The Hub Award for 2017 honored two of Hattiesburg’s outstanding professionals and community leaders. Bill Oliver and Andy Mercier were honored with the prestigious Hub Award during a gala dinner and program at the Lake Terrace Convention Center  Nov. 14.  Both Mercier and Oliver where honored for their outstanding contributions to the community, commitment to excellence and dedication to public service.

The welcome was given by Larry Albert, convener for the evening and a 2005 recipient of the Hub Award. The master of ceremonies for the evening was Richard Wayne McKenzie, a 1990 recipient of the Hub Award. Announcements were made by Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, secretary, and a 1985 Hub Award recipient. 

The invocation was given by The Honorable Johnny Williams, a 2012 recipient of the Hub Award. Following dinner, Jan Lacy, a 2016 award recipient, recognized the past honorees.

The tribute to Mercier was made by Father Tommy Conway. The tribute to Oliver was given by Dr. Thad Waites.

Hub Award Leadership Scholarships were presented to two students. Southern Miss President Rodney Bennett presented the scholarship to Southern Miss student Cameron Alexander Cloud. Dr. Tommy King, president of William Carey University, presented a scholarship to the mother of WCU student Lachan Michelle Terrell.

 Dr. Steve Ramp, member of the Board of Directors of the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation, presented the scholarship awards.

In 1979, a group of community leaders decided to honor Bobby Lee Chain, who was then serving as president of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning at that time. Bobby L. Chain Day was planned in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the community, commitment to excellence and dedication to public service.

Observance of Bobby L. Chain Day evoked awareness that Hattiesburg has many outstanding citizens whose achievements and contributions to the local community should be recognized. Therefore, it would be appropriate and desirable to establish an event to recognize these persons. 

Thus, the Hub Award had its origin.

An important part of the annual Hub Award event is contributing to the Hub Award Endowment at the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation to benefit students attending The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. From its origin in 1979 the Hub Award has generated scholarship funds totaling more than a half million dollars.


Andrew B. Mercier

Andy Mercier is a fourth-generation Hattiesburg resident and the son of Damian and Tabitha (Clark) Mercier. One of five brothers raised with a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility to church, community and country, he has employed those early life-lessons since moving to Hattiesburg 25 years ago.

Andy has been deeply involved in some of the community’s most impactful organizations. He is the immediate past chairman of the Area Development Partnership Board of Directors and has served on the executive committee for the past six years. A graduate of the 1997 ADP Leaders of a New Century program, Andy is very proud to be one of the original founders of the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation where he served as president and also served on the board of directors for ten years. To date, the GPCF has disbursed more than $8 million to nonprofit organizations in the Hattiesburg area and to colleges and universities across the state for scholarships.

He is the president and chief executive officer of The Merchants Company headquartered in Hattiesburg. The Merchants Company operates Merchants Foodservice, a broad line foodservice distributor, and Sunrise Fresh Produce, a specialty produce distributor.

Since joining Merchants in 1993, Andy has helped lead the growth of the company from $78 million in sales from two Mississippi locations to $800 million in sales from seven locations across the Southeast with more than 1,000 employees. Merchants Foodservice is the 12th largest foodservice distributor in the country and one of the Top 10 private companies in Mississippi.

Educated at The University of Southern Mississippi, Andy earned his bachelors degree in accounting/data processing in 1983 and his masters of professional accountancy in 1984. Upon graduation, he worked for KPMG Peat Marwick, an international CPA firm, in the New Orleans and Jackson offices. Joining Merchants Foodservice as controller, Andy held the positions of treasurer and executive vice president before he was promoted to president in January 2005.

 Inducted into The University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 2015, Andy has served the University in several positions including membership on the board of directors of the USM Alumni Association, the USM Foundation, where he also served as treasurer, and the USM Real Estate Foundation. In 1996, he was named outstanding alumnus by the USM School of Accountancy’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi.

 Andy has a strong belief in the value of education. Long-time supporters and contributors to Southern Miss, Andy and his wife, Stace, are members of the USM Foundation’s Patrons of 1910 Society of the Honor Club and the Aubrey K. Lucas Society.

Through an endowment at the Greater PineBelt Community Foundation established in honor of his uncle, the Rev. Joseph Mercier, Andy and Stace provide financial need-based scholarships to students attending Sacred Heart Catholic School.

 During his tenure, The Merchants Company has provided more than 400 scholarships to students attending colleges across the South.

Andy and Stace have been members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church since moving back to Hattiesburg in 1992 and are the parents of two daughters, Ann Marie, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Betsy, the office manager for the mayor of Hattiesburg.



William C. “Bill” Oliver

Bill Oliver currently serves as the president of Forrest General Healthcare Foundation after retiring in 2009 as president/CEO of Forrest General Hospital, a seven-hospital system in south Mississippi. During his career he became a CPA and was the third person in Mississippi to receive Fellowship Status in Healthcare Financial Management. 

Prior to serving as CEO of Forrest General, he was involved as CFO/COO of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, CFO of Forrest General, CFO of Baptist Medical Center in Montgomery, Ala., and other financial roles with St. Dominic Hospital, University Medical Center and Ernst & Ernst, all in Jackson.

While in these various roles, he has served as: Chairman of Board, Mississippi Hospital Association; original Chairman of Board of PineBelt Community Foundation; Chairman of Board of AAA Ambulance Service; member of ADP Board; member of BancorpSouth Advisory Board; leadership roles for fundraising with American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and Boy Scouts.

During his tenure at Forrest General, he was involved in the installation of the first EMR, (Electronic Medical Record), in the State of Mississippi and developed Centers of Excellence for Cardiac, Cancer, Maternal/Child, Behavioral Health and Trauma. Construction projects under his leadership included the first freestanding Cancer Center in south Mississippi, the expansion of the Cardiac Cath Lab, the expansion of labor and delivery, post-partum and neonatal units along with a physician office building for Women Services, new and expanded medical and surgical Intensive Care Units, expansion of specialty surgery suites and several Pine Grove residential units.

New programs created while at FGH included the state’s first Hospitalist Physician service, Critical Care Physician service and full time Trauma Surgeon service. In addition, other new programs included the Cardiac Rehab Program, Wound Care service, Neonatal Transport service, certified Stroke Center, Spirit of Women program, Doctor Hall of Fame, Forrest General Healthcare Foundation, the Ortho Institute Certificate of Need approval by the State, Asbury Hospice House, Family Medicine Residency Program, and first level two Trauma Center in the State of Mississippi. Forrest General Hospital remains one of the largest employers in South Mississippi with an annual payroll of approximately $150 million. 

Bill’s efforts have been strongly supported by a strong team of very talented employees and physicians, as well as his family – his wife of 43 years, Becky; son, David, and his family, Kelly, Carson and Cecile; and son, Kent, and his family, Candace, Annie and Charlotte.