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5/17/2012 - Mississippi State University, Miss.

Dr. John Hilpert’s tenure as president of Delta State University has had many high points, from hitting the high notes in the Delta Music Institute and flying high with the success of the Commercial Aviation program to serving as an educational and cultural beacon to Bolivar County and the surrounding area.

After a decade of exemplary service leading Delta State University, Dr. John Hilpert announced today that he plans to retire at the end of the year.

“Every day at Delta State I have recognized my privilege to serve as president of one of the finest regional universities in the nation” said Hilpert. “The institution is a sound organization built on a tradition of service.”

The announcement comes in time for the Board of Trustees to launch a search for the next president of Delta State, Dr. Hilpert said.

“While we are saddened to hear of Dr. Hilpert’s decision, we are grateful for his decade of service to Delta State University and the state of Mississippi,” said Trustee Ed Blakeslee of Gulfport, President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. “He has provided excellent leadership to the university and has also been an asset to the university system.”

The Board accepted Dr. Hilpert’s retirement request at their meeting held today on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville. The Board also discussed the institutional transition at the meeting.

“Dr. Hilpert has guided the university with a steady hand in uncertain times,” said Trustee C.D. Smith of Meridian. “While there have been numerous challenges during his term, he has maintained enrollment and enhanced program offerings to students.”

The seventh president of Delta State University, Dr. John Hilpert accepted the position in 2003 and immediately encouraged everyone to work toward creating the Best Regional University in America. Each year, the campus community selects and celebrates a theme with special programs, including the Year of Health and Wellness, Year of Delta Heritage, Year of Green and, most recently, the Year of the Student. These themes have served as touchstones for creative change that have an impact far beyond the year of observance.

Thanks to Dr. Hilpert’s leadership, Delta State University stands on a solid footing, with a sound budget and a strong relationship with the Cleveland community. The DSU Foundation has made significant organizational progress during the past decade.

Others have recognized Dr. Hilpert’s leadership skills.From 2003-2011, he served as board chair of the Delta Health Alliance, a regional non-profit corporation with a $40 million annual budget. He was elected president in 2008 of the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities, an organization of all public and private, two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions in the state. He also serves as board chair of the Commission on Colleges (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), the regional accrediting body for more than 800 colleges and universities.

Dr. Hilpert’s degrees include a Ph.D. from the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Concordia Seminary in Missouri, and a bachelor’s degree from Concordia Senior College in Indiana. He also holds a two-year diploma from St. Paul’s College in Missouri. At the University of Michigan he won the John S. Brubacher Award for scholarly excellence in the history of higher education.

Prior to joining Delta State, Dr. Hilpert served as president of Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota for six years. During more than 30 years in higher education administration, he has also served as executive vice president and acting president of the University of South Dakota and as a vice president and executive assistant to the president at two private colleges.

“The connection between Delta State University and the Cleveland community is strong as ever,” said Trustee Robin Robinson of Laurel. “To Dr. Hilpert’s credit, the university has become the gateway for those coming from both near and far to begin exploring the Delta and its rich cultural heritage.”

During Dr. Hilpert’s tenure, Delta State has added four new undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs to its academic offerings to students. In addition, there are over 100 organizations and 13 Division II sports available to students. Dr. Hilpert said, “Delta State University is an exceptional institution because of its people. Whatever accomplishments there have been during my nine years as president are to the credit of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the university.”

Other accomplishments include:

  • Creating the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area.
  • Partnering with the local community to attract a Grammy Museum to Cleveland.
  • Creating an educational leadership program that was named by Stanford University as one of eight programs of excellence in the nation.
  • Launching the Delta Music Institute.
  • Opening both the Center for Global Information Systems and the Thad Cochran Center for Rural School Leadership.
  • Completing several new facilities on the campus including Kent Wyatt Hall, the Dorgan Center, the Thigpen Annex, the Crawford Building, Foundation Hall, University Apartments, the Central Mechanical Plant, and a half-mile lighted walking track.
  • Partnering with the Sanders family to construct the Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden.
  • Achieving the designation “Tree Campus USA” awarded by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
  • Winning a national championship in baseball.
  • Being recognized by the Southern Regional Education Board as one of fifteen public colleges and universities outperforming most similar institutions in promoting and maintaining a culture of student success.

“Dr. Hilpert has helped thousands of students to grow and flourish during his time as president of the university,” said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Likewise, the university has also grown and flourished under his leadership. While his retirement will certainly create a void at Delta State and within the university system, we respect his decision and thank him for his service. We wish him well in all future endeavors.”

Dr. Hilpert and his wife, Pat, have three sons and two granddaughters.

For more information on Dr. Hilpert and Delta State University, visit www.deltastate.edu. For more information on the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, visit www.mississippi.edu.


The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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