$1 million gift to support athletics, new band hall

A $1 million gift to Mississippi State from an Indianola woman will help the university construct a new band practice facility and result in a new name for the baseball stadium.

Bonnie DeMent of Indianola is making the contribution in memory of her late husband Gordon, who was the retired owner of DeMent Auction Co. at the time of his death in May 1996.

Gordon DeMent, who attended Mississippi State from 1920-22, was a longtime follower of Mississippi State athletics, especially the baseball program.

In conjunction with the announcement of the contribution, Mississippi State is unveiling plans to rename the stadium portion of the baseball facility after the DeMents and Ron Polk, the universityÕs all-time winningest baseball coach.

Dudy Noble Field, the nationÕs largest on-campus baseball facility, now will be known as Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium. The 6,700-seat facility is widely recognized for a spacious outfield area that can accommodate another 8,000 fans.

Since 1989, Mississippi State has held the NCAA on-campus single-game attendance record, set when 14,991 fans witnessed a doubleheader sweep over the University of Florida.

In addition to supporting the athletics department, Mrs. DeMent has designated half of her donation for a proposed $1 million band hall. The remainder of the funding for the much-anticipated building will come from a $250,000 fund-raising campaign keyed to band alumni and other sources, as well as a commitment from the university to match up to $250,000 of the additional funds raised.

ÒI wanted to do what I thought my husband would have wanted,Ó said Mrs. DeMent. ÒHe loved Mississippi State athletics, especially Coach Ron Polk and the baseball program. And when I saw the current band hall and how badly those students needed a new building, I knew he would have wanted to give them a place to practice.Ó

For more than four decades, the Famous Maroon Band has practiced in a small brick building built in 1939 for use as a campus maintenance facility. Led for the past 14 years by Kent Sills, the 240-member marching unit is one of the largest among Southeastern universities.

ÒBecause of Mrs. DeMentÕs devotion to her late husbandÕs love of this university and to his commitment to our athletic programs, we will be able to greatly enhance the college experiences of our student-athletes as well as our many outstanding band members,Ó said President Donald W. Zacharias in announcing the gift.

Polk, who is entering his 22nd season as head coach of the Mississippi State baseball team, is just four wins short of the career 1,000-win mark, which will make him the 16th college baseball coach ever to reach that milestone.

Polk currently ranks 10th among active coaches in career victories; 13th among active coaches in winning percentage at .682. In a head coaching career that began at Georgia Southern in 1972, he has guided five teams to the College World Series and 16 squads to NCAA Regional tournaments.

He also is the Southeastern ConferenceÕs all-time winningest coach.

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