Former USM professor dead at 69

February 27, 2013 in Obituaries

From Media Reports

HATTIESBURG – In the past two weeks, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has suffered great losses. The tornado that ripped through the front of the campus on Feb. 10 uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and altered many lives.

“But our beloved University has incurred an equally devastating loss with the passing of Dr. Gene Wiggins,” said Van Arnold, of USM Office of Communications.

Dr. Gene Wiggins

Wiggins, who was director of the USM’s School of Communication for 20 years, died Thursday, Feb. 21, at his home in Hattiesburg.

Wiggins was 69.

Funeral arrangements are pending and the cause of Wiggins’ death has not released.

Professor emeritus in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, Wiggins served USM with dignity, humility and proud distinction for more than half of his 69 years, Arnold said.

“He touched countless lives as an instructor, mentor, father-figure and devoted friend,” Arnold said in a statement. “Speaking only for myself, I know beyond any shadow of doubt that I would not have become a sports writer/journalist/public relations professional without Gene’s presence in my life. Absolutely no question.

The gruff, intimidating personality he so famously exhibited in class belied the genuine softie that lay at his core. Gene was tough when he needed to be with students. But, make no mistake, he sincerely wanted each and every student at this University

to get a degree and put it to productive use.”

Wiggins joined

the USM faculty in 1973. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USM and his doctorate from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He previously worked at the Jackson Daily News and the Hattiesburg American. He also was as a public information officer in the Air Force.

He became director of the School of Communication in 1981. He taught graduate and undergraduate courses in communication law, public relations, media writing and ethics.

Arnold said Wiggins’ presence at USM will be greatly missed.

“When you consider the giant oak trees that came crashing down on that fateful Sunday [Feb.10], keep in mind that Southern Miss has lost another giant in Dr. Gene Wiggins,” Arnold said. “Those fortunate enough to know him were truly blessed.”