Dr. K.E. “Skip” Hughes II grew up in Birmingham, Ala., surrounded by hills and pine trees. Good thing Hattiesburg has an abundance of each.
On July 1, Hughes will officially become the director of the School of Accountancy at the University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Business. Hughes comes to USM from LSU, where was the associate dean of the E.J. Ourso College of Business.
Hughes had been at LSU since 1997.
In his new position, Hughes can combine daily interaction with groups outside the business school and oversee the internal details of the school of accounting. At LSU, he said, most of his work focused on in-house matters.
“The director’s position offers the best of both worlds and represents a step up in my professional career,” Hughes said.
Hughes’ professional career, before joining academia, started at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1966 before starting a 26-year military career that took him to Vietnam and Lebanon to fly combat operations, and to the University of Virginia where he commanded Attack Squadron 85 and the school’s Naval ROTC Unit. He retired from the Navy as a captain.
During his academic career, Hughes has authored more than 50 articles that have appeared in academic professional journals.
There were a number of factors — both personal and professional — that led him to Hattiesburg, Hughes said.
“USM’s accounting faculty and staff appear eager to make the accounting program an exemplar in both the state and the Gulf Coast region,” he said. “The university and college administration are solidly behind this effort. The accounting alumni are supportive and many are actively involved. It is always more fun when everybody is pulling on an oar, and also, you get to where you’re going a lot quicker.
“On a personal level, I value the collegial environment that is more typical of a smaller campus. The folks I’ve met thus far at Southern Miss could not have been nicer or more hospitable.”
Like every resident of Louisiana and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, Hughes was profoundly impacted by Hurricane Katrina. In the immediate aftermath, Hughes, through a friend who sat on the board, learned a large Louisiana corporation — which he did not name — was searching for a way to help.
Hughes, whose wife, Carol, was already directing a shelter for pregnant women and newborns at their Baton Rouge church, then pitched an idea to the board: New Orleans had lost all its major medical facilities in the storm. The few that remained operational were small clinics.
Hughes’ pastor had visited one clinic in particular desperate for help, and brought it to Hughes’ attention.
“I then did my best to connect the need with those who were looking to help,” Hughes said. “The doctor running the clinic was spending all his waking hours either seeing patients or writing grants to obtain support for the clinic. I asked him to e-mail me all of the grants he had written; I then consolidated them into a package and sized the package into one, which I believed could be sold to the board. It took a couple of iterations, but was eventually successful. My friend on the board was a strong supporter, and I value his friendship in helping us to pull this off. It was a team effort, and it allowed the clinic to remain operational and for the doctor to see patients.”
In a recessionary economy, the teaching of accounting is an area rich with material. Of all the debate over cause and effect of the recession, Hughes identifies a few lessons students should learn and carry with them into the workforce.
“First, we operate in a global economy, and our students need to be adequately prepared,” he said. “Second, technology continues to advance at a rapid pace; students need to leverage technology in order to be successful in tomorrow’s workplace. Third, knowledge is perishable; students must realize that learning is a life-long requirement. And finally, knowledge by itself does not lead to nirvana; the values we learn and develop in the thousands of life’s little lessons we all experience, from our childhood onward, are essential.
“I think we all got a first-hand view of where unbridled greed can lead us in the recent business press. One of the exciting things about joining USM’s School of Accountancy is the opportunity to work with the faculty and staff in preparing students to enter the accounting profession armed with these lessons.
“Finally, I would like to say that I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to join USM’s faculty and the leadership team within the College of Business that Dean Lance Nail is putting together. Carol and I are excited about embarking on this new adventure.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org .