The Delta State University Alumni Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual by the DSU Alumni Association, has inducted two new members. They are Dr. Wayne Blansett of Cleveland and Dr. Joe B. Whitehead of Hattiesburg.
Blansett, vice president for student affairs and associate professor of education in the Division of Behavioral Sciences at Delta State, earned a social science degree in 1973 and a doctoral degree in professional studies in 1988 at DSU. Blansett rose through the university system via student affairs, and coached the first Delta State women’s softball team while working on his thesis. In 1987, he was named associate dean of student affairs. Three years later, “associate” was deleted from his title and he joined the President’s Cabinet. In 1993, he was named vice president for student affairs. He took a brief break in 1998, when he joined 95 institutional representatives from around the world at the Institute of Educational Management at Harvard University.
In 1973, Blansett married Diane Woods, a Delta State alum, now director of academic support services for the university. Their children, Melanie B. Hebert and Brian, graduated from Delta State and married fellow alums.
A Picayune native, Whitehead walked on to play football for the Statesmen and initiated a lifelong career in higher education. After earning a degree in physics from Delta State in 1983, Whitehead enrolled at Kent State University as a graduate student and earned a doctoral degree in physics in 1989 while conducting research in the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State. He spent a year as a research scientist for the Energy and Materials Sciences Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute after graduating from Kent State.
Whitehead joined Southern Miss in 1990 as an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and spent the following summer at the John C. Stennis Space Center as a NASA/ASEE faculty fellow. In 1993, he received a joint appointment in chemistry and biochemistry. In 1996, he was promoted to associate professor and to professor in 2007. He was named chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1998, associate dean of the College of Science and Technology in 2004, interim dean in 2009 and dean in 2010.
Whitehead and his wife, Sonia Gayle, have two children – Alyssa, a junior at Samford University, and Nickolas, a junior at Oak Grove High School.