June 15, 2024

Here’s my column that appears in today’s Hattiesburg American.


Last week I attended at ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven. They’ve been awarded a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to restore Elizabeth Cottage, the old president’s home on the campus of what was once Whitworth College and is now MSA.

This was a special event for me and for my family because Elizabeth Cottage was once our home. It’s where I lived from the time I was born in 1967 until my dad left the college in 1976. For me, Elizabeth Cottage is home.

It has been heartbreaking to watch the old house deteriorate. I couldn’t be happier to see it now coming back to life. I’m even more excited, however, to hear that it is to become a literary arts center. As someone who was born there and then went on to earn a Ph.D in creative writing, I feel like MSA is doing this just for me.

My old bedroom will become housing for visiting writers. The living room where I sprawled out on the floor reading Nancy Drew will be classroom space for poets and a reception area for literary events.

Let me just take this opportunity to say thank you.

Thank you to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for preserving this piece of Mississippi’s history that also happens to be a very important piece of my own personal history.

Thank you to the City of Brookhaven for rallying together in support of the School for the Arts and in support of preserving the historic value of the old Whitworth College campus.

Thank you to MSA for so graciously honoring my parents at the ribbon cutting for Elizabeth Cottage. Thank you for turning my bedroom into a refuge for visiting writers. Thank you for seeing the beauty in the old house and not just the nuisance of a deteriorating structure.

I was impressed with everything I saw on my visit to MSA. I was especially impressed with the level of talent I saw in the students. I hope that all of Mississippi will continue to support our School for the Arts and its presence on this very special campus in Brookhaven.

Mississippi’s best resource has long been our artistic youth. I, for one, am very grateful to see that tradition continue through the Mississippi School for the Arts.

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