Baton Rouge, Louisiana native Rebecca (Becky Brown) Karavatakis remembers her time at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, formally known as the Gulf Park College for Women. Her history and ties to the university has inspired her to give back to the campus throughout the years.
Karavatakis arrived in the fall of 1965 and graduated in the Spring of 1967 as a general studies major; as a student, her most iconic role on campus involved raising and lowering the United States flag every day.
She remembers Professor Col. Eugene A. Wink, her western civilization professor with 40 years of military experience and service in both World War I and World War II and respected him for his dedication to the nation.
“He was a lifelong lover of freedom and the American way of life,” said Karavatakis. From his class, she was assigned to raise and lower the flag every day on campus.
On her first day in Convocation Hall during the Pledge of Allegiance, she noticed the U.S. flag flying over the campus auditorium only had 48 stars, as well as the flag in front of campus having significant tears.
She knew she needed to address both situations and found the perfect opportunity when Gulf Park College for Women President Dr. Richard Cox arrived on campus.
He extended an invite to any student who had an idea to enhance the campus grounds to speak with him.
She approached him about the outdated flag and addressed the issue. When they both walked over to observe, he expressed concern that no one on campus noticed the 48-star flag flown. He gave Karavatakis the responsibility to find another flag with 50 stars. She immediately thought of her father, who had a deep love for the American flag.
Her father was quick to fill the request, providing two new flags to the college.
“I presented them to Dr. Cox, and he asked me to officially raise and lower the flags on campus every day. I was proud to do that,” said Karavatakis. “I did that the two years at Gulf Park.”
Karavatakis raised the flag every morning before her 8 a.m. class. In return, the college mailed the old flags to Karavatakis’ father, eventually passing the two flags down to her. She donated both flags to USM’s Gulf Park Campus as a gift in Oct. 2023, along with letters of her time on campus.
“It was time to give it back to USM,” said Karavatakis.
At the time, Gulf Park was a private institution for women only, and required those enrolled to adhere to a stringent set of rules, which included requesting permission to leave campus and that appropriate dress attire be worn for meals served in the campus’ formal dining room and off campus.
Karavatakis remembers her time in the dorms of Hardy Hall without air conditioning, sailing classes at the Gulfport Marina, church on Sundays and having class in the Friendship Oak. She remembers her commitment to help the campus rebuild after Hurricane Camille.
“I told my dad ‘I have to go help them out,’” Karavatakis recounted. “We cleaned up as much as we could. Camille was horrible. Twenty-two feet of water went into Hardy Hall.”
For Karavatakis, Gulf Park represents a treasure trove of opportunities that forever changed her life for the better and wonderful memories that will last her lifetime. She says the motto was and should remain “Non Nobis Solum – Not for Ourselves Alone”.
Learn about opportunities to shape your own future, as well as make beautiful memories, through the academic and leadership opportunities available at The USM Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, Mississippi.
(Gabriela Shinskie contributed to the report)