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This Past Week in Southern Miss Athletics Has Been Very Emotional!

June 23, 2011

This past week in Southern Miss athletics has been very emotional and difficult with the passing of one of the Golden Eagles staunchest supporters and the retirement of two long-time staff members.

Bob Mixon, a true giant in the history of The University of Southern Mississippi and an ardent donor and friend of Golden Eagle athletics, passed away last Saturday after a brief battle with cancer. Mixon, a 1962 graduate of USM, was one of the leading businessmen in Mississippi and the Hattiesburg community. He was one of the founding members of the Athletic Foundation and served as its first president. He is also the only USM person to have served as president of the Alumni Association, the University Foundation and the Athletic Foundation. He was a charter member of the first Alumni Hall of Fame group in 1987.

Mixon was the CEO of Courtesy Ford in Hattiesburg; Ryan Supply Company and Specialized Factory Warehouse in Jackson; and Centennial Imports in Pensacola. He was an active civic leader in the Pine Belt Community and a top donor to the University and the Athletics Department. He was also a charter member of the Circle of Champions program. Mixon served on most University presidential, athletic director and coaches search committees over the past 30 years.

Gene Carlisle, a Wendy's franchise holder and one of the leading donors in Southern Miss history said it well in talking about Mixon, "When you look at all the many graduates of USM over the years, Bob Mixon is truly at the top of the list. He was a real gentlemen and a man of true class."

Bob was a great friend to many in our state and community. I was honored to have him as such a great personal friend and adviser and he truly supported the vision we have for Southern Miss and our athletics program. He never turned down a request of support for any one of our programs or facility needs. Bob is survived by his wonderful wife Judy, also a great fan and donor, four children and 10 grandchildren. He certainly leaves a void and will truly be missed.

Lynn McLelland, long-time executive assistant to three Southern Miss Athletic Directors, retired after 32-years at the University. She began her Golden Eagle journey in the Alumni Association in 1970, left for a few years, then started in the Athletics Department in 1983 working for Roland Dale. She spent 14 years with Bill McLellan and the past 13 years with me. She probably has contact with more coaches, staff, alumni, donors and fans than any living USM staff member. She was a world of knowledge when it came to Southern Miss athletics. Her talents were well recognized as she was honored in being selected as a member of the USM Alumni Hall of Fame and the M-Club Athletics Hall of Fame. Although Lynn and her husband Doug will be missed, they will both be seen often in the future cheering on their beloved Golden Eagles and taking care of their grandchildren.

Billy Harrington is another long time staff member who retired last week. Billy and his family truly have a legacy in Golden Eagle athletics, as his father, Doc, was a long time trainer and coach, his brother Larry played football and baseball for the Eagles, his uncle Mickey played and coached here and his grandfather, Smokie, was a prominent businessman, city commissioner and active supporter of Southern Miss. Billy, after playing football for USM in the 80's, worked part-time for the University and fulltime since the early 1990's. He joined the Athletics Department in 2002, where he oversaw many of our facilities and game day activities. His nephew, Cooper, is a freshman football signee this fall.

When you lose one of your best friends and a most admired mentor and your administrative assistant and another loyal employee, it surely makes for a difficult and emotional week. The one fact I can rest on is they all loved the University, athletics and over the course of their careers, and they truly made a difference!

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