Former Geography Department Chair Leaves Bequest to Support Scholarships at Southern Miss
Dr. Arthell Kelley, Southern Miss alumnus and longtime faculty member, left a $600,000 bequest to The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation to support scholarships for geography students at the University.
Kelley earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Miss in 1940. Upon graduation, he began his teaching career. In May 1941, Kelley entered the U.S. Army and later the Army Air Corps. After graduating from flight school, Kelley was shipped to the Pacific for a 26-month stint, where he flew a P-39 fighter plane in World War II. During his assignment overseas, Kelley was forced to make a crash landing due to engine trouble but was never shot down.
When he returned from the war, Kelley went back to teaching high school students, but soon after made the decision to be a college professor. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri in 1947 and a doctorate in geography from the University of Nebraska in 1954.
After serving as chairman of the Geography department at Nebraska Wesleyan University and teaching at Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women), Kelley joined the Geography department at Southern Miss in 1955, where he taught for 25 years. During his tenure at Southern Miss, Kelley served as chair of the department from 1958-71. He was instrumental in increasing the faculty from one full-time person to seven during his term as chair, strengthening the course offerings and curriculum and initiating the graduate program in geography. Kelley retired in 1980. In 1992, the Department of Geography honored the longtime member of the Southern Miss family with the naming of Arthell Kelley Hall. After a lifetime of commitment to education, Kelley passed away in 2009.
Kelley displayed his love for Southern Miss by leaving 50 percent of his residual assets to assist future students in earning a degree in geography at Southern Miss through the establishment of the Arthell Kelley Geography Scholarship Endowment. The purpose of the fund is to help recruit the brightest and best undergraduate and graduate students in geography to Southern Miss, ensuring a lifetime commitment to the growth of geography education. The scholarship will be awarded annually to students pursuing a degree in geography.
“Dr. Arthell Kelley loved Southern Miss and served with distinction as chair and professor of geography,” said Dr. Aubrey Lucas, president emeritus. “He could excite students with enthusiastic teaching of geography. He also served the University on many committees and councils. As chair of the Committee on Employee Benefits, he became the campus authority on the Public Employees Retirement System. This gift will be a continuing reminder to us of his devotion to this University.”
As one of the oldest academic geography departments in the country, the Geography program at Southern Miss celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and credits much of its success to Kelley.
“Art was a visionary for geography at Southern Miss,” said Dr. Clifton “Skeeter” Dixon, chair of the Department of Geography and Geology. “At a time when the University was young, he led the department to recognition and respect beyond the Deep South. Students said he connected with contagious enthusiasm, and clearly his legacy has provided direction for the geography program's future.”
Today, the department offers programs that lead to baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees in geography. Some of their recent accomplishments include a long-term, post-Hurricane Katrina study on barrier islands, storm surge, biotic recovery and land loss; receiving the top doctoral graduate in the College of Science and Technology for 2012; research grants from the National Science Foundation, The Department of Homeland Security and The Nature Conservancy; and being ranked third in the College of Science and Technology for student enrollment in 2011.
For more information or to make a gift to the Arthell Kelley Geography Scholarship Endowment, contact the USM Foundation by calling 601.266.5210.