Messages from the President - 2022

January 13, 2022

Dear USA Faculty and Staff,

After 14 years with the University of South Alabama, Executive Vice President Dr. John Smith will retire Feb. 1.

Dr. Smith came to the University of South Alabama in 2008 as Vice President of Student Affairs. He was appointed Special Assistant to the President in 2010, appointed Executive Vice President in 2014 and has twice served as Interim President.

The University will host a reception in Dr. Smith’s honor on Wednesday, Jan. 26, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Hargrove Club in Hancock Whitney Stadium. This drop-in reception is open to the entire University community.

Parking for the event will be in Lot 105, adjacent to the stadium. There will be blue signs with arrows directing attendees to the Hargrove Club Entrance, which is at Gate 4.

Please make plans to stop by to wish Dr. Smith the very best in his retirement and help us thank both him and his wife, Jeanne, for their devotion to the University of South Alabama.

Jo Bonner

January 10, 2022

Dear Students and Colleagues,

For faculty, staff and students returning to campus, and to those starting their first semester, I know what it’s like to welcome a new beginning. The opportunities are exciting. The unfamiliar can be daunting.

There are new classes, ambitious projects and goals that you’ve set. There’s unfinished business from last semester, and unexpected challenges to tackle during this one. A pandemic stretches into yet another year, while we remain hopeful an end is near and in awe of those on the front lines.

As I begin my presidency at the University of South Alabama, I arrive with both a sense of pride and humility. I’m proud to represent each of you and the work that you do – our students who are chasing dreams, our faculty whose research and scholarly activity gives new insights, and our healthcare professionals who cure and care for us. I’m proud of the University’s staff, who support South’s missions, and the nearly 90,000 alumni who are an example of its promise. I’m proud of how our collective efforts impact our region and state.

I’m also humbled to be chosen for this job. Being the president is an awesome responsibility, and I commit to doing everything I can to live up to your high expectations. Over the holidays, I looked back on the promises I made to the Board of Trustees, our students and our employees – to faithfully represent the University community, to support its members and to be inclusive in our journey. Now it’s time to put in the hard work.

Part of that is listening to you, and meeting you where you work, where you study and where you dine. I’ll also be inviting people to meet with me in my office and at my home. I want to build on South’s impressive successes – the legacy of your predecessors and the results of your efforts – but I do not have a predetermined route for getting there. That path will be defined by what we can accomplish together.

With the pandemic, many of those initial meetings will be one-on-one or in small groups. While evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is causing more mild illnesses than previous variants of COVID-19, transmissions are surging in our community and I want to be respectful of your comfort level and the tireless work of our healthcare providers. As you know, South’s mask requirement was temporarily reinstated. The University COVID-19 Response Committee is meeting weekly and will be communicating any updates through email and on the coronavirus website.

In those meetings, and here, I want to re-introduce myself. I know most of you are aware of my professional life – U.S. Representative for Alabama’s First District, vice chancellor for economic development for the University of Alabama System and chief of staff to Gov. Kay Ivey. My job as president is an extension of that commitment to public service.

I’m also a husband to Janée Bonner, who will work alongside me in this role. I can’t wait for you to get to meet her. Together, we have two grown children, Lee and Robins.

While I’m currently commuting to campus, we’ll soon move into the University-owned president’s house and look forward to being even closer to our South family. Janée and I plan on immersing ourselves in University life. We’ve already been to a basketball game. You’ll also see us at other sporting events, concerts and theatrical performances.

Mostly, you’ll see me around campus. Please stop to say hello.

Jo Bonner, President