics from 1986-1988. He has practiced periodontics in Columbus and Starkville since 1988 and has served the dental community for the past 29 years. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Mississippi Dental Association, American Academy of Periodontology, American College of Dentists, past president of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, past president of the Columbus Dental Society, past president of the District 1 Dental Society, past member of the Mississippi Dental Association Board of Trustees and volunteers his services for the Donated Dental Services (DDS). Dr. Starr was appointed to the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners by Governor Haley Barbour and served from 2004 - 2010.

Dr. Starr is actively involved in the community. He is a past president of Columbus Rotary Club, past president of Columbus GirlChoir and past member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church Vestry. He also served on the Mississippi State University Development Foundation Board for three terms.

Dr. Starr and his wife, Lee Ann, have two daughters, Breland and Georgia Grace. He is an active member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Columbus.

Trustee Walt Starr (right) of Columbus, outgoing President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, passes the gavel to incoming President Tom Duff of Hattiesburg.

Trustee Tom Duff (left) of Hattiesburg, incoming President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, presents a plaque of appreciation to outgoing President Walt Starr of Columbus.

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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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