Barbour taps Patterson, others for College Board

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Tupelo banker Aubrey Patterson, long active on education-related advisory boards, was nominated Wednesday by Gov. Haley Barbour for a seat on the prestigious state College Board.

Patterson, chairman and chief executive officer of Tupelo-based BancorpSouth, was one of four nominated by Barbour to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

The other nominees are Robin Robinson of Laurel, an executive with Sanderson Farms; Bob Owens of Jackson, an attorney; and Ed Blakeslee of Gulfport, retired as a vice president with Mississippi Power Co.

“I am very proud of these four appointments,'' said Barbour, who held a news conference with the four nominees Wednesday. “All of them are of high caliber and integrity. They all bring valuable experience to the table.''

During the gubernatorial campaign, Barbour committed to appoint to the College Board a graduate of each of the four comprehensive universities – the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi and Jackson State. He did that.

The College Board shapes policy for the state's eight public universities.

Robinson, 47, graduated from USM while Owens, 53, graduated from JSU. Blakeslee, 63, graduated from Mississippi State and Patterson, 61, is a graduate of Ole Miss.

Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat, who attended the news conference with Mississippi State President Charles Lee and the six other university presidents, praised the nominees.

“I can't imagine a better person to be appointed to the post than Aubrey Patterson,'' Khayat said. “He is committed to education. I know he is keenly interested in all our of the universities.''

MSU's President Charles Lee said Patterson “has long been a strong advocate of educational opportunity at all levels in the state. We are fortunate to have an individual of his experience and commitment on the board as we look to the future.”

Patterson serves on various public service boards on the local and state level. He was appointed by former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to co-chair a study committee that made recommendations on the future of higher education and was chairman of the University of Mississippi Foundation.

He is on the executive board of the Public Education Forum and on the executive committee of the Mississippi Partnership of Economic Development.

Related to his profession, Patterson recently completed a term as chairman of the American Bankers Association.

Patterson said he understands that his 11-year term on the College Board will be time consuming, but that the opportunity to shape higher education policy was too important to pass up. Both Patterson and Barbour have talked about the importance of using the universities as economic development tools.

“It clearly is an opportunity to develop policy to help share our future,'' Patterson said.

All four members must be confirmed this session by the state Senate. Their terms would begin in May.

Barbour stressed that while the four are graduates of the four comprehensive universities, he said he is certain that they will work to improve the entire higher education system.

During the news conference, Patterson was asked if it would be a conflict of interest that BancorpSouth owns companies that do business with the universities. He said rules were set up that he will follow, including abstaining from voting in the event of a possible conflict. He said he would strive to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.

Robinson is on the state Gaming Commission but will step down if confirmed for the College Board.