OXFORD, Miss. – Haley Barbour was praised for his leadership and service Thursday (Oct. 18) as the Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi was officially dedicated in the former governor’s honor.
Hundreds sat and stood underneath partly cloudy skies with gentle breezes rustling autumn leaves for the mid-afternoon ceremony on the Lyceum Circ le, which the building faces. Besides Ole Miss faculty and students, the event drew many state and local government, education and industry officials from far and near.
“We’re here to honor Haley Barbour, whose legacy will be job creation in Mississippi,” said Ed Blakeslee, president of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. “The work he has done will always be remembered, and this building is a tremendous asset for the state as well as the University of Mississippi.”
The board, which met on campus earlier during the day, approved naming the center in honor of Barbour in March. UM Chancellor Dan Jones moderated the dedication program, introducing the former governor, welcoming visitors and recognizing distinguished platform guests.
“When Toyota unveiled its plans for Blue Springs in February 2007, the world saw Mississippi as a major player in economic development,” Jones said. “This Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence is one product of that plan, but its benefits go way beyond one company or one part of the state. This center will help the state continue to transform our economy by training the nation’s best students and helping attract innovative manufacturing jobs to this state for years to come.”
The CME is already providing wonderful opportunities for UM staff, faculty and, most importantly, students, Provost Morris Stocks said.
“The CME is focused on academic excellence, but also on personal and professional development,” Stocks said. “We’re developing the next generation of leaders in business and industry, and are very appreciative to Gov. Barbour for helping transform lives for the state of Mississippi.”
Colin Wattigney of Waggaman, La., a junior mechanical engineering major with an emphasis in manufacturing, made remarks on behalf of the CME student body during the program.
“This man developed the idea of the CME many years ago,” said Wattigney, who is part of the very first class of CME students to enroll at Ole Miss. “He created the premier manufacturing program in the United States and placed it right here in the state of Mississippi. Thank you, Gov. Barbour.”
The honoree graciously accepted all commendations during his response.
“I am honored that the University of Mississippi has named this new Center for Manufacturing Excellence for me,” Barbour said. “During my terms as governor, one of our most important accomplishments was the creation of higher skilled, higher paying manufacturing jobs. I am grateful to the university for this personal recognition, but even more grateful for the important work that has been and will be done at the CME to support a wide variety of manufacturing industries and companies in Mississippi and beyond.”
The dedication service was the highlight of a full day of activities that included tours, displays and a public reception. During a pre-ceremony luncheon, UM officials announced the naming of the CME board room in honor of the late Paul H. Johnson, and the naming of the Viking kitchen and the Philips Day-Brite classroom. Academic excellence is being supported through 20 new scholarships also named after Barbour and Toyota. Totaling $80,000 annually, the awards were jointly established by the Mississippi Development Authority, Toyota and the CME.
In acknowledgment of Toyota’s involvement in the establishment and support of the center, three Japanese maples have been planted in front of the building.
“The concept of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence was conceived by Gov. Barbour,” said James Vaughan, CME director and F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “This concept is based on interdisciplinary educational opportunities within an innovative academic learning model that will provide our students with practical experiences, fundamental knowledge and creative practices needed to lead the world of modern manufacturing.”
Established in July 2008, the CME provides unique educational opportunities to undergraduate students interested in modern manufacturing. The center brings together the schools of Engineering, Business Administration and Accountancy to provide students with technical skills involved in successful manufacturing, along with an understanding of accounting, communication, human resources, leadership, management and marketing.
The center has the support of a wide variety of industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to furniture and shipbuilding, as well as the support of state and national associations including the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Manufacturing.
The CME program began in fall 2010 with 27 freshmen from nine states. In fall 2011, 36 freshmen enrolled in the program. This August, 51 freshmen and transfer students enrolled, making the total enrollment more than 100. The goal is to enroll a total 200 students in the CME program by 2014, officials said.