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Amid unity message, W supporters oppose merger

 

From left, Jessica O’Quinn, Jami Strickland and Lizzie Locker sing Thursday during the Town and Tower luncheon.

From left, Jessica O’Quinn, Jami Strickland and Lizzie Locker sing Thursday during the Town and Tower luncheon. Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Brenda Caradine receives the Town and Tower Special Award for her work with the Tennessee Williams Tribute.

 

William “Peppy” Biddy, right, chair of the department of music and theater at MUW, receives the Town and Tower Campus Award during the group’s luncheon Thursday.

 

 

Jason Browne

 

 

Opposition to the proposed merger between Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University was in effect Thursday as the Columbus Town and Tower Club held its quarterly meeting on the MUW campus. 

 


A near-capacity crowd filled the Pope Dining Hall for the liaison organization''s year-end meeting and award ceremony. Talks of mergers and budget cuts were set aside during the keynote address by Dr. Sam Morris, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Columbus, but several supporters of the university shared their thoughts afterward. 

 


"I''m against it. That''s the summation of it. It would not be good for either of us and I don''t really expect that it will happen," said William "Peppy" Biddy, chair of the department of music and theater at MUW, who earlier was awarded the Town and Tower Campus Award. 

 


Biddy, who has been at MUW since 1991 and produced more than 75 plays, was credited by Town and Tower President Mark Bean with "taking ordinary students and turning them into extraordinary performers." 

 


Bean shares Biddy''s doubts on the effectiveness of a merger with MSU, which was proposed last month by Gov. Haley Barbour as a cost-saving measure to help solve state budget shortfalls. 

 


"There''s no way I could imagine it working for the good of Columbus and Mississippi. We''ve heard a lot of different arrangements of how it could happen and none of them, in my mind, would be good for this institution and good for this community," said Bean. 

 


Others said MUW would be hindered by an attachment to MSU. 

 


"I think MUW has a role to play in the higher education of the state and it''s important to the life of our community, so I support maintaining it and its integrity," said Father James Carlisle of St. Paul''s Episcopal Church. 

 


"Unfortunately, the state of Mississippi is last in so many things. The last thing we need to do is weaken our education system, any of it," said Lillian Wade, a member of the Friends of The W, an organization of alumni groups which have joined forces to oppose the merger and raise money for MUW to offset state budget cuts. "So I think The W should remain open and independent and we intend to work very hard to ensure that that happens." 

 


Brenda Caradine, recipient of the Town and Tower Special Award for her work with the Tennessee Williams Tribute, came the closest to offering an endorsement of the merger. 

 


"I just hope that whatever happens this community gets behind whatever happens and makes this place even more well known in the rest of the world," said Caradine. 

 


She praised MUW for its support of the Tennessee Williams Tribute. 

 


"The W has meant so much to us for the Tennessee Williams tribute. They have furnished auditoriums and professors that have worked with us and helped us present plays. The W has been the crown jewel of the Tennessee Williams Tribute," she said. 

 


The Town and Tower Community Award was given to Bill and Leslie Threadgill for their work in establishing MUW''s musical lecture series. The Threadgills were unable to attend Thursday''s meeting. 

 


In his address, Morris delivered a Christmas message of unity. 

 


"I don''t believe in finger pointing or self-righteousness. Let''s try to find some common ground," Morris said.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment c-mon commented at 12/4/2009 4:24:00 PM:

Better to merge in order for the college to attract more male students than to leave it as is and watch it become a bunch of empty buildings. We already have enough empty buildings in Columbus. Change the name and lets move on!

 

Article Comment msgalnca commented at 12/12/2009 3:21:00 AM:

As a proud alumna of Mississippi University for Women, and a former student of Peppy Biddy, I am SO proud that he has gotten recognition for what he has done for the university. Peppy - you taught me a lot about directing, and I am still using it 15 years later. Thank you for sharing your gift with students. I am also horrified that Haley Barbour wants to take away the most special of all the universities in Mississippi. Wish I could be there to stand with my sisters and brothers for our beloved "W" - but I am there in spirit from California!

 

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