Lucas, daughter relish USM jobs

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG – When Aubrey Lucas and his daughter, Frances, get together for family functions, they make it a point not to talk business, but it isn’t easy.
Frances Lucas is the vice president of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast campus, a job she’s held since July 2010.
Aubrey Lucas is serving as the interim president of the university, a job he started July 1 and has had before.
Father and daughter said working together was a little odd at first, but they’ve gotten used to it and enjoy the time they spend together.
“Family time is family time,” Frances Lucas said. “We don’t talk about business.”
Her father added, “And we wouldn’t want the advice we would get about university business from other family members.”
Aubrey Lucas was president of USM from 1975 to 1996 and served as interim president from August 2002 through April 2003. In May, Hank Bounds, commissioner of higher education, asked Lucas to step into the job again after then-President Martha Saunders announced she was leaving June 30.
Frances Lucas already served on the president’s cabinet, which meets Monday mornings in Hattiesburg.
“We’ve marched ahead together,” Aubrey Lucas said. “We have a good cabinet. They don’t need a lot of presidential supervision.”
“For me, it’s been an opportunity to learn,” Frances Lucas said about working with her father. “It was weird the first time I met with him to talk about university things. But I don’t call him first. I work with the other colleagues that I normally would.”
She has learned some new things from her father just in the seven weeks they have worked together.
“One of the things I’ve enjoyed is that he gives sermonettes during the cabinet meetings,” Frances Lucas said. “I also watch how he makes decisions. He asks the same questions over and over again until we reach a decision.”
Aubrey Lucas said he has learned much from his daughter, too. “I learned she can make a decision without me participating,” he said. “Frances has always been her own boss. I think all four of our children have that trait. They got it from their mother.”
Aubrey Lucas has seen how dedicated his daughter is to USM’s Gulf Coast campus.
“She is very protective of her responsibilities on the Gulf Coast,” he said. “She’s a good spokesperson for what is needed on the Gulf Coast.”
Because of the Lucases’ relationship, Frances Lucas reports to Bounds.
Both Lucases said they haven’t heard any negative comments about them working at the same university.
Aubrey Lucas said he told the commissioner Frances should answer to Bounds.
“It just didn’t seem to be appropriate for me to make decisions that were personal to her, things you could be criticized for,” he said, citing pay raises as one example.
Aubrey Lucas said the president’s job has changed since the last time he had it.
“The email is unending, and there’s the expectation that you respond immediately,” he said. “I just don’t always have time to respond right away.”
The elder Lucas also just got an iPhone, and he does text, but just to the grandchildren.
“If I text him about the grandchildren, then he responds,” Frances Lucas said.
The father and daughter have been in education their entire careers, but this is the first time they’ve worked together.
Aubrey Lucas said they both like it.
“We were already close, but we do get to see each other a little bit more.”