Officials remember Sen. Thad Cochran

By STAFF REPORTS,

In the fall of 2006, the University of Southern Mississippi dedicated a four-story, $34 million dollar 237,000 square foot addition to its R.C. Cook University Union.  The facility was named after U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, who was in attendance for the dedication.

Cochran died early Thursday morning at the age of 81.

At the dedication for the “Thad Cochran Center,” then-USM president Dr. Shelby Thames thanked Cochran, who served as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, profusely for his help in securing the funds to build it.

“In my mind, he has done more than anyone to move our universities forward,” Thames said. “We owe him a great debt of gratitude.”

Cochran, who served Mississippi in the U.S. Senate since 1978, expressed his appreciation for the dedication of the building in his name, and for the friendships and associations he had made through the years at Southern Miss.

Local and state public officials and university faculty, staff and students and alumni were on hand for the celebration.

The ceremony also marked the formal completion of the Center’s mural, titled “The University’s Bounty,” created by Southern Miss Professor of art William Baggett. See photos and read more.

Today, The Thad Cochran Center is now home to a two-story Barnes & Noble Bookstore (proclaimed to be the largest college bookstore in the Southeastern U.S.), three ballrooms, a stadium-style theater, student organization offices, and Southern Miss Dining and Fresh Food Company. There are also several meeting rooms held within the union complex. The Union and Programs team hosts more than a thousand events each year.

Upon hearing of Cochran’s death early Thursday morning, USM President Rodney Bennett expressed his condolences to the Cochran family.

“I will forever be thankful for Sen. Thad Cochran’s support of our institution, and his sincere appreciation for the positive role that public, higher education plays in the lives of individuals and the successes of communities across Mississippi,” Bennett said.

“The life-changing teaching and research conducted by our faculty and students in Hattiesburg and on the Gulf Coast will forever be a part of his legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with the Cochran family as they mourn his passing.”

The university also named a $25 million “Marine Aquaculture Center” – built partially with federal money – after Cochran, calling it the “Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center.”