FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 7, 2011
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
Tribute paid to Brigham at surprise reception on campus
COLUMBUS, Miss. – Inspirational, enthusiastic, persistent, optimistic and a rock star were just a few of the many words used to describe Mississippi University for Women Interim President Allegra Brigham at a surprise reception held in her honor Tuesday evening.
A host of guests, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, family, friends, church members, local and state leaders, were on hand for the tribute held in Cochran Hall to thank Brigham for her dedication and leadership to the university for the past 18 months.
Perry Sansing assistant to the president, spoke on behalf of the President’s Cabinet.
“A day like this always generates conflicting emotions,” he said referring to Brigham’s commitment, passion and dedication.
Sansing said he and other Cabinet members knew early on that MUW was in good hands, recalling a somewhat tense meeting Brigham had with a College Board staff person. He said she was able to neutralize the situation and possessed qualities that even some veteran presidents may have lacked in that situation.
“Like most of us that have worked with Allegra, you know that you can put her in charge of a bank or a slaughterhouse and it would be successful.”
Dr. E.E. “Butch” Caston, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, said, “I admire President Brigham’s energy and courage and especially her love for the university. She has accomplished so much in such a short time.”
Dr. Jennifer Miles, vice president for student services, said, “Allegra’s Brigham’s dedication to MUW has served as an inspiration to me. The entire campus has been energized by her leadership. I wish Mrs. Brigham the best and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with her.”
Faculty Senate President Dr. Gloria Bunnell said academicians sometimes can be skeptical when it involves change. However, they came to admire Brigham for her new ideas.
“We are better today because of Allegra’s leadership,” Bunnell said.
Dr. Sue Jolly-Smith, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, said, “No task has been too insignificant or too overwhelming for her, and Mississippi University for Women has been the beneficiary. While maintaining and supporting the ongoing outstanding work in academics and student life, President Brigham has led initiatives to bring much needed healing and unity, aesthetic improvements, enrollment increases and expanded external support. She has reached out to the student community who has responded to her accessibility. As well, she has led us to increased involvement in the greater community through service and partnerships.
Jessica Harpole, Staff Council President, said, “We truly believe you took on this role like no one else could have.”
“Your leadership and character inspire us to be better and work harder,” she said.
SGA President Leander Williams Jr. thanked Brigham for the role she has personally played in his life. He also was accompanied by a group of student leaders who participated in a cheer typically performed during orientation to introduce themselves to new students. The cheer took a turn at the reception with traits about Brigham and closed on the following note: She loves The W. We’re glad she’s here. We’re gonna miss her. So check her out.
Jase Sayre said, “Over the last year, I have had the honor to serve as Mrs. Brigham’s student worker. She has been nothing but an inspiration to me. I have never seen someone who works so hard. Even as her term as MUW’s president comes to close, she is still commanding this ship like she did the first day she arrived.”
On behalf of the Alumni Association, Lillian Wade presented Brigham with a ginkgo necklace and said, “You’re a true W girl.”
Alumna Mitzi Chandler Green, said, “Allegra Brigham is an exceptional leader, a tireless worker and a remarkable person. She has made tremendous progress while president with her steady focus on the best interests of The W.
“We owe her a lifetime of gratitude for her many accomplishments and dedicated service to the university. She is deserving of the highest recognition for a job well done for her alma mater. Her spirited leadership has truly made a difference in moving The W forward to a strong future.”
Dr. Shawn Parker, Brigham’s pastor at First Baptist Church, said Brigham is a leader among leaders.
When she took the presidency, he said she came to him with things she wanted him to pray about and she approached the task at hand with faith, prayer and eternal optimism.
“She saw this responsibility as an opportunity to make a difference in the community,” Parker said.
Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Columbus Lowndes Development Link, said, “Allegra is like Madonna, Elvis or Cher. One name and you know who she is. Very few of us reach that pinnacle. She is a rock star and was a rock star before she came to The W.
“From the Delta, to the coast, the hills and the Triangle her name is synonymous with success. Whether it be in education, community/economic development or advertising and promotion, she gives it 110 percent. She can captain my team any day.”
J.H. “Ken” Kennedy Jr., interim MUW Foundation president, said it was difficult to put into words what Brigham means to MUW.
“Isn’t she wonderful,” Kennedy said as he asked the crowd to join in and repeat the phrase.
“You are truly an example of a dedicated, caring successful leader. You have measured up to the task.”
Planning for the event started back in September, according to Angela Crossley Ferraez, director of major gifts and planned giving, who said it was no easy task to pull off.
“She is everywhere on this campus and she is in our office all the time,” she said, noting that whenever Brigham entered their office, the front desk would warn them and they would begin turning papers over.
In presenting the first edition of a memory book designed by art students, Ferraez stressed that nothing stays little when it involves Brigham. Other offices were called in to assist with the book and letters poured in from everywhere including the governor and other state officials.
Andrea Nester Stevens, who was also very involved in planning the reception, was charged with getting Brigham to the reception in Cochran Hall.
“It was not without a challenge and some obstacles,” said the executive director of development. “She knows so much about this campus and is so involved that it was hard keeping it a secret especially with so many people involved.”
Ferraez and Stevens also gave guests a glimpse into the light side of Brigham as they pointed to decorations in the room including her addiction to Gummy Life Savers candy and a tree accessorized with brightly colored and patterned socks with hopes they will replace the white and “outdated” ones Brigham often wears when traveling.
On a serious note, Stevens said, “Throughout President Brigham’s career, she has been a leader and for the past year and a half she has so generously shared those extraordinary leadership skills with MUW. She is incredibly talented, courageous and an inspiration to us all.”
Stevens announced the Allegra Cope Brigham Leadership Scholarship, where $40,000 had been received from alumni, faculty, staff, community members and family members.
“MUW continues to produce leaders. Those students who exhibit extraordinary leadership traits will be given an opportunity to have some extra assistance with their college education costs,” Stevens said.
The evening closed with Nora Miller, vice president for finance administration, who announced that the President’s Dining Room in Hogarth Dining Center is now the Allegra Cope Brigham President’s Dining Room. Miller said they look forward to hosting events there just as Brigham has extended her hospitality and grace to others.
During her remarks, Brigham said she was overwhelmed.
“I’ve dreaded the day to say goodbye,” she said. “It’s a bittersweet time for me. I have always loved this place.”
“It has rejuvenated me where learning is such a lifelong passion,” she added.
Brigham also took the time to offer words of support for MUW’s new president, Dr. Jim Borsig, and to thank the Campus Search Advisory Committee, the IHL Board and those she pulled out of retirement to join the MUW team during her tenure.
“He has a passion for our institution that will take us great places” she said.
“It has been a team effort. When we work together everybody achieves more,” she added. “Thank you all for everything. I will never forget my time here.”