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To The Top with Jon Gilbert

May 9, 2017

First-Day On - The Job

On February 27, 2017 (my first day on the job), I sent a memo to President Rodney Bennett. I informed President Bennett that having a clear understanding of his priorities for my job was actually my own top priority. Following that, my memo noted that I planned on the development of meaningful relationships as the cornerstone of my first 100 days.

My memo informed President Bennett that I planned on setting both one-on-one and group meetings with Department Senior Staff, Department Unit Managers, Golden Eagle Head Coaches, our Student-Athletes, University Leaders, Sponsors, Donors, Prospective Donors, and other key Constituents. I noted that in each and every meeting, I planned on listening intently, and working hard to understand the opportunities and challenges that each individual (and group) perceived as being most significant -- for themselves, our Department of Athletics, and the University.

In turn, my plan was to reinforce the importance of alignment with the educational mission of the University, our focus on the academic, athletic and personal wellbeing of our Student-Athletes, and the importance of serving as ambassadors and advocates for our Department and the University. In fact, that has become our Mission.

I've Been Everywhere Man

Since that first-day memo, I feel like Johnny Cash in the song "I've Been Everywhere Man."

In fact, I have been to Bassfield, Biloxi, Gulfport, Jackson, Collins, Sumrall, and Meridian. Nashville, Birmingham, Huntsville, Atlanta. I've been to Columbia and D'Iberville, Prentiss and Petal. I've even been to the DuBard School.

I've met with President Bennett. I've met with Provost Moser. I've met with some of the Deans. I've met with the University's Chief Financial Officer, and the Director of Facilities.

I've met with IHL members. And I have had meetings with the six members of my Department Leadership Team (Kent Hegenauer, Daniel Feig, Sonya Varnell, Brian Morrison, Christi Holloway, and Stephen Pugh). I have met with our Coaches as a group. And several Coaches one-on-one, and I am continuing with one-on-one meetings with all members of our professional and coaching staffs. I've met many of our Departmental Graduate Assistants. I've met with our Conference Commissioner and many of our Conference AD's.

I've met with Vendors, Corporate Partners, Business Owners and Industrialists. I have met Donors and members of our Circle of Champions, Annual Fund Donors, and prospective donors. I've met many Alumni and former Letter Winners. It has been incredible.

I've met in restaurants, coffee houses and barbeque joints. Diners, drive-ins and dives. I've met on airplanes, in airports and garages and carports. I've met on loading docks. I've met in front offices, back offices, and every kind of office you can imagine. I believe I've met with every media person in town (I counted 20).

I have attended several golf outings, yet I have yet to hit a golf ball.

What They've Done To Me

I've been hugged. I've been kissed. I've been mobbed, pinched, poked, and prodded. All good natured. All good fun. I've had my arm twisted, my chin-grabbed. I have had my ear pulled, and my leg pulled on multiple occasions.

Most Important of All

Most important of all is our Student-Athletes. I've been to their practices and competitions.

All in all, it has been an incredible Listening Tour, and I have felt honored and blessed to witness firsthand the mosaic of all that is good about our Department of Athletics, our University and this amazing community and state.

I believe the future of Southern Miss is bright and I am excited about all of us working together to help us realize all of the dreams and accomplishments we have for our University and our Athletic Department.

What an awesome place to be. Filled with awesome people. Caring, kind and considerate would be an understatement. All things good.

In Closing

And while I've been out and about, I feel that there's still a ton of people yet to meet. So if we have not yet met, don't worry. We will! And I look forward to that day with anticipation. On that day, I look forward to looking you in the eye, hearing your comments and concerns, and thank you (in-person) for your support of Southern Miss Athletics.

I look forward to that meeting -- To The Top --


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