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Ex-USM president and polymer science pioneer quietly retires

HATTIESBURG — Shelby Thames, a pioneer in polymer sciences and a former president of the University of Southern Mississippi, has retired. That’s according to an announcement from the school.

Thames founded USM’s research program in polymer science. He was university president for five years, from 2002-2007.

The Hattiesburg American reports Thames retired last week with no formal announcement.

In 1970, Thames convinced then-President William McCain to let him start a one-man department of polymer sciences — then a novelty among research universities. During the next two decades, Thames built that one-man show into a prestigious program.

But his tenure as president was marked by a contentious relationship with the school’s faculty members, many of whom criticized his leadership style as autocratic.

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