USM FUNDRAISING FOR COLLEGE OF BUSINESS REACHES A MILESTONE — Gift from First Bancshares, parent of The First, puts effort over $8 million mark

Rendering of Scianna Hall, the new school of business to be built at Southern Miss

A recent donation from First Bancshares Inc. put the University of Southern Mississippi over the $8 million mark in its quest to raise $10 million to cover its share of a new 90,000 square foot home for the College of Business.

In addition, Southern Miss alumnus Chuck Scianna, a 1975 finance grad and Houston businessman, has issued a matching gift challenge to help raise the remaining $2 million needed to move forward with construction of the new building this summer. Scianna will match any gift to the Building Better Business Campaign made through May 31, including the recent contribution from The First, up to a cumulative total of $1 million.

Scianna, founder & CEO of oil and gas drilling equipment company Sim-Tex, has already pledged $5 million, bringing his total gift to $6 million.

Dr. Lance Nail, dean of the College of Business, said First Bancshares Inc., parent of The First, has been a strong partner with Southern Miss and the College of Business. “It is only fitting,” he said, “that their commitment to the new building moves us into the home stretch for breaking ground.”

The contribution will award The First naming rights to the home of the college’s Center for Financial Services, a space that will feature finance workstations and up-to-the-minute stock and other financial information.

Hoppy Cole, president & CEO of First Bancshares, said The First has been successful in large part through the support the university, the Business College and Hattiesburg as a whole has provided the publicly held bank since its start in 1996.

“Southern Miss is a significant economic driver in our area,” he said. “ It is critical that the university has state-of-the-art facilities to remain competitive and attract top quality students. Those students go on to be successful, productive members of our community, which elevates our regional economy.”

The College of Business hopes to break ground on the $33 million building this summer and is shooting for a fall 2014 opening. State funds are covering construction costs beyond the $10 million contribution from the university.

The USM Foundation, in partnership with the University’s College of Business, announced the fundraising campaign on March 29, 2011. As of Feb. 20, the campaign has received $8.1 million in commitments, including a gift of $250,000 from Southern Miss alumni Louis and Lou Ann Poynter of Hattiesburg, a $1 million gift commitment from alumni Tom and Jana McDonnell of Madison, and the $5 million gift commitment from Chuck and Rita Scianna of Houston. The building is to be named Scianna Hall.

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