Delta State University

Delta State University
Delta State University

Delta State University seal
Established 1924
Type Public, Co-ed
President John Hilpert
Academic staff 722
Students 4,091
Location Cleveland, Mississippi, U.S.
33°44′31″N 90°43′36″W / 33.742027°N 90.726548°W / 33.742027; -90.726548Coordinates: 33°44′31″N 90°43′36″W / 33.742027°N 90.726548°W / 33.742027; -90.726548
Campus Rural 332 acres (1.34 km2)
Sports teams football, basketball, baseball, swimming, diving, tennis, soccer, golf, fast-pitch softball, and cross-country
Colors Forest Green and White         
Mascot Official: Statesmen/Lady Statesmen
Unofficial: Fighting Okra (Mr. Okra)
Delta State University Logo

Delta State University, also known as DSU, is a regional public university located in Cleveland, Mississippi, United States, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. DSU is one of eight publicly funded universities in the state.



The school was established in 1924 as a public institution by the State of Mississippi, using the facilities of the former Bolivar County Agricultural High School, which consisted of three buildings in Cleveland. On February 19, 1924, Senators William B. Roberts and Arthur Marshall cosponsored Senate Bill No. 236, which established Delta State Teachers College, which Mississippi Governor Henry Whitfield signed on April 9, 1924.[1] The three buildings were Hill Hall, an administration and classroom building, Hardee Hall, a men's dormitory, and Taylor Hall, a women's dormitory. On February 14, 1924, James Wesley Broom was appointed president of the college and the college opened its doors on September 15, 1925. In May 1926, Broom died following complications from an ear infection, and William Zeigel was named his successor. The seal of the college was designed in 1928 as a project of an art class.[2]

World War II greatly affected the college. Anticipating the war in 1941, the college created a civilian pilot training program, which evolved into the current Commercial Aviation Department. When the war began, 254 Delta State students joined the armed forces. When the war ended, student enrollment at Delta State increased from 185 to 483.[3]

During the 1947 session of the Delta Council, Dean Acheson (Under-Secretary of State in Truman's administration) delivered a speech on campus that unveiled the Marshall Plan, detailing postwar relief for Europe.[3]

In 1955, the name Delta State Teachers College was changed to Delta State College. Delta State earned full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1963, which eventually led to the opening of the graduate program in 1965. In 1974 the college changed its name to the current Delta State University.[4]

In 1965 Delta State initiated a graduate program (Master of Education in Elementary Education, Elementary Supervision, Guidance, English, History, Math, Music, Social Studies, Business Education, Physical Education, and Science).[5]

From 1925 to 1967 the university had a White-only race admission policy. In 1967 racial segregation of DSU ended. The first African-American student, Shirley Antoinette Washington, enrolled at DSU.[6]

In 2005 Delta State assisted refugees from Hurricane Katrina by opening Hugh White Hall as temporary housing.


Bologna Performing Arts Center

Delta State University is located on 332 acres (1.34 km2) at 1003 W Sunflower Rd (Highway 8 West), in the northwest area of Cleveland, MS, 38733.[7]

Approximately 2,000 students enroll annually in Delta State's undergraduate degree programs, with an additional 600 enrolled in post-graduate or professional-level courses.[8] About 30 percent of students reside in on-campus housing.[9] Delta State provides both men's dormitories and women's dormitories, as well as apartments for married students.[10]

Most of the 64 buildings on campus use a particular brick pattern of yellow, orange, and white bricks. Particularly famous facilities at Delta State University are the large natatorium for holding swimming competitions, the Bologna Performing Arts Center (pictured left) with two theaters (one that seats 1,178, and another that seats 135), and the sound recording studios of the Delta Music Institute.


Delta State has two mascots (one official, one unofficial). Since its inception, Delta State's mascot had been officially known as the "Statesmen" because of the role State Rep. Walter Sillers, Jr. played in the location of the school in Cleveland. Sillers was speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives for 20 years. The female version of the mascot is the "Lady Statesmen".

However, since the late 1980s, the student body has embraced a mascot that depicts a piece of okra (a vegetable) wearing boxing gloves and brandishing a fierce expression.[11] The "Fighting Okra" grew out of humor among students about the improbability that anyone would find a "Statesman" particularly frightening. In the mid-1990s, a student vote was taken, resulting in the university taking on "The Fighting Okra" as an unofficial mascot. The "Fighting Okra" was featured in the "Okraphobia" episode of the Food Network show Good Eats.[12]

The popularity of "The Fighting Okra" grew so much that there were many myths started on how the mascot came to be, the most popular of these stating there was a stubborn okra plant on the first base of the baseball field that grew back every time it was cut. The true origin of the fighting okra mascot was born from a discussion between basketball and baseball players in the "Court of Governors" dormitory. A basketball player (Houston Williamson) was lamenting the fact that a "Fighting Statesmen" was not particularly frightening to their opponents. All present agreed that an alternate mascot would have to be mean and green. After a lively discussion and many suggestions, a baseball pitcher (Bob Black) suggested that okra was green, fuzzy and tough. The DSU baseball team began using the chant "Okra! Okra! Okra! Okra!" at DSU basketball games.

The unofficial "Fighting Okra" mascot has provided an illustration of a generational divide in comic sensibilities. Many older alumni find the Okra embarrassing and inappropriate, while younger alums find that it appeals to their sense of irony and their taste for absurd humor.


Delta State provides an undergraduate curriculum, offering 12 baccalaureate degrees in 42 majors. The university also advances student training through certain fields by providing graduate programs of study for eight master's degrees, the Education Specialist degree, and the Doctor of Education degree.


The Delta State University Department of Athletics sponsors thirteen intercollegiate sports, competing at the NCAA Division II level. DSU is affiliated with the Gulf South Conference and New South Intercollegiate Swim Conference. The institution competes intercollegiately in men's American football, basketball, baseball, swimming, diving, tennis, soccer, and golf. The women's intercollegiate program consists of basketball, tennis, fast-pitch softball, cross-country, swimming, soccer, cheerleading, and diving.[13]

One of Delta State's most notable sports coaches was (Lily) Margaret Wade (1912-1995). She coached the women's basketball team to three consecutive AIWA national championships and a 93-4 record, including a 51-game winning streak.[14] Wade was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985. Today, the Division I women's basketball player of the year receives the Margaret Wade Trophy.

Lloyd Clark, a native of Drew, took over the women's basketball program in 1983. Over the next 19 years he compiled a staggering 494-98 record. In addition, Clark's teams won three NCAA Women's Division II Basketball Championships. During those years, DSU played in the NCAA tournament 16 times, with 11 appearances in the Elite Eight. Clark's 1988-89 team became the first NCAA team to win a National Championship on its home floor. During his career, Clark compiled a record of 206-38 (.845) in Gulf South Conference Games. Lloyd Clark is a member of the Mississippi sports Hall of Fame along with other DSU heroes Margaret Wade, Lusia Harris-Stewart, and Dave "Boo" Ferriss among others.

Another very important figure was former Boston Red Sox pitcher Dave "Boo" Ferriss who coached the baseball program for nearly thirty years and led them to three appearances in the NCAA Division II College World Series before retiring in 1988. Boo was born in Shaw, Mississippi.

San Francisco Giants catcher Eli Whiteside played baseball for the University, as did Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brent Leach. Matt Miller of the Cleveland Indians also played for the Statesmen.

One notable would-be baseball player and student who was cut during tryouts was writer John Grisham.[15] In 2008, Grisham returned to the campus to join Ferris in an evening of baseball tales, raising more than $100,000 for the athletic program.

Delta State alumnus Jeremy Richardson is an NBA player for the Orlando Magic.

Delta State won the 2004 NCAA Division II national baseball championship.

Delta State won the 2000 NCAA Division II national football championship. Delta State's football team won the Gulf South Conference Championship in 2007 and 2008.

Flight school

Delta State has a fairly large flight school and is also the only university in Mississippi to offer a degree in Commercial Aviation.


As of November 2009 the DSU fleet of 21 aircraft consists of the following:[16]

DSU Flight Operations has two large hangars located at Cleveland Municipal Airport and the Gibson-Gunn Commercial Aviation building on the Delta State Campus.[16]

Greek life

Even though Delta State University has very few fraternities and sororities on campus, many students are members of them. Originally, Delta State had only local organizations, such as organizations called Delta Alpha Omega or the Cavaliers, which existed until the mid-sixties, when their members joined Kappa Alpha ORder and Pi Kappa Alpha respectively.[17] However, the first national social fraternity to charter at Delta State was Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, in 1960, a chapter that still exists today. Within the decade, several other chapters of national Greek-letter organizations chartered at Delta State. They are governed by three independent councils—the Interfraternity Council, the Pan-Hellenic Council, and the Panhellenic Council.

Interfraternity Council

The Interfraternity Council is a university-specific governing body that governs five active fraternity chapters, three of which are nationally members of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. The fraternities within the council are as follows:

National Pan-Hellenic Council

The Delta State National Pan-Hellenic Council governs the chapters represented in the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Panhellenic Council

The Delta State Panhellenic Council is a governing body that governs three sorority chapters.

Professional fraternities & honor societies

  • Alpha Psi Omega (theatre honor society), Zeta Epsilon Cast, 1935 (inactive) - distinguished as the first Greek Letter Organization founded on campus
  • Kappa Pi (art honor society) - DSU is home to Kappa Pi National President Ron Koehler.
  • Lambda Iota Tau (literature honor society), Delta Iota Chapter - distinguished as the most active chapter of ΛΙΤ in the nation.
  • Mu Phi Epsilon (professional music fraternity), Gamma Zeta Chapter
  • Pi Kappa Lambda (music honor society)
  • Phi Alpha (Social Work honor society}
  • Alpha Eta Rho (Professional Aviation Fraternity)

List of Presidents of Delta State

  • James Wesley Broom - 1925-1926
  • Dr. William Marion Kethley - 1926-1956
  • Dr. James Milton Ewing - 1956-1971
  • Dr. Aubrey Lucas - 1971-1975
  • Dr. Kent Wyatt - 1975-1999
  • Dr. David Potter - 1999-2002
  • Dr. John Thornell - 2002 - 2003 (interim)
  • Dr. John Hilpert - 2003-present

Notable graduates

  • Rowan Nathaniel House, (Dec. 13, 1908 - Jan. 26, 1947) was a mid-20th century artist of some renown. He graduated from Delta State in 1930. The school has had art scholarships in his honor. He was married to Maxine Boggan Holcomb, a longtime professor of Art at Delta State.
  • Brent Leach, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Jeanette W. Hyde, ambassador.
  • Patrick House, winner of NBC's The Biggest Loser


External links

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