Southern Miss Alumni Association to Induct Seven into Hall of Fame

Oct. 31, 2008

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Seven of The University of Southern Mississippi's most dedicated and distinguished alumni have been selected to join the exclusive ranks of the Southern Miss Alumni Hall of Fame, including former Golden Eagle quarterback Reggie Collier and current Circle of Champion members W.A. Payne and Bruce Rossmeyer as well as Ken McCarty and Charles Thomas, who have been members of the Eagle Club.

The induction ceremony, which annually takes place during the university's Homecoming festivities, will be held at Southern Oaks House and Gardens in Hattiesburg on Friday, Oct. 31, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The seven inductees of the Class of 2008 bring the Alumni Hall of Fame's total membership to 221 alumni.

The 2008 honorees include:

• Tena Clark, Class of 1976. A resident of Valencia, Calif., Clark is Grammy-nominated songwriter and the founder of DMI, a premier music branding agency.

• Collier, Class of 2004. The legendary Golden Eagle quarterback and Hattiesburg resident serves as the coordinator of athletic development and community relations for the Eagle Club.

• McCarty, Classes of 1956 and 1958. An educator who has taught more than 16,000 University of Southern Mississippi students, McCarty is professor emeritus of history at Southern Miss and a Hattiesburg resident.

• Payne, Class of 1972. A successful businessman, the Hattiesburg resident is chairman of the Camelia Group, which offers health care and hospice services to residents of Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

• May Lewis Poetter, Class of 1962. The Savannah, Ga., resident is a founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, the largest higher education institution of art and design in the world.

• Rossmeyer. A resident of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Rossmeyer operates the world's largest Harley-Davidson dealership at Destination Daytona in Florida.

• Thomas, Class of 1955. The Hattiesburg resident is one of the biggest supporters of the arts at Southern Miss.

The University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame was established in 1987 to recognize those of professional accomplishment and whose contributions of time and financial means have helped move the University forward.

From 1979 to 1982, Reggie Collier dazzled Southern Miss fans as one of the nation's top quarterbacks. During his time as the Golden Eagles' signal-caller, Collier was a dual threat with the ability to dismantle defenses with his legs or powerful right arm. He led the Golden Eagles to several victories over nationally ranked opponents and six victories over in-state rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss. In 1980, Collier led the Golden Eagles to an Independence Bowl victory.

During his junior year, Collier finished ninth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, given annually to the nation's top player. In 1983, he was drafted in the first round by the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL. He later played with the Washington Federals and the Orlando Renegades before making the jump to the NFL. There, Collier was a member of the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Collier's performance on the football field has left an indelible mark on the Southern Miss record book. More than 25 years after his career as a Southern Miss standout ended, he still ranks in the top 10 in a number of career record categories including fourth in total offensive plays with 1,020 and fourth in total offensive yards with 5,966. Collier also ranks fourth in total offensive yards per game with 152.27 and fifth in touchdowns responsible for with 42. He is tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns with 26, and ranks eighth in pass completions with 288. He ranks eighth in passing yardage with 3,662 and 10th in rushing yards gained with 2,304.

Collier was one of two quarterbacks selected for the Southern Miss Football Team of the Century, and he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. In addition, he is one of only three Golden Eagle football players to have his jersey number retired. Serving as a role model for younger athletes, Collier returned to the University to earn his degree in 2004. The Life Member of the Alumni Association resides in Hattiesburg with his wife, Beverly, and is currently the coordinator of athletic development and community relations for the Eagle Club.

Southern Miss and education are lifelong commitments for Ken McCarty, a Bay St. Louis native, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in history from The University of Southern Mississippi. Although he left Mississippi for three years to earn his doctorate in history from Duke University and six months of active duty in the Army, when he returned to Hattiesburg he made it his permanent home. In all, McCarty has been affiliated with Southern Miss for 56 years, the majority of which he taught American and Mississippi history to more than 16,000 students. And while he retired in 1999, he now serves as professor emeritus of history at the University.

McCarty is a two-time recipient of the university's outstanding teaching award and is a past president of the Mississippi Historical Society. During his tenure at the university, McCarty was an integral part of many councils and committees, wrote a number of scholarly articles, and was editor for Hattiesburg: A Pictorial History.

McCarty is currently the editor of the Journal of Mississippi History, a position he has held since 1992. He also continues to teach part-time at Southern Miss and has been a member of the Alumni Association for more than 40 years.

In addition to his work at Southern Miss, McCarty is also very active in the Hattiesburg community. He has served on the Hattiesburg School Board, the Hattiesburg Historic Commission, and on the Mississippi Committee for the Preservation of Local Government Records. McCarty has also served as a political analyst for several television stations.

McCarty and his wife Sylvia have three children Melinda '87, Morgan '90 and Jeanne '91. All are graduates of Southern Miss including their spouses, John Gratwick '85, Angela Leigh McCarty '90 and Jason Hewitt `93. They also have seven grandchildren, and are pleased to announce the upcoming arrival of another. McCarty's parents, Kenneth McCarty Sr. and Irene Cuevas McCarty, also graduated from Southern Miss.

Payne learned the value of hard work from his mother and father, who were civil servants, and the Hattiesburg native exhibited the traits of a successful entrepreneur from an early age. As a 12-year-old, he started a 400-person paper route that he continued for two years until he left the Hub City to attend the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala. W.A. returned to south Mississippi and completed his secondary school education at Hattiesburg High School in 1968.

The following fall, Payne entered Southern Miss to pursue a degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance. During his time at the university, Payne developed an interest in the health care industry. This interest sparked the organization of Medical Systems, Inc., a healthcare management company and provider that eventually became the parent corporation for all of his companies. Shortly after establishing Medical Systems, Inc., he enrolled in law school at Mississippi College. While there, he founded the Mississippi Home Care Association and became a charter member of the National Health Care Lawyer's Association. He also was a member of Mississippi College School of Law's first accredited class.

In 1974, Payne founded Camellia Home Health and Hospice, a Medicare-certified, state-licensed provider of home health care and hospice services. What started in a leased one-room office in Hattiesburg with the aim to provide home health service in south Mississippi has now expanded to 19 home health locations covering 27 counties in Mississippi, five Louisiana parishes and the Atlanta, Ga., metro area. The company recently added hospice care to its services and has opened licensed and certified hospices covering the greater part of south Mississippi.

After Payne managed the companies alone for several decades his son Abb joined the family business after earning a law degree from Florida State University. The addition of Abb allowed for a joinder of enterprises that has resulted in the formation of companies under the Camellia Group, which W.A. serves as chairman.

Payne is a Life Member of the Alumni Association and a contributor to the Ogletree House Campaign at the Gold Gift Level. He has served on the board of directors for the University's Foundation and is a member of the Athletic Department's Circle of Champions.

Throughout his life, Rossmeyer has always had a fascination with motor vehicles. At the age of 25, he opened his first dealership, Rossmeyer Dodge, in New Jersey.

After 25 years in the automobile industry, he decided to retire in 1993; however, Rossmeyer's love for motor vehicles would not allow him to remain so for long. Seeking the road less traveled, he decided to sell motorcycles.

In January 1994, Rossmeyer opened his first Harley-Davidson dealership in Daytona Beach, Fla., as well as car dealerships in Daytona Beach, Deland and Palm Coast. Between 1994 and 2007, Rossmeyer opened 13 Harley-Davidson locations in Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

In 2002, he partnered with Arlen and Corey Ness to create Arlen Ness Motorcycles, a custom motorcycle shop. This shop expanded Rossmeyer's offerings by giving customers an opportunity to design motorcycles to fit their specifications.

In 2005, Rossmeyer opened the world's largest Harley-Davidson dealership at Destination Daytona. The 109,000 square-foot dealership is part of a larger tourist area that includes hotels, condos, restaurants and an amphitheater. This dealership has become the second most popular destination for Daytona Beach's Bike Week. In 2007 alone, the combined annual sales for his dealerships exceeded $200 million. In 2003, the College of Business honored Rossmeyer as "Entrepreneur of the Year" in recognition of his many accomplishments.

Rossmeyer also uses his love of automobiles to improve the community. He serves on several boards and organizes multiple yearly bike events to benefit numerous organizations. Rossmeyer's annual Ride for Children, a benefit for Camp Boggy Creek, has raised more than $3.8 million. In addition, the Bikers Bash and Bikers Ball are part of a three-day event to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County.

Rossmeyer's spirit of giving has included Southern Miss. The Life Member of the Alumni Association is a significant contributor to the College of Business and the Department of Athletics.

Rossmeyer and Sandy, his wife, have five children and eight grandchildren.

Dedication is one the many attributes that best describes Thomas. Whether through his career or private life, Thomas' service to his community has enhanced the lives of countless people, many of them Golden Eagles associated with the arts.

Thomas' dedication is demonstrated in his community service. Since his return to Hattiesburg in 1979, Thomas has been a very active member of the community. He has served on several boards and committees for several businesses and organizations including Bancorp South and the Hattiesburg American. Thomas is also a member of the Court of Honor for the Emmett Lee Irvin Province of the Kappa Alpha Order. In addition, Thomas has been an organist for several churches over the past 58 years. He is currently the organist for Parkway Heights United Methodist Church.

Thomas' passion for the arts extends well beyond the organ. Over the years, he has worked tirelessly to create awareness for several arts programs at Southern Miss as well as in the Hattiesburg community. Notably, he has served as chairman of the board for the Partners for the Arts at Southern Miss. In 2007, the Life Member of the Alumni Association received the Continuous Service Award from the Alumni Association.

During his time as a student from 1951 to 1955, Thomas held many leadership positions at Mississippi Southern College. He served as president of the Kappa Alpha Order, and he was an active member of the Interfraternity Council. Following graduation, Thomas served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Lexington CVA 16. After completing his tour, he returned to Laurel and joined the Northern Electric Company, which later became the Sunbeam Corporation.

Thomas' dedication to his career led to many leadership positions in the Sunbeam Corporation, including human resources manager, plant manager and division manager. These positions held Thomas responsible for the corporation's distribution, warehousing, procurement and information systems. His responsibilities also extended to Canada and Mexico. After 35 years of service to Sunbeam, he retired as vice president of operations in June 1995.

Thomas and his wife Diane have three sons, Charles Jr. '86, Robert '89 and David '91. They also have five grandchildren. Daughters-in-law Robin Thompson Thomas '90 and Jill Denson Thomas '98 also have degrees from Southern Miss.

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