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Roses and thorns 3-4-12




A rose to Mississippi State University, which celebrated its 134th birthday Tuesday with food, drinks, music, giveaways and a four foot tall cowbell cake in the Junction. The annual event, now in its sixth year, celebrates the state legislature's creation of the university on Feb. 28, 1878. MSU's first class had 354 male students in 1880. 




A rose to retiring Mississippi State University women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, who ended her 17-season career as coach of the Lady Bulldogs. As the all-time winningest coach in MSU women's basketball history, Fanning-Otis (281-232) helped bring tradition to a program that had none. She infused toughness and pride into players who wore the Maroon and White. She did it with a balance of fiery talk and stop-you-in-your-track stares and warm smiles, generosity, and a sense of family that made everyone feel welcome. 


At MSU, Fanning-Otis built a respected program that took pride in its defense and advanced to six NCAA tournaments, including the program's first Sweet 16 appearance in 2009-10. 




A rose to the volunteers who staff Contact, the 24-hour, faith-based telephone crisis hotline. Contact has operated in Lowndes County for 37 years and now serves Oktibbeha, Clay, Choctaw, Monroe, Noxubee, Webster and Winston counties. 


Every 35 seconds, someone in the United States attempts suicide. Every 14.6 minutes, one person succeeds. The state of Mississippi now ranks 19th in the country for suicides. And that number is climbing. 


Contact is staffed by 50 volunteers who go through 24 hours of classroom instruction and 12 hours of hands-on apprenticeship in order to learn how to effectively listen and help callers. They also take a two-day class to specifically learn techniques to assist suicidal callers. An average shift at the helpline is four hours, and at least 25 additional volunteers are needed. 


To volunteer for the Contact Helpline or Reassurance Contact, call 662-327-2968. 


If you are in crisis and need help, call 662-323-HELP (4357) or 1-800-377-1643. 




A thorn to Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen for keeping information from The Dispatch, and, by extension, the public, concerning the arrest of Mayor Robert Smith's son, Sherman. 


Smith was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon when officers responded to a shooting at the Columbus Fairgrounds in the early morning hours of Feb. 26. According to McQueen, who was contacted by phone, no arrests had been made in connection with the shooting, and he said he did not have any suspects. We hope this was just a lapse in memory on McQueen's behalf and not a cover up for his boss. We look forward to working with newly appointed public information officer Glenda Buckhalter and will look to her to provide accurate and timely information. 




A rose to Starkville Academy's girls basketball team, which captured the Class AAA title Saturday a week ago with a convincing win against Madison-Ridgeland Academy 47-35. This past Saturday, Starkville Academy did it again, beating MRA 50-39 in the championship game of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools overall state tournament at A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College. Tiffany Huddleston and Sallie Kate Richardson each had 12 points and Anna Lea Little added 11 to help the Lady Volunteers (38-5) earn their third victory in the tournament, and their first overall state tournament title. The win puts the Lady Volunteers at the top of the heap in the state's private schools.  




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