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MSA says ‘thank you’ for great first year

Intermittent rains failed to dampen spirits Saturday asMississippi School of the Arts officials and students hosted a Dayof Appreciation to recognize all who have supported the school inits brief history.

The Whitworth campus was the site of an early Mother’s Day ofsorts as former First Lady Pat Fordice was among the day’s manyvisitors. She was credited as being the “mother of the arts school”for her suggestion almost six years ago that Mississippi needed aplace for gifted arts students.

Fordice said she had mentioned the idea in Vicksburg, but a pushfor a school did not materialize. However, she applauded Brookhavenand community leaders for their action in pursuing the school thatopened last August.

“It was the right time and the right place,” Fordice said duringan afternoon appreciation ceremony “Brookhaven has been absolutelywonderful.”

Earlier, Fordice was on hand for the dedication of the HelenFurlow Scruggs Y-Hut and tours of the campus. It was her first tripback to the campus in some time.

“It’s very exciting to come back and see,” said Fordice,mentioning construction of the Student Life Center since her lastvisit. “I’m looking forward to seeing that.”

Pascagoula attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, whose mother washonored with naming of the Y-Hut, recalled some of his experiencesgrowing up in Brookhaven. He said his mother, who is now 94 andliving in Pascagoula, also remembers Brookhaven fondly.

“She has never left Brookhaven,” Scruggs said.

Sugar Furlow said her sister-in-law would have three things onher mind if she were able to attend Saturday’s events. They wouldbe pride that MSA chose Brookhaven for its home, pride that her sonwas involved in the endeavor and pride that the Furlow name isattached to a building with such history in the city.

Scruggs said MSA is a great tribute to the Brookhaven communityand a great opportunity for students in the state. Like Fordice,his last campus visit was during renovation of the Y-Hut, which wasbuilt in the 1920s.

“It’s a night and day transformation of the campus,” Scruggssaid.

In addition to the building dedication, Saturday’s activitiesincluded exhibits by visual arts students, guerrilla theatreperformances by theatre students and a choral concert by vocalmusic students. Saturday night, the MSA Foundation hosted areception to thank those who have made financial contributions tothe school.

James Anderson of Bolton has served as an adjudicator fortheater students auditioning to attend the school. He recognizedseveral students from the auditions and commented on the growth andnurturing they had received during the last year.

“Those are things I see happening here, and that’s a greatthing,” Anderson said.

Anderson called Brookhaven and the arts school “a greatmatch.”

“It’s a city that appreciates refinement combined with a schoolthat promotes refinement,” Anderson said.

During the appreciation ceremony, Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer said ithad been almost four years since she started as MSA’s executivedirector. She compared the appearance and condition of thebuildings then with what the campus has become.

“This campus has certainly been a phoenix rising from theashes,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer cited support from city, county and chamber ofcommerce officials and citizens, assistance in developing an urbanforest plan, and Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett and Dist. 39 Sen.Cindy Hyde-Smith for their support in the legislature. She alsoused the example of Fordice and the arts school as a message forstudents.

“Never doubt, ever, the power of the idea,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer said another definition of a phoenix, which waschosen as the MSA mascot, is a thing of unsurpassed excellence orbeauty. She said she saw that in MSA’s students.

“They are the building blocks for the future,” Bodenhamersaid.

Bodenhamer also thanked the MSA staff, students’ parents andhost families for a successful first school year.

“We hope it will be an even better place next year,” Bodenhamersaid.