Chris Crenshaw Presented Themis Award for Contributions to Southern Miss Symphony

Published 8:09 pm Sunday, October 3, 2021

Dr. Chris Crenshaw, University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Senior Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning and Management, was presented with The Themis Award during the opening-night concert of the Symphony Orchestra’s 102nd season on Thursday, Sept. 30.

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The award is presented annually at the opening orchestra concert to an outstanding Southern Miss administrator, faculty, staff member, or other individual who has contributed to the success of the orchestra and its members.

The Themis award is named for the Greek goddess of divine law and order; she was the Titan who assured that things were done in an honorable way. She presided over the most ancient oracles and first instructed mankind in the laws of justice, morality, and good governance.

She also was the first counselor to Zeus, sitting enthroned beside him and advising him on the precepts of divine law and the rules of fate. She is the personification of the order of things established by divine law, custom, oracle, equity, and divine decree.

“This orchestra, the School of Music, and this entire University have all benefitted from Chris’s working here,” said Dr. Colin McKenzie, director of USM’s School of Music. “His work touches everyone at this institution. His name is never in the spotlight, and he prefers it that way, but there isn’t a single thing that happens on our campus that Chris’s efforts don’t touch and support.”

Of particular note was Crenshaw’s role in the wake of the 2013 EF4 tornado that devastated the front portion of the Hattiesburg campus. The buildings housing the School of Music all took direct hits, with two being demolished. The Leech House, which housed the Orchestra offices, was reduced to rubble.

As Director of the Physical Plant, Crenshaw had to oversee hundreds of projects created by the destructive tornado, including finding a new place for the orchestra to reside. The entire School of Music had to be relocated immediately.

Crenshaw oversaw moving more than 200 classes to other buildings across campus and created what was fondly called “Twister Town,” a campus of 16 trailers in a parking lot north of campus that housed music offices, classrooms and studios. After just two short weeks, the School of Music was running again at 100 percent, and the rest of the campus was on its way to healing. As part of the recovery, Crenshaw oversaw the transformation of the first floor of the Marsh Fine Arts Building into a beautiful new office and rehearsal space for the Orchestra, Opera, and Musical Theater programs.

Presenting the award was Crenshaw’s friend, Dr. Alan Lucas of Oak Grove Family Dentistry and son of USM President Emeritus Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas.

“The Symphony Orchestra at Southern Miss could not do what they do without someone with Chris’s expertise, experience, sense of dedication and willingness to help,” said Dr. Michael Miles, Director of Orchestral Activities. “He has always gone beyond the call of duty, with competence and grace. He is most deserving of this year’s Themis Award.”

Previous Themis Award-winners include Dr. Harold Luce, Dean of the College of the Arts 1987- 1996; Dr. Peter Ciurczak, Director of the School of Music, 1988 – 1998; Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, University President, 1975-1995; Sidney J. Gonsoulin, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs; Dr. Susan L. Steen, Director of International Education; Mr. Jerry Wren, Utility Crew Chief, USM Physical Plant; Mr. Tom Dungan, USM Symphony Orchestra Event and Logistics Coordinator; Dr. Mike Lopinto, Assistant to the Dean for Arts Administration and PR/Marketing and Event Coordinator for the School of Music; Mr. David Williamson, Director of Financial Aid; Dr. Stanley Hauer, Professor Emeritus; and Rusty Rolison, Manager of Performing Facilities.