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Cultivating Generations of Golden Eagles


Born and raised in the piney woodlands of east central Mississippi, the 10 Lock children grew up working hard in school, on the farm and around the house.

The importance of a good education was paramount in their home, as each child watched their mother advance her own education. As a parent, student and career-woman, Velma R. Lock worked all day, cared for her family each night and spent evenings studying by the fireplace to earn a certificate in medical technology from Millsaps College. She instilled a strong value of education in her children and held high expectations for their studies. The Locks’ legacy at The University of Southern Mississippi began in 1975 when elder brothers James and Larry transferred from Hinds Community College to Southern Miss. They were among only a handful of students from their high school to attend a major university. From the fertile soil of their farmland in Pelahatchie to college life in Hattiesburg, their minds and opportunities broadened exponentially.

“Coming to Southern Miss was transformational. We went from rural people with aspirations to further our education, but lacking a road map for how to actually do it, to college graduates,” James said.

In 1977, Larry became the first in their family to earn a college degree. Soon after, James graduated in 1978, followed by Duane in 1983 and Sharon in 1987. Over the years, more than a dozen members of the Lock family have lived and learned in the halls of Southern Miss, including three current students studying biology, broadcast journalism and business, with another starting in fall 2017.

As young men with their whole lives ahead of them, Larry and James understood the promise a college degree held to change their entire family.

“Coming to USM was more than just the ‘next step’ for us, because no one in our family had ever been there before. Larry and I knew graduating from college was bigger than us. Finishing meant we could set the example for not only our younger siblings, but for our future children and generations of Locks to come,” James said.

The impact Southern Miss has on the Lock family is great and direct. Their experiences here, combined with career success, continue to motivate the Locks to invest in the place that enabled them to achieve their goals and fulfill their mother’s dream of their educational success. With a first-hand understanding of the financial barriers ahead of college students, the Lock siblings choose to give back.

In 2015, Duane and Kathryn Lock invested in the College of Business through establishing a scholarship endowment for students from Pelahatchie High School and naming a space in Scianna Hall, the Lock Commons. Both working in the medical field, Dr. James and Vickie Lock have also supported the University through gifts to the College of Nursing Building Endowment, which were recognized with the naming of the faculty lounge and terrace in the college’s new home, Asbury Hall.

“When I think about my mother, God bless her soul, and the sacrifices she made to provide a path for us to be successful, I’m grateful. Her dedication to providing us with the opportunity to go to school, an opportunity she was not afforded, was remarkable,” Duane said. “If she could find a way to help us become better educated, we must pass that gift on to someone else. I know a Southern Miss education will change a life, because it certainly changed ours.”

Even with Velma’s meager salary of a few hundred dollars a month, she gave all she had to ensure her children gained the wealth of knowledge college affords.

“When I graduated college, I got the nerve to ask my mom what I owed her for everything she’d provided me over the years, and I’ll never forget her response,” James said. “She told me, ‘You don’t owe me a thing, but I expect you to send my grandkids to college.’ Now I always tell my children, ‘You don’t owe me a thing because this is from my mom.’”

Velma Lock’s legacy abounds through the successes and generosity of her children. Her relentless dedication to their education continues to inspire them to give back, expanding her initial gift of education further than she could have ever imagined.