Fireside Chat

Joining President LaForge is Anne Wynn Weissinger, former President of the DSU Foundation, to discuss Delta State Giving Days.

Like most public universities, Delta State receives only a portion of the funding needed for operations and programs from the state and from tuition. Therefore, the university relies on financial support from individuals, businesses, and foundations to fund scholarships, to provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff members, and to market the university’s outstanding programs. To support these efforts, the Delta State Alumni and Foundation Office is in the midst of a new fundraising effort called “Delta State Giving Days.” The objective of the campaign is to raise a remaining $75,000 of the $500,000 total amount needed for the Delta State Annual Fund.

This important campaign began May 23 and will run through June 30. We encourage everyone to go online and give to the Annual Fund today. No gift is too small, and every dollar will be maximized as Delta State continues on the path of success.

In other news on campus, the university is pleased to welcome Delta State’s new Vice President of Student Affairs to campus later this month. Dr. Vernell Bennett, who will begin in July pending IHL approval, previously served in the same role at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. She will replace Dr. “Butch” Caston, who has been serving as the interim Vice President, following the retirement of Dr. Wayne Blansett last year. It is also the time of year when campus is buzzing with summer camps for students of all ages. There is still time to participate, and you can find information on all of the Delta State summer camps at To stay up to date on all of the news, activities and events on campus, visit our website at

Campus Update, June 7, 2016

I am pleased to announce to the university family the addition of two outstanding professionals to my leadership team—Mr. Jamie Rutledge as Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Dr. Vernell Bennett as Vice President for Student Affairs.  With the addition of these two colleagues, my Executive Committee—that also includes Dr. Charles McAdams, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Michelle Roberts, Chief of Staff and Vice President for University Relations—is now at full mast.

Mr. Rutledge is a veteran of Delta State’s Finance and Administration office where he served as Comptroller for six and a half years.  Since CFO Steve McClellan’s departure in March of this year, Mr. Rutledge has served very capably as Interim CFO.  His effective date of service as our new CFO began May 1, 2016.  Mr. Rutledge has already grasped the reins of the university’s budget process, and he has established himself very quickly as our financial guru.  Earlier in his career, he served as Chief Financial Officer for the Greenville, MS, Public School District; Business Manager for the South Delta School District in Rolling Fork, MS; and, Senior Accountant with a CPA firm in Belzoni, MS.  He is a Certified Public Accountant and a 1984 graduate of Delta State, with a BBA in accounting. His daughter, Grace, and son, Ryan, are both Delta State students.

Dr. Vernell Bennett comes to us following a distinguished 20-year career at Kentucky State University, where she served as Vice President for Student Affairs and was a tenured associate professor in the Department of Music, with a teaching specialty in voice.  Previously, she was Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Senior Advisor to Academic Affairs and Presidential Liaison, Interim Chair of the Division of Fine Arts, Interim Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education, and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs.  Dr. Bennett has a bachelor of music degree from Fisk University, an M.A. from Eastern Michigan University, and an Ed.D. in Instruction and Administration from The University of Kentucky.  Her service begins July 1, and she will be here prior to that time to facilitate transition.  Dr. Bennett’s superb credentials and experience, combined with her student-centric focus and engaging professional style, will serve our students and our university well.

I am thrilled to welcome these two new vice presidents to the Delta State administration.  I know they will each serve with distinction.  Please help me “roll out the green carpet” for both of them.

I also extend my sincerest appreciation to both search committees that worked so hard to bring us top-notch candidates.  By any measure, these were two extraordinarily successful searches.

The CFO search was chaired by Provost McAdams, and included the following committee members:  Lynn Byrd (Academics), Deborah Cox (Foundation), Kelvin D. Davis (Finance and Administration), Dr. David Hebert (Academics), Julie Jackson (Student Affairs), Allie Rose Parker (student), Kim Pongetti (Athletics), Marilyn Read (Staff Council), Judson Thigpen (alumnus/community), Nicholas Walters (student), and Lisa Giger (ex officio).  That committee may have set a speed record for its deliberation and recommendations.  Excellent candidates emerged, and we wound up with the best—and one of our own!

The VPSA Search Committee, under the leadership of Dr. Temika Simmons, on the other hand, may have set a record for length of service, and I applaud their diligence, professionalism, and patience in the lengthy process.  That national search extended well beyond a year, identified some stellar candidates, and was actually closed and reopened at my request along the way.   I am very grateful to the committee chair and members for their hard work and energy.  Committee members included:  Dr. David Breaux (Academics), Betsy Elliott (Retiree), Dr. David Hebert (Academics), Mike Kinnison (Athletics), Porter Leftwich (alumnus/community), Michael Lipford (Student Affairs), Diana McLemore (Enrollment Management), Allie Rose Parker (student), Marilyn Read (Staff Council), Mikel Sykes (student), and Lisa Giger (ex-officio).

I also want to express my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Butch Caston for serving as Interim Vice President for Student Affairs for the last year.  He served with great distinction and class, often under some very difficult circumstances.  Although long retired as Delta State’s Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Caston served a second “mission of mercy” as Interim Vice President for Student Affairs at my behest, following service as Interim Provost in 2014.  He epitomizes the Delta State spirit of service and dedication, and I wish him well in his next attempt at retirement!