ALUMNUS Fall 2021 - Mississippi State University

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONS DIAMOND DOGS HAVE THEIR DAY Earn first NCAA College World Series championship

I N S I D E Fall 2021

MSU Creates $1.8 Billion Impact p. 12 | Athlete Engineering p. 38 | Our Hands to Larger Service p. 44

FROM THE President


hat an exciting time to be an alumnus of Mississippi State University!

Bulldogs everywhere continue to celebrate the 2021 NCAA Baseball National Championship won by our Diamond Dogs in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Coach Chris Lemonis and our outstanding players won the title in dramatic fashion in front of some 25,000 fans–at least 85% of whom were wearing Maroon and White. A national television audience saw for themselves how we support our student athletes and how much fun and joy can be shared as by the MSU family. That exposure is invaluable. We enter the Fall 2021 semester expecting our seventh consecutive year of student enrollment growth. MSU is also celebrating the selection of Mississippi’s new poet laureate–our own Dr. Catherine Pierce, professor of English and codirector of MSU’s Creative Writing program. Dr. Pierce is a published author of four books of poetry who joined the MSU faculty in 2007. Chosen for this high distinction by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and his wife, Elee, Dr. Pierce will serve in this role for four years. We are so proud of the opportunities this title affords Dr. Pierce and her students and colleagues as the first MSU scholar so honored. This edition of Alumnus offers you a chance to learn more about these and other MSU success stories. Enjoy, and Hail State!

A Literary Journey MSU professor, Mississippi's newest poet laureate, uses art to examine life p. 32

I N S I D E Fall 2021

Catfish as Blueprint for Business p. 10 | Back in the Saddle p. 53 | Leaving the Nest p. 58 | Crescendo of Support p. 80



18 Diamond Dogs have their Day

Baseball Bulldogs earn first College World Series championship title

26 Protecting the Bulldog Family

Longest Student Health Center faces COVID challenges head on

32 Enjoying the Journey

Mississippi’s newest poet laureate uses art to examine life

38 Athlete Engineering

MSU research group brings sharp focus on performance, wearable technologies

44 Our Hands to Larger Service

4-H and MSU alumni give back while looking forward

ABOVE: The staff at MSU’s John C. Longest Student Health Center rose to the challenge of keeping the MSU student body healthy during the 202021 academic year. Dr. Katrina Poe, physician and interim medical director for the health center, gets a thumbs up from Bully for the job she and other members of the medical staff are doing. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

FALL 2021 | VOL. 98 | NO. 2 PRESIDENT

Mark E. Keenum, ’83, ’84, ’88






Susan Lassetter, ’07 Harriet Laird


38 50

Vanessa Beeson, ’19 James Carskadon, ‘12 Joe Dier, ’75 Leah Gibson, ’21 Susan Lassetter, ‘07 Ashleigh Lee Keri Lewis Addie Mayfield Sasha Steinberg, ’14 Erica Way


Heather Rowe

DEPARTMENTS 04 Campus News 10 Discoveries 16 State Snapshot 50 Profiles 62 Alumni News 80 Giving Back 90 Class Notes 92 Forever Maroon 95 Back Story



COVER Mississippi’s newest Poet Laureate Catherine Pierce will serve as the official state poet for a four-year term. An English professor at Mississippi State University, Pierce co-directs MSU's creative writing program and has published four books of poems and a chapbook. Photo by Megan Bean


Megan Bean Ashleigh Lee Austin Perryman Beth Wynn


P.O. Box 5325 Mississippi State, MS 39762 662.325.0630


Jeff Davis 662.325.3444 Mississippi State University’s Alumnus magazine is published three times a year by the Office of Public Affairs and the Mississippi State University Alumni Association. Send address changes to Alumni Director, P.O. Box AA, Mississippi State, MS 39762-5526. Call 662.325.7000, or email

Campus NEWS

New Physician Assistant Program TO FILL GROWING NEED FOR MEDICAL CARE By James Carskadon, Photo by Beth Wynn

Shey Washburn, assistant clinical professor with MSUMeridian’s Master of Physician Assistant program, demonstrates patient simulation equipment used as part of the rigorous 24-month curriculum.


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U.S. News and World Report’s job satisfaction survey lists physician assistant as above average in flexibility for its work-life balance.


new program on the MSUMeridian campus will help fill Mississippi’s growing need for health care professionals, a shortage that is particularly acute in rural areas. MSU is the first public university in the state to launch a program to train physician assistants, preparing students for a career recently ranked as the best in America. In January, the first students in MSU’s new Master of Physician Assistant Studies program began coursework toward becoming licensed physician assistants. Once they complete the 29-month curriculum and gain licensure, they will be able to work in a wide variety of medical specialties, providing medical care in collaboration with physicians. With a majority of the 20 students in the program’s inaugural group hailing from the Magnolia State, Debra Munsell, an associate professor who helped establish the new program, is hopeful it will improve health outcomes in Mississippi. “The state of Mississippi ranks very low in health care outcomes and access to health care for citizens,” Munsell said. “We know that students who train and work in a certain area will often stay and practice in that same area. So we’re hoping to recruit students from Mississippi and keep them here.” Munsell said Meridian serves as an ideal location for training physician assistants because it is a regional medical hub with two major hospitals and diverse practices, allowing students to obtain clinical training in seven different specialties. The program also has benefited from generous financial support from the Meridian-based Riley and Phil Hardin foundations. “People want to help. They want to see the program succeed and have more medically trained professionals out there,” she said. “They see the need in the state for health care and they see that we can help.” Munsell and the program faculty have developed local partnerships, planned the curriculum, recruited students and faculty, and worked to help the program achieve Accreditation-Provisional status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. As

the program develops, the incoming class size will increase to 30 students. The new program has proven to be popular in its first year receiving applications, in part because of the growing demand for and high job satisfaction of physician assistants. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked physician assistant as the best job in America, citing the reward of helping and treating patients and a positive work-life balance in the medical field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than

“I’ll be able to get some experience that will help me decide whether I want to be in a hospital or a clinic setting. One good thing about being a physician assistant is you can always change specialties as long as there are providers to take you under their wings. Having those options gives us a great opportunity to find jobs in different areas.” ~ Taylor Rawls 31% employment growth for physician assistants by 2029. Kaiman Parker, a Petal native, said he hopes to practice in Mississippi once he completes the program. After getting an associate degree at Pearl River Community College, Parker worked as a respiratory therapist at Forrest General Hospital and South Central Regional Medical Center, gaining experience in different settings like the intensive care unit, emergency room and neonatal intensive care unit. Wanting to expand the scope of care he could provide, he began to learn more about physician assistants. After earning a bachelor’s degree from William Carey University and completing the

prerequisites, Parker was accepted into MSU’s physician assistant program. While classes have only just begun for Parker and his classmates, he said he is looking forward to gaining exposure in a wide variety of medical settings, which will help him determine his career path as a physician assistant. “I have a lot of background in pulmonology but I’m also interested in dermatology, cardiology and neurological care,” Parker said. “So, I’m looking forward to actually starting my clinical rotations to expand my interest and pinpoint what I want to do after school.” Fellow Petal native Taylor Rawls followed a similar path to Meridian as Parker. Having worked in outpatient services, she became interested in the physician assistant program after discussing it with medical providers and realizing the career could provide a good work-life balance. She said she hopes to work in the Laurel or Petal area after graduating. “I’ll be able to get some experience that will help me decide whether I want to be in a hospital or a clinic setting,” Rawls said. “One good thing about being a physician assistant is you can always change specialties as long as there are providers to take you under their wings. Having those options gives us a great opportunity to find jobs in different areas.” Both Parker and Rawls said their classes have a good student-teacher ratio, which allows for more individualized instruction time. They also have appreciated the diversity of the 20-student group, which includes students of different ages from a variety of geographic and religious backgrounds, as well as experience in a variety of medical settings. “As providers, we will have people come in from different cultures and backgrounds, so it really helps us to learn with people from different backgrounds,” Rawls said. “This group has honestly been really great because everyone’s always helping each other out. We’re all here as one unified class and we’ll get to walk across the stage together in 2023. That’s the goal.” n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Campus NEWS

Student Counseling Services supports Bulldogs during tumultuous year By Susan Lassetter


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hile the past year and a half has been marked by uncertainty, Mississippi State University’s Student Counseling Services has remained a constant source of support for Bulldog students both on campus and away. Director Lu Switzer said doing whatever it takes to be there for students and support their educational journey is central to the center’s mission. “We’re here to help facilitate change in students’ lives, whether it’s transitioning from high school to college or from college into whatever their next step might be,” Switzer said. “We want them to be mentally ready for what they’re facing.” When the issue facing students became a worldwide pandemic, the counseling center acted quickly to make its services available online to ensure uninterrupted care for its current clients and to be ready to assist any new ones. “There are certain protocols and things that you have to do differently when meeting with a client in a virtual space, so we did a lot of training and learning,” Switzer said. “It took a lot of teamwork, and I was really proud of how the staff pitched in to make sure we were ready to provide remote services and to make sure people knew how to access them.” For Kimberly Peeples, a staff counselor who was recently named assistant director, there was no choice but to adapt so that students could continue to access the center’s vital services.

Located in Hathorn Hall, the student counseling office provides its services free to eligible students.

“It’s not that it was important to continue our work; it was absolutely necessary,” Peeples said. “Mental health is just as important as physical health, and many people don’t realize that the two go hand in hand. So, it’s just as necessary to see a counselor for your mental health as it is to see a general physician for a physical.”

"We don't focus on diagnosis... We focus on giving students the tools to get past or process what's troubling them or to cope with it." ~ Kimberly Peeples With seven staff counselors and a team of interns and graduate students, Student Counseling Services conducted nearly 7,000 appointments with students during the 2020-21 academic year. In addition to one-on-one sessions, the center offers support groups and provides online workshops and tools for self-assessment and developing coping methods. Peeples said a lot of their work focuses on helping students identify their stressors, process their feelings and break cycles of damaging behaviors. “We don’t focus on diagnosis. Most of the time, that’s not really necessary to help our clients,” Peeples said. “We focus on giving students the tools to get past or process what’s troubling them or to cope with it.”

“We’re here to help facilitate change in students’ lives, whether it’s transitioning from high school to college or from college into whatever their next step might be. We want them to be mentally ready for what they’re facing.” ~ Lu Switzer Switzer said Student Counseling Services sees clients whose needs run the spectrum of psychological disorders. In addition to providing counseling, the center works closely with the Longest Student Health Center and an on-call nurse practitioner to assist students who need medication or more specialized care. With 12 years of experience in Student Counseling Services, Switzer said she has seen firsthand the impact proper mental health care can have on a student’s life. It’s a duty she and the other counselors do not take for granted. “It’s really a privilege to walk with our students on their journeys at such a transitional time in their lives,” Switzer said. “It’s an honor to give them the tools to help find meaning in their lives from a holistic point of view.” n

COPING WITH COVID The COVID-19 pandemic had an undeniable impact on people’s physical and mental well-being. And while safety protocols and vaccinations seem to have stemmed the tide of infection, the effects of the stress it put on individuals and our communities is likely to be long-lasting. Kimberly Peeples, assistant director of MSU’s Student Counseling Services, said overcoming the feelings of isolation that arose during lockdown, as well as coping with the losses spurred by the pandemic— whether they be social, financial or the death of a friend or family member—will be a matter of time and proper mental health management. “COVID took a toll,” Peeples said. “Things are returning to normal, but those feelings of depression and anxiety won’t just go away.” Known as COVID burnout, lasting mental health effects can include anxiety over one’s health, depression brought on by isolation or loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the worsening of existing mental health conditions. Lu Switzer, director of Student Counseling Services, said finding ways to manage that stress is important. She recommends the following coping mechanisms outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. •

Take breaks from consuming news or social media. Being informed is important, but a constant rehashing of the world’s problems can be upsetting.

Take care of your body. Exercise, rest and healthy eating habits can help reduce feelings of stress.

Unwind. Find time during the day to do activities you enjoy.

Connect with others. As social distancing and group gathering restrictions are eased, find ways to reconnect with friends and social groups. If infection is still a concern, find ways to connect online, or by phone or mail.

Switzer also notes that it’s important to seek help if the feelings of anxiety or depression begin to interfere with daily life. Students can visit www.counseling. to get started with Student Counseling Services. Others might wish to speak with their health care providers to get connected with mental health specialists.



Campus NEWS Mississippi State University Civil War expert and associate professor of history Andrew F. Lang received a starred review in Library Journal for his newest book, “A Contest of Civilizations: Exposing the Crisis of American Exceptionalism in the Civil War Era.” Mississippi State’s School of Architecture received several statewide honors from the American Institute of Architects at the 2020 AIA Mississippi Celebrates Architecture Awards Ceremony. Michael Berk, who retired in 2019 after 29 years with the MSU School of Architecture, received the Education Commendation Award for his significant contribution to the field of education related to the purposes of AIA. The Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center, led by Director Leah Kemp, received an honor citation for the creation of the Starkville Streatery and Small Town Streatery Toolkit. Associate professor Hanns Herrmann’s project, Mirror Perch Bridge at the Crosby Arboretum Gum Pond Exhibit, received two awards—an honor award for overall design excellence and the Samuel Sambo Mockbee Sprite of Place Award. David Failla, a mechanical engineering student pursuing both a master’s and Ph.D. in the Bagley College of Engineering, is the recipient of the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship as part of the Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship-for-Service-Program. The scholarship provides recipients with full tuition for up to five years, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense after graduation. A native of Picayune, Failla earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from MSU in 2018.


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Veteran educator Amanda Tullos has returned to Mississippi State as the director of the Partnership Middle School and educational liaison to further develop and grow collaborations between the university and Starkville Oktibbeha School District. She was previously a project manager at MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit and has worked in public school districts throughout the state. Scott Willard, interim dean of MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, received the Love of Learning award from Phi Kappa Phi, which recognizes recipients' academic contributions and achievements. In two decades of service to MSU, Willard has been a champion of the university’s diversity and food security initiatives. Keith Coble, William L. Giles Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State, has been named vice president for the university’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. An MSU faculty member for more than 20 years, Coble has also served since last July as a special assistant to the vice president for DAFVM. He succeeds Reuben Moore, who recently retired after serving as interim vice president for the division for nearly two years. Shelly Hollis, assistant director of cyber education for MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit, recently was selected to serve on the information technology task force created by C Spire and the Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB). The task force includes other leaders from state education, industry, workforce development and Mississippi Coding Academies. Daniel B. Reynolds, an accomplished Mississippi State weed science professor, was named associate vice president for international programs and executive director of the

university’s International Institute. The longtime MSU faculty member has led MSU’s international initiatives on an interim basis since last April. Reynolds previously has held the Edgar E. and Winifred B. Hartwig Endowed Chair in Soybean Agronomy in MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Two Mississippi State faculty members were honored during the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning’s annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards ceremony. Qiana M. Cutts, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations, as well as Derris Devost-Burnett, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, were recognized for their efforts in advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect. Athena Owen Nagel, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Geosciences, is the recipient of a University Professional and Continuing Education Association national award for her innovative and dedicated distance learning teaching methods. UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing and online education. Teresa Jayroe is the new College of Education dean after having served as associate dean since 2011. She previously worked as director for the college’s Office of Clinical/FieldBased Instruction, Licensure and Outreach. Longtime Mississippi State University Information Technology Services employee Jason Tiffin has been named director of Enterprise Information Systems within ITS.

Christopher B. Robinson, a first-generation college student in Mississippi State’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College earned two prestigious honors this spring. In addition to representing Mississippi as a Harry S. Truman Scholarship finalist, the biological engineering major from Brookhaven also received a Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellowship to Princeton University. The biological engineering major from Brookhaven is the sixth MSU honors student in seven years to receive the national PPIA Junior Fellowship and will be the fourth to participate at Princeton. Senior civil engineering major Jessica Lewis has been named to the prestigious New Faces of Civil Engineering for 2021 list by the American Society of Civil Engineers. She is one of just 10 college students worldwide to be recognized. The ASCE New Faces program highlights a select group of civil engineering leaders and recognizes their academic or professional accomplishments as well as their community engagement.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum is pictured with forestry students and mentors during a congratulatory meeting with members of the university’s student chapter of the Society of American Foresters, which again is being recognized as the national Outstanding Student Chapter. Pictured, left to right, row 1: Baylor Doughty, a sophomore from Mobile, Alabama; Daniel West, a senior from Hoover, Alabama; and Brianna Ellis, a senior from Starkville; row 2: Noah Hammond, a senior from Linden, Alabama; and Joshua Rush, a senior from Philadelphia; row 3: MSU President Mark E. Keenum; row 4: Dustin Zavala, a senior from Fulton; and Adam Lindsey, SAF president and a senior from Purvis; row 5: Professor Robert Grala, SAF advisor; and Professor and Forestry Department Head Donald Grebner. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Dipangkar Dutta is Mississippi State University’s winner of the 2021 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award, which annually honors distinguished faculty from across the SEC for their teaching accomplishments, scholarly contributions and discoveries. Reese A. Dunne, a Mississippi State Presidential Scholar and senior mechanical engineering major from Starkville, has been selected to receive the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. He is the 19th Mississippi State student to be recognized with the Goldwater Scholarship since the Goldwater Foundation’s inception. Ming Ying Hong, an assistant professor of drawing, was selected to represent Mississippi as a 2021 State Fellow by Southern Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization that works to enhance the public value of the arts. She received a $5,000 prize and is included in an exhibition at the Bo Bartlett Center in Columbus, Georgia, until Dec. 20.

Mississippi State’s Community Garden, a collaborative garden project led by faculty in Mississippi State’s College of Architecture, Art and Design, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was honored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture with its Collaborative Practice Award. The honor recognizes architectural educators for exemplary work in inspiring and challenging students, contribution to the profession’s knowledge base, and extending their work beyond the borders of academy into practice and the public sector. (Photo by Megan Bean) ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




MSU ingenuity aimed to shore up U.S. aquaculture industry By Vanessa Beeson, Photos by Beth Wynn


ississippi State has long been a big fish in aquaculture economics research, trawling the waters of opportunity to help improve profit and productivity. As home to the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center—the nation’s largest aquaculture research facility—MSU is invested in boosting not only catfish productivity but the whole U.S. aquaculture industry.

Mississippi’s Fresh Catch

As the country’s largest catfish producer, Mississippi accounted for $226 million of the United States’ overall $370 million production value in 2020—proving the strength of a statewide industry that’s been building for more than 50 years.


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Mississippi’s commercial catfish industry began in the 1960s and by the 1980s was well on its way to positioning catfish as a staple on America’s dinner plate. Along the way, MSU helped develop the tools and innovations catfish producers needed to grow and thrive— from establishing enterprise budgets to researching improved production practices to studying nutrition, diseases and more. The industry continued to grow through the 1990s until the mid-2000s when it began to feel a squeeze, driven in part by low-priced and low-quality imported pangasius catfish flooding the U.S. market. The contraction forced catfish farmers to concentrate more on maximizing profit and production efficiency. Jimmy Avery, an Extension professor and director of the NWAC Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, explained that MSU-

driven research helped catfish producers pivot their production models by focusing on economics, production practices and systems, nutrition, water quality, fish health management, genetics and breeding. “One response to competition from foreign supplies of catfish-like products is to create more intensive systems that increase efficiency and, hopefully, decrease production costs,” Avery said. “Research on more intensive systems was conducted by NWAC and USDA Agriculture Research Service scientists, and farmers began adopting these systems. Their continuous use combined with the complementary use of hybrid catfish in these systems, are the principal reasons we have been able to increase per-acre yields from 4,000 pounds per acre to 6,800 pounds per acre.”

The largest catfish caught in Mississippi was a 95 lb blue catfish snagged in 2009, according to

L-R: Jimmy Avery and Ganesh Kumar in front of a catfish pond at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center.

Avery said catfish feed—the industry’s largest production cost—has been a research focus at Mississippi State for decades. “MSU scientists have researched ways to reduce feed costs through alternative feed ingredients, lower protein concentrations and elimination of non-essential ingredients,” Avery said. “It is estimated that nutrition research alone saves the industry between $95 and $140 per ton of feed.” Another example of MSU researchers collaborating to save producers money is the development of a vaccine and vaccine delivery system to treat enteric septicemia, an endemic disease causing significant economic loss across the industry. “This technology has resulted in a net economic benefit to fingerling producers of $1,200 to $2,400 per acre,” Avery said. He added that since 2016, Mississippi

catfish acreage has remained relatively farm-raised catfish, trout and bass to offshore constant, and in 2020, Mississippi accounted species like oysters, shrimp and salmon. for 54% of the nation’s foodfish acreage, While Americans annually consume 65% of the fingerling production and 83% around 16 pounds of seafood per person, of the broodfish production. much of it comes from waters beyond the “MSU researchers U.S. Kumar noted that have helped these more than 90% of seafood numbers stabilize in the U.S. is imported, through their producing a seafood "MSU scientists have work on improved trade deficit of $17 billion technologies that researched ways to per year. enhance farm “This trade deficit reduce feed costs productivity and only can be reduced by through alternative economic viability,” promoting the domestic feed ingredients, lower Avery said. aquaculture sectors. There are many Providing basic, farm-level protein concentrations university partners in economic information and and elimination of nonaquaculture research farm management tools essential ingredients. It and outreach at is fundamental toward MSU, representing such progress,” Kumar is estimated that nutrition a close-knit, said. “Mississippi State research alone saves the interdisciplinary and University, with a rich industry between $95 and collaborative effort, tradition of aquaculture including scientists $140 per ton of feed." economists, is identified from the university’s as the leading research ~ Jimmy Avery Forest and institute in aquaculture Wildlife Research production and Center, Mississippi economic research. This Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, is a rare opportunity to create an economic College of Veterinary Medicine and the MSU framework for regional and national Extension Service, along with the USDA aquaculture stakeholders.” Agricultural Research Services’ Warmwater The team, which includes MAFES Aquaculture Research Unit. researchers Suja Aarattuthodi and Benedict Posadas, will develop economic information for catfish, mollusks, crustaceans, centrarchids like bass, recreational and ornamental fish, Mississippi State University aquaculture and other aquaculture industries, while also economics research reaches well beyond assessing the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic Mississippi’s catfish ponds. In fact, the impact across U.S. aquaculture sectors. university is gaining national attention as the One goal, Kumar said, is to create a recipient of a newly funded grant to establish farm-level database that helps producers and national economic metrics for all U.S. researchers better understand farm production aquaculture. and risk on a large scale. Ganesh Kumar, an assistant research “Aquaculture entrepreneurs need accurate professor, guides a team of nearly a dozen information to assess production, marketing researchers from eight universities. As part of a $1 million grant from the National and financial risk. Until a basic framework Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s is in place, competing with other countries Sea Grant College Program, the team will will be difficult,” Kumar said. “By delivering analyze the economic viability, impact the information domestic producers need to and management measures of the U.S. grow and thrive, we’ll improve the economic aquaculture industry, which includes welfare of the U.S. aquaculture industry as everything from freshwater fish such as a whole.” n

Navigating into Larger Waters




MSU CREATES $1.8 BILLION ANNUAL ECONOMIC IMPACT By James Carskadon, Photo by Beth Wynn


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ississippi State University provides an estimated annual economic impact of $1.8 billion to the Magnolia State, a recently completed analysis shows. The study, conducted by international economic modeling company Emsi on behalf of MSU, shows that the university provides a strong return on investment for taxpayers, students and society. MSU’s $1.8 billion economic impact supports 29,016 jobs, or one out of every 55 jobs in Mississippi, with every $1 of public money invested in the university generating $2.30 in value. Emsi’s study, conducted last year, is based on data from fiscal year 2018-2019. “MSU drives our state’s diverse and growing economy in so many vital ways, whether it’s producing highly qualified graduates in hundreds of fields, creating an innovative economic environment where research and development thrive, or directly assisting the people of Mississippi with strategic extension and outreach in every Mississippi county,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This study confirms that MSU is a great investment for the taxpayers of Mississippi as we meet our mission of learning, research and service.” MSU’s $1.8 billion total economic impact represents the sum of several areas that were studied by Emsi, including:


$935.8 million in impact from MSU alumni; $297.3 million from operations spending; $245.3 million from the MSU Extension Service; $213.1 million from research spending; $45 million from student spending; $42.5 million from visitor spending; $32.6 million from MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems-Extension; $20.8 million from faculty and student start-up and spin-off companies; $14.8 million from construction spending.

In addition to metrics quantified in Emsi’s report, MSU supports economic development in several ways. The university works closely with economic development officials at the state and local levels to support industrial recruitment and retention efforts. A wide variety of university outreach

programs support the development of strong communities across the state. Additionally, university researchers regularly collaborate with industry to solve problems and foster new innovations in sectors such as automotive, aerospace, agriculture and manufacturing. “As the state’s leading research university, our extensive R&D capabilities make MSU and the state of Mississippi a trusted partner in public and private research activity,” said MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan. “Additionally, we support start-up companies founded as a result of MSU research, helping to create new economic opportunities focused on innovative technologies.” Among the top 5% of universities nationally for agriculture and natural resources research, MSU historically has supported the state’s $7.35 billion agriculture industry. The university’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine manages four research and extension centers and 16 branch stations strategically located throughout Mississippi, in addition to Extension offices in all 82 counties of Mississippi. Emsi’s analysis showed that the increased productivity of Mississippi farmers and ranchers from working with Extension yielded $245.3 million in added income for the state, which is equivalent to supporting 4,889 jobs. “Mississippi’s producers are competing in national and international markets to sell their products, and that activity is vital to the state’s economy,” said MSU Vice President for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Keith Coble. “Through Extension and MSU’s robust agricultural research activities, we are supporting the state’s top commodities such as poultry, soybeans and forestry while also tailoring outreach and research programs to meet the needs of Mississippi’s diverse agricultural regions.” Examining the economic benefits of MSU for students, Emsi found that the average bachelor’s degree graduate from MSU working in Mississippi will see an increase of $19,400 each year compared to a person with a high school diploma or equivalent. The study also found that societal benefits of having a more educated Mississippi population amount to $4.3 billion. n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Discoveries A virtual reality greenhouse, developed as part of Mississippi State’s Future Growers Technology Initiative, will help reshape some of the most high-risk aspects of the agriculture industry. Funded through a federal grant, the project is a partnership of MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems. The latest survey from the National Science Foundation again affirms Mississippi State’s status as the state’s leading research university. Among all institutions in the NSF’s just-released Higher Education Research and Development Survey, MSU moved up the rankings to No. 92 nationally with more than $264.5 million in research and development expenditures for fiscal year 2019, an increase of $20 million from the previous year. An NSF top 100 research university for nearly two decades, MSU boasts 30 disciplines and subdisciplines ranked in the top 100 in the latest report. The university has reported an increase in research and development expenditures for six consecutive years, capping a decade that saw MSU report $2.3 billion in research expenditures from FY10-FY19. Southern Company and Mississippi State University are proud to announce a new collaboration that will expand the energy company’s use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to map critical infrastructure, assess weather-related damage and conduct routine utility inspections. The collaboration between Southern Company and Mississippi State’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory will enable the use of larger, more sophisticated UAS in pursuing beyond visual line of sight operations approval from the FAA for the energy company’s inspection and mapping efforts.


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Wenmeng “Meg” Tian, an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, recently received $515,000 from a National Science Foundation CAREER award to advance her research in additive manufacturing. The funding will support her project aimed at strengthening additive manufacturing processes for small and medium-sized manufacturers while protecting confidential design information. Lamiaa El Fassi, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Catherine Ayuso, an MSU postdoctoral research associate, were included in a February issue of Nature, a national publication featuring top-quality peer-reviewed research in all fields of science. Their paper, is titled “The asymmetry of antimatter in the proton.” Steven Grice has been named executive director of Mississippi State’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, or NSPARC. An MSU alumnus who has spent over a decade at NSPARC, Grice has led the research center on an interim basis since last spring. Dave Spencer, a doctoral student in agronomy, is the sole recipient of a top international scholarship award from Gamma Sigma Delta, the leading agricultural honor society. The Collierville, Tennessee, native earned the organization’s Graduate Student Scholarship, which will help support his research on conservation practices. Spencer holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from MSU and is now studying at the university’s Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville.

Andrew K. Lawton, an assistant professor in Mississippi State’s Department of Biological Sciences, received more than $870,000 from the Faculty Early Career Development Program, one of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty. He will use the five-year grant to initiate research on brain development—specifically how the brain folds during development. He also will incorporate the research into a special course for undergraduate students and provide a refresher course for local educators. Ali Gurbuz, an assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is being recognized for his early-career success and impactful research with a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award. He is receiving $500,000 to support his research developing sophisticated smart sensing systems, which have the potential to improve the data collected and processed by everything from autonomous vehicles to precision agriculture to medical imaging machines. Gurbuz is co-director of the Information Processing and Sensing Laboratory (IMPRESS), which conducts basic and applied research in sensing systems and information processing. John J. Green is bringing a career immersed in Southern sociology and community development to his new position as director of the Southern Rural Development Center headquartered at Mississippi State University. An MSU graduate, he was previously a professor of sociology and senior research associate with the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi.

Two seniors in Mississippi State’s Bagley College of Engineering and one senior in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences have been accepted into the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship program. They are: Zoe M. Fowler, an electrical engineering major from Columbus; Cameron J. Gruich, a chemical engineering major from Ocean Springs; and Nathan C. Frey, a chemistry major from Slidell, Louisiana. Fowler and Frey also are students in the university’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College. Kaylee Bundy, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, has become the second Bulldog in the last four years to earn the C. William Hall Scholarship from the Society for Biomaterials. A native of Covington, Louisiana, Bundy earned the prestigious award based on her outstanding scholastic achievement and her stated objectives for future research.

Mississippi State has received formal approval to build the Northern Gulf Aquatic Food Research Center, a multi-million-dollar facility in Ocean Springs and the first of its kind on the Mississippi Coast. It is funded in part through the RESTORE Act, administered through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The center will provide the Gulf Coast seafood industry with robust safety testing and quality assurance. To be constructed in three phases, the first phase includes construction of a biosafety laboratory and an analytical chemistry laboratory for measuring chemical residues in water and aquatic food products, capabilities that are currently exported out of the state.

WE’RE ON A FAST TRACK TO THE FUTURE With the introduction of our new Orion system, MSU now stands as the nation’s fourth fastest academic supercomputer site, providing solutions to large-scale problems in automotive designs, cybersecurity, concussion research, weather and ocean modeling and more. But that’s only part of the story. As a leading research university, we see it as our responsibility to bring even bigger ideas to the world. And that’s a commitment you can count on today and for years to come. WERINGTRUE.MSSTATE.EDU





The Mississippi State Bulldogs take a victory lap after the 2021 Men's College World Series National Championship game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Vanderbilt Commodores at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Photography by Austin Perryman


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DIAMOND DOGS HAVE THEIR DAY Bulldogs net first NCAA College World Series championship By Joe Dier, Photos by Austin Perryman and Chamberlain Smith


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Who, Who, beyond beyond baseball baseball coach coach Chris Chris Lemonis, Lemonis, his his staff staff and and the the talented talented and and dedicated dedicated Diamond Diamond Dog Dog team, team, would would savor savor this this historic historic event event the the most? most?


he 800-plus mile drive home to Starkville the day following Mississippi State’s baseball national championship-clinching win over Vanderbilt seemed somehow shorter than in a dozen or so previous return trips from the College World Series in Omaha. The usual big city traffic snarls near Kansas City and St. Louis and occasional road repair slowdowns along the way weren’t as much a bother this time around. It helped knowing that very soon Mississippi State’s baseball entourage would arrive in Starkville and prep for a first-ever national championship trophy-hoisting parade through the Cotton District and a massive celebration by 15,000 fans at Dudy Noble Field. The 12-hour journey afforded ample time to sift through a myriad of thoughts about Mississippi State’s first national championship. Who, beyond baseball coach Chris Lemonis, his staff and the talented and dedicated Diamond Dog team, would savor this historic event the most? ESPN’s telecasts frequently showed the excitement shared by the likes of MSU Hall of Fame coach Ron Polk, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and former Diamond Dog greats Rafael Palmeiro and Jonathan Papelbon. They represented the emotions of countless former Mississippi State Diamond Dogs and non-baseball athletes alike. MSU President Mark Keenum, a State grad in his 12th year as leader of Mississippi’s largest university, and Director of Athletics John Cohen, a CWS veteran as a player, coach and now as athletics director, sit atop the list, along with Jim Ellis, who has broadcast virtually every MSU baseball game and 11 of MSU’s 12 CWS advancements since creating

State’s baseball radio network in 1979. Then there’s Starkville native and former State AD Larry Templeton, under whose direction the MSU baseball program climbed to its lofty place among college baseball’s elite. And much like the highway dotted with Mississippi State car tags, the list goes on. There’s longtime sports information director Bo Carter, a Vandy grad who scored many a game—often in sub-optimum weather conditions—from behind the chicken wire backstop at old Dudy Noble Field; former longtime MSU athletic trainer Straton Karatassos; current team bus driver Everett Kennard; and 1961 State grad Roy Ruby, a 40-year member of the administration at State whose father once played baseball for the legendary Dudy Noble. They and countless others are all basking this morning in the glow of that coveted season-closing victory celebration in Omaha. Sadly, thoughts also turn to so many no longer with us who no doubt would be ringing cowbells in celebration. Longtime sports publicist Bob Hartley; the radio voice of the Bulldogs Jack Cristil; State’s decades-long bus driver John Long and Paul Gregory, the head coach of many of the State baseball teams he transported. They’d all be bursting with pride. So would the likes of loyal Bulldog backers Leo Seal, Bryce Griffis and Bobby Martin, whose financial commitment and guidance have paid dividends for a baseball program that cannot be calculated. And though he never announced MSU baseball games, former MSU professor and public address man Hank Flick would likely offer a “good, good evening” salute to the ’21 Diamond Dogs.



With autumn and the start of another school year at Mississippi State approaching, there’s still plenty of traffic around Starkville businesses selling merchandise commemorating State’s 2021 NCAA baseball national championship. The memories of a most remarkable chapter in the history book of Mississippi State athletics are rekindled often when Bulldog types get together. For in 13 sometimes-magical post-season days in June, and on their 12th attempt, Mississippi State’s Baseball Bulldogs successfully scaled Mount

team, featuring the likes of AllAmerican third baseman Phil Still and pitching aces Jerry Thompson and Mike Proffitt, enjoyed a brief stay in Omaha after dropping narrow decisions to Tulsa and BYU. Another of MSU’s ABCA Hall of Fame coaches, Ron Polk, directed State’s advancements to Omaha and the CWS’ original Omaha home, Rosenblatt Stadium, in 1979, 1981, 1985, 1990 and 1997. He did it again in 2007 during his second term as Mississippi State skipper. A program-first repeat appearance in the CWS took place in 1998 when Pat McMahon followed Polk

That the Diamond Dogs advanced to Omaha in 2021 likely surprised few who closely follow college baseball and the program’s penchant for success. Mississippi State is, for sure, certainly no stranger to the Omaha scene. Championship. State posted a 10-3 mark over the stretch, capping the march with an impressive 9-0 shutout of defending national champion and conference rival Vanderbilt, earning for Mississippi State its first NCAA national championship in a team sport. That the Diamond Dogs advanced to Omaha in 2021 likely surprised few who closely follow college baseball and the program’s penchant for success. Mississippi State is, for sure, certainly no stranger to the Omaha scene. Some 50 years earlier in 1971, coach Paul Gregory’s SEC championship baseball team earned the program’s first berth in the eight-team playoff event, whose field included six-time NCAA champion Southern Cal, Southern Illinois, Harvard, Brigham Young, Seton Hall, Tulsa and another CWS newbie, Texas Pan-American. That


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at the helm and guided that MSU diamond edition back to Omaha. The 2013 club, coached by John Cohen, made the most of State’s first appearance at the CWS’ new 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park, guiding State to its first championship series appearance and program-best national runnerup finish. Five seasons later Gary Henderson, who took over as MSU’s interim head coach early in the 2018 campaign, directed State back to Omaha. And a year later current State skipper Chris Lemonis followed Henderson, guiding the Bulldogs to CWS berths in both 2019 and, after a COVID-19 pause in 2020 NCAA competition, this season. For those scoring along at home, that’s 50 baseball seasons spanning six decades of Mississippi State representation at the NCAA College World Series. Only the Texas



Longhorns, with 37 total CWS appearances dating back to 1949, have a longer active such streak. To be sure there were signs along the way that the Diamond Dogs, picked to finish second in the league’s Western Division in the preseason poll of SEC baseball coaches, just might not be destined for college baseball’s ultimate prize. There were plenty of ups and downs along the way to Omaha–a 2-1 showing against three top 10 teams in the season-opening Farm Bureau College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, and an SEC season-opening road series win against longtime SEC rival LSU in Baton Rouge. Those were countered later by an early-season home series sweep at the hands of Arkansas, a discouraging late-season series loss against Missouri and a pair of run-rule setbacks that cut short top 10-ranked Mississippi State’s competition at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Then came the month of June with its warmer weather and even warmer play on the diamond by Mississippi State. Sporting a 4517 worksheet and after playing a schedule ranked among the nation’s five strongest, Mississippi State was seeded seventh among the 64-team field of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs were accorded their 39th overall NCAA postseason berth and State’s 15th regional host role at Dudy Noble Field. The Chris Lemonis-skippered Diamond Dogs reeled off consecutive regional tournament victories over Samford (8-4), Virginia Commonwealth (16-4) and Campbell University (6-5) in hosting and winning the NCAA Starkville Regional. State then squared off against a talented Notre Dame team in an NCAA Super Regional. Over the course of three days at Dudy Noble Field the event drew record-setting


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attendance—14,385 for the seriesopener and 40,110 for the Super Regional series. State claimed the Saturday opener 9-8, the Irish answered with an 8-1 Sunday night win, and the Bulldogs punched their ticket to Omaha with an 11-7 verdict on Monday night. The regional and super regional wins before sellout Dudy Noble Field crowds earned for Mississippi State its 12th overall trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for college baseball’s national championship event. And for the first time Mississippi State had secured berths in three consecutive NCAA College World Series. This year’s CWS slate bracketed State with Texas, a team that the Bulldogs topped 8-3 in their ’21 season-opener, Atlantic Coast Conference member Virginia and SEC Eastern Division champion Tennessee, who had ended State’s stay in the SEC Tournament in late May with a 12-2 win. The other four-team bracket featured SEC East runner-up Vanderbilt, Pac12 Conference foes Stanford and Arizona, and another ACC team, North Carolina State. State pitching sparkled with 21 strikeouts in a closely-contested 2-1 series-opening win over Texas. The game’s four pitchers combined for 33 strikeouts. Another onerun game followed two days later, when State, held without a hit for seven frames, bunched together timely hitting in a six-run burst that lifted the Bulldogs past Virginia 6-5. In need of just one more win to advance to the best-of-three championship series, State dropped a series-evening 8-5 decision to the Longhorns, setting up a dramafilled bracket championship game with Texas. The pitching tandem of starter Will Bednar and relief ace Landon Sims, the stars of the Game 1 win over Texas, teamed up again against the Longhorns, allowing but three runs on four

hits. A one-out stolen base by pinch runner Brayland Skinner followed by Tanner Leggett’s pinch-hit single provided the winning ingredients in a 4-3 walk-off State win that triggered celebrations long into the Omaha night by the legions of jubilant Bulldog fans. It also ignited a stampede of Bulldog fans making travel, hotel and ticket plans for State’s second-ever advancement to the title-deciding CWS championship series.

weather, and Vanderbilt parlayed a dandy start by Leiter and a shaky mound start by State freshman Christian MacLeod for a 7-1 first-inning lead en route to an 8-2 series-opening win. But the Bulldogs would not trail the remainder of the College World Series. After a two-hour Game 2 rain delay Monday, all nine Bulldog starters hit safely in a 14-hit, 13run Bulldog barrage while pitchers Houston Harding and Preston

Former Diamond Dog pitcher Gene Morgan, a member of State’s famed 1985 team, sent this message: “Hallelujah, no more curse of the ankle!” This refers, of course, to the Texas-hit line drive that injured his ankle in the 1985 CWS. Shortly after the win, former Diamond Dog pitcher Gene Morgan, a member of State’s famed 1985 team, sent this message: “Hallelujah, no more curse of the ankle!” This refers, of course, to the Texas-hit line drive that injured his ankle in the 1985 CWS. On deck two days later at TD Ameritrade Park was the best-ofthree title series against a familiar foe. The Vanderbilt Commodores caught a huge break and gained an extra day of rest for its pitching when their bracket championship game with North Carolina State was canceled. A Covid-19 issue within the Wolfpack team was to blame. The All-SEC championship series would feature three soon-to-be firstround MLB draft picks, all righthanded pitchers—-Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter, Texas Rangers’ second pick; and Kumar Rocker, New York Mets’ 10th pick; and Mississippi State’s Will Bednar, 14th pick for San Francisco. The Monday night opener was delayed an hour by threatening

Johnson allowed but one run each in a lopsided 13-2 Mississippi State win. Johnson’s two-hit performance in five game-closing innings helped save another Bulldog relief ace, Landon Sims, for Wednesday’s winner-take-all title game. There were no weather delays June 30 in the deciding third game of the championship series. And lead-off hitter Rowdey Jordan wasted little time getting Mississippi State rolling. MSU’s center fielder lashed a single to right on Kumar’s first pitch of the game and minutes later scampered home on a Luke Hancock sacrifice fly. State plated two more in the second frame, and in a four-hit fifth inning expanded the lead with two more runs that chased Rocker, the 2019 College World Series MVP, from the hill. If there was any doubt as to the championship series’ outcome, it vanished in the seventh inning. Catcher Logan Tanner ripped a solo shot and freshman Kellum Clark capped the Bulldogs’ scoring in Omaha with ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


his second home run of the CWS, a three-run shot for a 9-0 lead. The final unresolved issue on the night surrounded an opportunity for a rare CWS nohit pitching performance. State ace Will Bednar, after six no-hit, shutout innings, gave way to Landon Sims, who worked a scoreless seventh before being touched for a one-out single in the eighth. He notched his 100th strikeout of the campaign for

out No. 2 in the ninth before closing out the game and the 2021 College World Series for his 13th save. The tandem of Rowdey Jordan and Tanner Allen combined for five of MSU’s 12 hits, with Allen’s single and double raising his team-leading season total to 100 hits. Some 25 Bulldog players—-13 of them pitchers—-logged playing experience in the 2021 College World Series.

“As a former player, I want to congratulate our fans. YOU are National Champions and you deserve it. You have been the driving force and have created this excitement and atmosphere for years. Other schools and programs wish for and dream of the support you have given this program. YOU are the reason it is such an honor to play for Mississippi State.” ~ Jay Porter


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In the end, it’s one grand tie for the top spot among celebrants in Maroon. That position is most assuredly shared by legions of Mississippi State fans–many of them among the estimated 20,000 or more that kept “Maroon-White” and “Let’s Go State” chants echoing through TD Ameritrade Park the last two weeks in June. Former Mississippi State catcher Jay Porter, so moved by the outpouring of support by MSU fans in Omaha, penned a thank you on behalf of former Diamond Dogs and coaches: “As a former player, I want to congratulate our fans. YOU are National Champions and you deserve it. You have been the driving force and have created

this excitement and atmosphere for years. Other schools and programs wish for and dream of the support you have given this program. YOU are the reason it is such an honor to play for Mississippi State.” One such loyal fan is 92-year-old James Taylor, a 1951 agricultural engineering graduate. As a replacement for his 70th MSU class reunion that would have been held this year at State, Taylor celebrated with a national championship ringing of his cowbell. So here’s to all in the Maroon and White who have waited for years and shed blood, sweat, and now many tears of pure joy in support of Mississippi State University Baseball. You ring true! n


Both No. 7 seed Mississippi State and No. 4 seed Vanderbilt entered the best-of-three College World Series championship series with 48 wins, meaning a 50th win by either team would be the championship-clincher. After an 8-2 Commodore win in the series-opener, State notched wins 49 and 50 by resounding 13-2 and 9-0 scores. Four teams finished the 2021 campaign with an NCAA-leading 50 wins – Mississippi State, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas. Only one, Mississippi State, ended the season with a win. Six Mississippi State teams—1985, 1989, 1990, 2013, 2019 and 2021— have posted 50-win seasons, including the school-best 54-win campaign by the 1989 team. State has now had two back-to-back 50-win seasons, 1989-90 and 2019-21.


L E A D E R S A CWS record-setting strikeout performance by Will Bednar helped boost the Mississippi State pitching staff’s nation-leading strikeout total to 817 in 68 games, averaging just over 12 strikeouts per game. Bednar, the Most Outstanding Player in this year’s CWS, registered 26 of the staff’s 73 strikeouts during his three starts, including a 15-strikeout effort in State’s CWS-opening 2-1 win over Texas.






The antics of Ross Mitchell and the “Bench Mobb” captured the spotlight in State’s previous advancement to the CWS championship series in 2013. But in 2021, it was the Maroon Mob. Devoted followers of the Baseball Bulldogs were largely responsible for record-setting attendance totals at the 2021 College World Series. During Wednesday night’s championship series finale, the NCAA announced that a CWS-record 361,711 attended the 16 sessions of the tournament at TD Ameritrade Park. That total included a record 72,226 for the three-game MSU-Vandy championship series and 24,052 on hand for the final BulldogCommodore matchup.


As the championship celebrations on the TD Ameritrade Park field and throughout the stadium revved up the night of June 30, the votes were tabulated in the press box for the 2021 College World Series All-Tournament Team. As expected, Mississippi State’s all-time list of CWS All-Tournament Team selections expanded significantly. Six Bulldog honorees were added to the 10 prior selections who represented Mississippi State’s 1981, 1985, 2013 and 2018 CWS teams. Senior outfielders Tanner Allen and Rowdey Jordan were joined on the list by freshman shortstop Lane Forsythe, sophomore first baseman Luke Hancock, freshman catcher Logan Tanner, and draft-eligible freshman pitcher Will Bednar, also named the Most Outstanding Player of this year’s CWS.

NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT Mississippi State’s defense in Omaha was a big zero—-as in an unheard of zero errors in 238 defensive chances over seven games. State’s sterling 1.000 fielding percentage was the first all-time among teams that played at least three games in the College World Series. For good measure, State’s defenders turned five double plays.


There were 28 home runs launched in the 2021 College World Series, with five of them leaving the TD Ameritrade Park courtesy of Mississippi State. Freshman Kellum Clark led the way with a pair of round-trippers, while Logan Tanner hit his 15th, Kamren James his 12th and Tanner Allen his 11th. Rowdey Jordan and Luke Hancock did not go yard in Omaha but also reached twin digits in home runs this season with 10 each. For the year, State belted 75 home runs, the most since the 1999 team clubbed 82. Kellum Clark joined Will Clark from the 1985 MSU edition as the only two Bulldog players to homer twice during a College World Series. Clark’s 1985 team belted a program CWS-high seven home runs. State has hit at least one home run in 11 of its 12 CWS appearances, beginning with a Phil Still swat against Tulsa in 1971. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



TACKLES COVID HEAD ON By James Carskadon, Photos by Beth Wynn


n late April, thousands of Mississippi State students walked across the stage during graduation ceremonies at Humphrey Coliseum, marking the end of an academic year that included many staples of the college experience such as in-person classes, athletic events and Greek life. With the COVID-19 pandemic being an ever-present threat, those hallmarks of college life were not guaranteed. To have on-campus classes, student-life activities and get to the finish line, marked by in-person graduation, MSU needed robust COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and treatment capabilities, along with local public health guidance, to help keep the community healthy and quickly respond to any outbreaks. The John C. Longest Student Health Center stepped up to provide those services to the university. Staff physician Dr. Cliff Story led the health center through every stage of the pandemic, from following the outbreak in other countries in early 2020 to setting up vaccine administration sites on campus this spring. Story said the center’s doctors, nurses and administrative staff have all used flexibility and hard work to carry out their jobs. “It’s been challenging at times, but I would be hard pressed to find a staff that has done a better job of working together the whole last year,” Story said. “I’m very proud of them.”


When Dr. Ryan Looney was in medical school, an immunology professor warned him and his classmates that the next big global pandemic would be during their careers. Unfortunately, that warning turned out to be prescient. A physician and internal medicine specialist at the health center since 2016, Looney closely followed the news of the initial COVID-19 outbreaks in China, Italy and New York City. He talked about it with his wife, and it quickly became a topic of conversation during staff meetings at the health center. As the pandemic spread around the world, it became apparent that the new disease would reach Mississippi. In early 2020, the health center began to stock up on personal protective equipment to keep the staff safe. Story and Looney agreed they would be the primary physicians for any potential COVID patients to help minimize exposure for other campus doctors and nurses. By late February, Story was regularly advising university leaders as they dealt with the emerging threat. By late March, the Mississippi Department of Health confirmed the disease had reached the MSU


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In need of a checkup, Bully visits Longest Student Health Center physician Ryan Looney, who has been providing care to COVID-19 patients at MSU. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Bully checks in with staff at the health center’s front desk. The center adapted check-in protocols to minimize COVID-19 risk after the pandemic began.

community when one of Looney’s patients tested positive. “That was kind of a wake-up call that these aren’t drills anymore, because usually once you see one case it’s already growing exponentially in your area,” Looney said. “Unfortunately, that case was only the first of many.” As the university transitioned to remote operations in mid-March, the health center’s phone lines began to light up as people called with questions. Missy Dodson, a nurse practitioner, stayed up to date on COVID developments and volunteered to answer questions coming from MSU students, faculty and staff. “It became all-consuming,” Dodson said. “I would be at my desk for 10-12 hours every day answering and returning calls. I couldn’t stand the thought of somebody leaving a message and not getting a call back. We really wanted to answer their questions and give them the right information.”


With most students away from campus and many patients minimizing clinic visits as a precaution, the late spring and summer months of 2020 were unusually quiet for the


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health center. However, with the university announcing plans to return to in-person instruction in the fall, clinic staff knew that would soon change. Over the summer, Story and his team worked to refine and scale-up the COVID protocols they had established. A “COVID Hall” was created for treating patients with known exposure or symptoms, which kept them separate from non-COVID patients as they moved through the building. Separate laboratory space was established to help with the lab work required for suspected COVID patients. Several new nurses were hired for various roles in the clinic, including a team that primarily handled contact tracing and calls to the COVID hotline. As nurses were in high demand across the country, nurse manager Nancy Ball worked to fill those roles and integrate the new staff into the team. “It was difficult because we couldn’t have in-person staff meetings like we used to, because we couldn’t have that many people in one room at a time,” Ball recalled. “Everyone has worked well together and been willing to take care of things that they might not have had to before.”

While the health center worked to meet its staffing needs, the College of Veterinary Medicine was purchasing equipment and pursuing certification to conduct lab work on a larger scale for the center’s COVID diagnostic needs. This allowed most patients to know if they had the virus within 24 hours. In addition to helping prepare the university for the return of in-person classes, Story was also working to ensure the Bulldogs could get back on the athletic field. As a member of the Southeastern Conference’s medical task force, he worked with colleagues from across the SEC to establish medical guidelines that allowed for the return of athletic competition. “While we might battle each other on the field, we’ve all worked really well together to come up with a set of guidelines that in a lot of ways has set the standard for what other schools might do related to athletics, communication and testing,” Story said.


When the fall semester began, the health center experienced the expected influx of

patients. While mitigation strategies prevented spread in classrooms and labs, social activities led to coronavirus cases among the student body, which in turn increased demand for testing and contact tracing. To accommodate demand for testing, Dodson spearheaded the health center’s drive-through testing for people with possible exposure but no symptoms. This helped limit the number of people inside the building and allowed Story and Looney more time to see their non-COVID patients. Dodson also worked to identify potential clusters in areas such as residence halls or Greek houses, or among groups of students. By the time the semester began, Erin Burton had joined the health center staff as a nurse to assist with the COVID hotline and contact tracing. When someone tested positive, it was her team’s job to inform them of the diagnosis, answer any questions and work with them to determine any close contacts. The nurses then had to call those contacts and inform them that they needed to quarantine. She said it was a process that required a lot of understanding on both sides of the conversation. In addition to the


A nurse checks Bully’s blood pressure and other vital signs. Prior to the school year beginning in August, MSU hired additional nurses to assist with patients and run a COVID-19 hotline.





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medical concerns, a two-week quarantine could mean time away from work that someone can’t afford or missed opportunities to see a loved one, which nurses empathized with as they provided guidance. “Two different people can be exposed to the same person at the same time doing the same thing, but they have two different stories and two different sets of need,” Burton said. “We really have to listen to each other, give each other grace and figure out the best way to combat what we’re going through.” While individual support for and communication with COVID patients was important, the university also needed macrolevel views of COVID spread on campus. The health center’s data on testing and positive cases provided valuable insight for university administrators as they closely monitored the ever-changing situation on campus. Daniel Hale, clinic administrator, has spent a couple hours every day compiling data that gets published on the MSU website and distributed to campus leaders. “We’ve been generating a daily report based on our in-house data,” Hale said. “We’re also collecting data that gets reported to use through the hotline where students will let us know if

they tested positive somewhere else or they’re in quarantine. There’s a report that goes to Dr. Keenum every week. There are so many different ways that we slice and dice this data depending on what it’s needed for.” Before the fall semester ended, the health center conducted large-scale drive through testing to help prevent students from taking COVID with them when they went home for the winter break. Students were also encouraged to get tested again as they returned to campus in January. This spring, it became apparent that the clinic would be able to add a job that brought some hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. With the Food and Drug Administration approving multiple highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, the health center began making preparations to administer the shots. In March, the health center received its first doses to distribute to the MSU community. The center is used to holding mass flu vaccine drives on campus, but the COVID-19 vaccines presented some unique challenges. The Pfizer vaccine the university received must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, mixed in precise ways on the day of the shot, and then a second dose prepared and delivered

approximately three weeks later. There are also stringent record keeping requirements for administering the vaccines. “We don’t want to waste any doses, so we have to match our appointments with the vials we prepare and then try to find someone to come take the shot if we have a cancellation or no-show,” Ball said. “Shannon Barrett, our lead pharmacist, has done a beautiful job with setting up our process and keeping up with all the numbers.”


By the end of the spring semester, students were enjoying MSU baseball games, attending social events and getting ready for in-person graduation ceremonies, thanks in part to the efforts of the dedicated health center staff. And as the May 2021 graduates left campus with all the knowledge gained during their time at State, the campus medical staff is eager to apply the lessons learned from the pandemic and help guide the university moving forward.

The university had a pandemic response plan in place prior to COVID, but while there are some universal steps that can be taken, every pandemic creates different circumstances that are difficult to predict and plan for. “Something like this can hit at any moment,” Story said. “COVID emerged out of the blue, and there will be other things like that, whether it’s in 100 years or two. You have to communicate with an open mind and be ready to be flexible as you navigate whatever the situation is.” For Looney, the experience has also shown the importance of learning as you go. When treating a new disease, he emphasized staying up to date on the latest treatment information and relied on the doctrine of “first do no harm.” “All things considered, everybody did the best they could in the moment,” Looney said. “There’s a lot to be proud of here at MSU with the way the entire campus came together, and everybody tried to operate as safely as we could. We had some difficult times and hard lessons to learn along the way, but I think when we as a university look back on all of this it will be much more on the positive side of things.” n

ABOVE: MSU pharmacists and nurses have been distributing COVID-19 vaccines to university students, faculty and staff since this spring. FAR LEFT: While nervous about the injection, Bully was glad to do his part to help protect the health of the MSU community.



Enjoying theJourney Mississippi’s newest poet laureate uses art to examine life By Sasha Steinberg, Photos by Megan Bean


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atherine Pierce learned at a young age that poetry can be fun, playful and even mysterious. As Mississippi’s newest poet laureate, this dedicated English department professor wants to help other Mississippians discover the joy and comfort poetry can bring to their lives. “Poetry is something people can read and also write and engage with, and we don’t have to solve or crack the code of every poem to enjoy it,” Pierce said. “In my most recent book of poems ‘Danger Days,’ the last line reads, ‘I’m trying to see this place even as I’m walking through it.’ That’s what poetry can do—give us a chance to pay attention and look at something closely in life.” Named poet laureate by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and the Mississippi Arts Commission, Pierce will serve a four-year term as the official state poet, creating and reading poetry at state occasions, promoting literacy and representing the Magnolia State’s rich cultural heritage. The co-director of Mississippi State’s creative writing program said she is passionate about representing the university as she works with organizations including the Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Library Commission to increase access to poetry for all Mississippians, especially young people. “Poet laureate is a huge honor that I view as an extension of the work I’ve been doing for the past 15 years as a poetry professor,” Pierce said. “I’m really looking forward to connecting with people across the state and helping them realize that poetry can be an active part of their lives. Providing resources, sharing work by Mississippi poets and others across the country, and creating opportunities for writing and sharing original work are great ways we can help people develop an appreciation for poetry.” Pierce, a Wilmington, Delaware, native, said she shares this worthwhile goal with husband Michael Kardos, an

English professor and creative writing program co-director who grew up on the Jersey Shore. Both Pushcart Prize-winning authors have found joy in inspiring budding writers at MSU since arriving in 2007. Within the English department, they teach undergraduate and graduate level courses on creative writing, poetry and fiction. Kardos said the department in recent years began offering a creative writing minor that is open to English and non-English majors. “Students may learn about our creative writing classes through a roommate or friend who has taken them,” he said. “We’ve had students who decide to enroll in the introductory courses, get hooked and continue to take more and more because they enjoy them. Teaching students to think about word choice and sentence construction in our creative writing courses also gives them knowledge they can take back to their other classes.” Along with English majors, the creative writing program draws students from such academic disciplines as accounting, biology, engineering and mathematics. Pierce said she enjoys helping her students put the “try” in poetry. “I’ve had students tell me they’ve started writing stories but have never finished one, so they feel really accomplished when they do in our classes. I’ve also had students say they didn’t like, read or understand poetry but then they start to like it once we spend time looking at poems and reading each other’s work,” Pierce said. “It’s fun to watch them discover the ways they can enjoy and engage with these genres they didn’t previously think were available to them.” “Demystifying” the creative writing process is a big part of Pierce and Kardos’ teaching philosophies. “I’m easily bored, so I try to not be boring,” Kardos said with a laugh. “I teach my students that to excel at writing, like any art, you have to work hard at the technical things and get better at artistically applying them over time.”

Sometimes I want to be weightless on this planet, and so I wade into a brown river or dive through a wave and for a while feel nothing under my feet. Sometimes I want to hear what it was like before the air and so I duck under the water and listen to the muted hums. "Planet," from Danger Days (Saturnalia Books)

The beach is one of Catherine Pierce's favorite places to visit for personal peace and professional inspiration. Traveling to new and familiar places reminds Pierce about the importance of open-mindedness and creativity, skills she passionately imparts on her students. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


You want to go back to the boardwalk amusements of your youth and ride, again, the Gravitron, that hulking spaceship that spun like a centrifuge. That’s the best you can do for now. It’s your life. It is spinning, and you are in it. "Daily," from The Girls of Peculiar (Saturnalia Books)

Mississippi's Poet Laureate Catherine Pierce has drawn inspiration for her creative work through visits to Funland, a classic boardwalk amusement park in her native Delaware. She and fellow award-winning author and husband Michael Kardos enjoy incorporating that same fun and energy into their teaching at MSU.


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“There is a lot about writing that is mysterious and unexpected, and that’s one of its real joys,” added Pierce. “Students are sometimes surprised by discovering that contemporary poetry can use everyday language, reference pop culture and doesn’t have to rhyme. It’s especially gratifying to watch students realize that reading poetry is a chance for all of us to learn we’re not looking for one right answer but rather a careful engagement with the

other people and connect with their circumstances is such a valuable skill for students to have, especially those who want to become doctors or go into management,” she said. “In the creative writing classes here at Mississippi State, students not only are learning how to be better writers but also better communicators.” Pierce said the English department further helps students expand their creative writing knowledge and skill through the

"Students are sometimes surprised by discovering that contemporary poetry can use everyday language, reference pop culture and doesn’t have to rhyme. It’s especially gratifying to watch students realize that reading poetry is a chance for all of us to learn we’re not looking for one right answer but rather a careful engagement with the process. It’s important to wonder, ask questions and discover. And it’s fun." ~ Catherine Pierce process. It’s important to wonder, ask questions and discover. And it’s fun.” Pierce said building a sense of community in the classroom also makes the learning process enriching and enjoyable for students. “Our creative writing classes are relatively small, which gives students a comfortable environment to share and discuss their work in a careful and thoughtful way,” she said. “Sometimes, students focus their writing on intense subjects. Having a sense of community in the classroom helps facilitate conversations on these matters in a place of trust and mutual respect.” Through these classroom discussions, Pierce said students learn about clarity of expression—a skill paramount in any career field. “Anytime you read someone else’s work, or you write something as the voice of a character, you’re practicing empathy. The ability to listen to

Price Caldwell Visiting Writers Series. Established through an endowment from widow Alice Carol Caldwell and family, the series serves as a memorial to MSU creative writing program founder and former director Price Caldwell. The Tutwiler native served the Department of English for more than 20 years and died in 2015. “One thing we really pride ourselves on is bringing in writers who not only are accomplished but also really engaging and willing to be generous with their time and energy with our students,” Pierce said. “These authors visit with students in classes, over lunch and through public readings and Q&A sessions. We’ve been able to bring in some really fantastic people and are so grateful to the Caldwell family for their generosity and support.” Kardos said students also benefit from working alongside MSU




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faculty on the Jabberwock Review, a semi-annual literary journal featuring poetry, fiction and non-fiction from writers across the world. Funding for the 42-year-old publication is provided by the Department of English, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, College of Arts and Sciences, and Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, along with subscriptions, fundraisers and donors. “We’re excited to have been given the green light to do a big overhaul on the online presence for the journal, which is so important to our creative writing program,” said Kardos, who serves as editor alongside an MSU faculty managing editor and graduate student associate editor. “We might get 500 or 600 submissions for the Jabberwock Review in a semester and only be able to publish 12 or 15 pieces, so our students get the hands-on experience of assessing different types of writing and learning what makes pieces appropriate for publication,” he explained. “The journal in general is a great tool for getting more compelling literature out into the world.” Pierce and Kardos agreed that MSU’s English department and its creative writing program are valuable avenues for student success. They noted that many of the program’s graduates have gone on to serve as teachers, community arts leaders and published authors, among other fulfilling careers. “That’s really the truest measure of any success in the program—what the students get out of it and what they go on to do after they graduate,” Pierce emphasized. “We’ve been so lucky in having so many former students go out and do amazing things. There’s also a lot of writing energy on campus today, so we’re excited to see what the future holds.” n

Creative Force Catherine Pierce has seen firsthand how creative writing can be the basis of flourishing careers in a variety of areas. Since joining the Bulldog family in 2007 and taking lead of MSU’s creative writing program, Mississippi’s Poet Laureate and her husband Michael Kardos have helped students hone their voices and find ways to use their creativity to take the next steps in their lives. Some alumni, like Ciera Higginbotham (M.A. ’17), Sam Kealhofer (M.A. ’20) and Christie Collins (M.A. ’11), have joined Pierce and Kardos as faculty and staff at Mississippi State. Others like Jermaine Thompson (M.A. ’15) and Nick White (M.A. ’09) are sharing their knowledge with students at other institutions, while also joining Kate Barber (M.A. ’14), Belle Lang (M.A. ’17), Jannell McConnell (M.A. ’12), Molly Gutman (B.A. ’15) as published authors, technical writers or editors. Many other Bulldog grads have applied their creative writing training in diverse career fields, from engineering to military to the arts. Kayla Mattox (B.A. ’18) is working toward a Master of Divinity at Ashbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Courtney McCreary (M.A. ’10) uses her knowledge of quality writing as publicity and promotions manager at the University Press of Mississippi. Lisa Beth Scheibner (M.A. ’13) works as a software engineer in North Carolina, citing her strong writing skills as an asset for her career. Simone Cottrell (B.A. ’08) turned her creativity to theatre, working with vulnerable communities to create original theatre productions advocating for their needs. She also is the arts resource desk manager of the Creative Arkansas Community Hub and Exchange. Sarah Sones (M.A. ’17) joined the Mississippi Air National Guard as a pilot and currently is a second lieutenant. “When we’re writing creatively, we’re considering words and their power, strengthening our communication skills, and engaging in an empathetic exchange with characters and readers,” Pierce said. “We’re also using our imaginations to craft compelling, complex works, and we’re using our critical attention to revise our writing into the best version of itself. It’s hard to imagine a field or career path in which these skills wouldn’t be valuable.”




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The game of baseball has always been defined by on-field statistics, but now new technologies are giving players and coaches the insights they need to improve their performance. MSU researchers are working to understand how to make the most of these new technologies and developing new tools.


BRINGS SHARP FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE, WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES By James Carskadon, Photos by Megan Bean hen Reuben Burch was a walk-on fullback for the Mississippi State football team from 1997-2001, Bulldog coaches kept a relatively slim file of performance data for individual athletes. On-field performance was measured with the usual in-game statistics, but conditioning was usually measured a couple of times a year with drills similar to what players go through at the National Football League’s draft combine. By the time he returned to MSU as an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering in 2016, a data and analytics revolution, driven by advances in technology, had emerged in professional and collegiate athletics. Today’s high-level athletes are generating data that is constantly analyzed by team coaches and staff to gain insights into how a practice, game or workout is impacting a player’s body. Those advances in analytics and wearable technologies that measure human performance have led Mississippi State to develop a multi-disciplinary research group under the umbrella of “Athlete Engineering.” In addition to a partnership with MSU Athletics for research on sports performance, the work has health and safety applications for industrial and military settings, as well as injury mitigation and rehabilitation for at-risk individuals. As the researchers examine how existing technology can inform performance and health decisions, the group is developing its own hardware and software tools. The research team includes representation from multiple departments within MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering, as well as the Department of Kinesiology, School of Human Sciences, Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, and the Institute for Clean Energy Technology. “The Athlete Engineering group started about three years ago with $2,500 from a start-up fund and 15 people who were interested in the idea,” Burch said. “In three years, we’ve raised over $1.5 million in external grant funding, and our team is approximately 75 people strong any given semester. We have close to 20 students actively engaged with the sports teams. We’re trying to create a niche skill set where the students not only know how to use this technology but also know how to analyze the data and communicate it to the coaching staff.”


A PRODUCTIVE PARTNERSHIP While wearable technology has become increasingly common in professional and collegiate sports, teams are still trying to determine the best ways to use the gear and the data it generates. Many teams hire data analysts, but there often can be a disconnect between the analysts and the coaches—including experienced coaches who have made it to the top of their profession without the need for advanced player data. With National Science Foundation funding, members of the Athlete Engineering research team traveled the country interviewing strength and "The Athlete Engineering conditioning coaches about their perceptions and use of group started about three wearable technology. Burch years ago with $2,500 from said one key takeaway from those conversations was that a start-up fund and 15 the sports scientist may not people who were interested be well integrated into dayto-day team operations. in the idea. In three years, When Burch approached we’ve raised over $1.5 MSU strength and conditioning coaches about million in external grant a research partnership to study human performance funding, and our team is monitoring technologies, approximately 75 people he worked to ensure that his students were able to fit strong any given semester." into the team culture and ~Reuben Burch provide meaningful analysis for the teams. Collin Crane, head strength and conditioning coach for the MSU men’s basketball team, said the Athlete Engineering team helps with gathering data as soon as the first day a studentathlete enters the program and has their movements analyzed with a motion capture system. Crane said the researchers have worked with basketball staff to create formulas that measure the total load on a player during any given practice, drill or game. This information is then put into a report that is easily digestible for the coaches. “All those reports are important to us when trying to keep our athletes safe and healthy through an entire season, but we can use it in so many different scenarios,” Crane ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


In addition to practice data, coaches and players can analyze thousands of data points from weight room workouts.

said. “In a return-to-play scenario, such as an athlete coming back from a two-week isolation period due to COVID-19, we can ease them back into practice and make sure they’re not overexerting themselves. We can use it in a return-from-injury situation. The technology is very adaptable to what we need at any given time.” For the students assisting "Every day I would go in there the teams, the experience can and help with data collection give them opportunities to land internships and jobs with for jumps and practices. professional sports teams or wearable technology companies. That’s what people look for in Alumnus Zach Shelly worked the industry right now. If you with former MSU football strength and conditioning coaches have that experience, it really Anthony Piroli and Cory Bichey while pursuing his bachelor’s and helps you get that first job." master’s degrees. He also was able ~ Zach Shelly to gain experience working in the human factors laboratory at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, where he helped set up a new motion capture system. “Getting all the experience with the researchers is obviously very helpful,” Shelly said. “You learn how to analyze data and collect it correctly. That’s all helpful


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and great, but the biggest part of working in sports is getting experience with the culture. Every day I would go in there and help with data collection for jumps and practices. That’s what people look for in the industry right now. If you have that experience, it really helps you get that first job.” After finishing his master’s degree last summer, Shelly began working full time as a sports scientist for Strive Tech, a wearable technology company that works with several college and professional sports teams, as well as the U.S. military. In addition to helping coaches analyze performance data, he is helping coordinate with research teams across the country. Both Burch and Crane said communication has been a big part of what makes the partnership between a research group and athletic teams successful as both sides work to make it mutually beneficial. Strength coaches have been listed as authors on academic papers, while researchers have helped the coaches come up with solutions to problems that will never make it into a publication. “The strength coaches here have all worked at other universities, and we’ve never had something of this caliber,” Crane said. “We’re really building something that we can be proud of. We’re really paving the way and innovating at Mississippi State.”

Industrial and systems engineering major Durant Fullington, center, works with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Duvall, left, and ISE professor Ruben Burch to analyze performance data.

PIONEERING A NEW PHASE IN WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY In addition to maximizing the use of currently available technologies that are embedded into items like shorts or a shirt, a diverse team at Mississippi State has spent years developing a sock embedded with soft robotic sensors that capture sophisticated movement data. The development of the sock has brought together campus experts in kinesiology, engineering, and fashion design and merchandising. The goal is to develop an empirically validated product that can provide the same level of detail as a lab-based 3D motion capture system, but with the convenience of a sock that can be worn in any environment. Harish Chander, associate professor of kinesiology, worked as a physical therapist before pursuing graduate school. He said a tool like this could prove very useful for preventing falls in the elderly or anyone in physical therapy. “We want to have people wearing a compression sock that can tell somebody if they are a fall risk in the real world,” Chander said. “In a lab setting, people are observing you, which can change behavior. This sock has potential as both a diagnostic tool and an intervention tool. If you go to physical therapy,

something like this can provide baseline data and then show your continued progress after 10 days, 30 days or any given timeframe.” Because the researchers are comparing data from the sock to data collected by a motion capture system, they created a suite of software tools for the “apples to oranges” comparison between the two inputs. That software, “The strength coaches here have made available online, will help all worked at other universities, researchers test and evaluate new wearables and data collection and we’ve never had something of systems as they emerge. John Ball, associate professor this caliber. We’re really building and Robert D. Guyton Chair in something that we can be proud MSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is of. We’re really paving the way and leading a group using artificial intelligence and machine innovating at Mississippi State.” learning so that the sock can be ~ Colin Crane tailored more to individual needs as it learns more about a person. In recent months, the team has developed a new prototype of the sock, which Burch said performs better than the previous version. As the team makes progress on the technical details, they are increasing their focus on making the product comfortable. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


“As engineers, we get really focused on the hardware piece,” Burch said. “Charles Freeman, an associate professor in fashion design and merchandising, has helped us study the comfort and fit of the tool. It needs to be comfortable if you expect people to use it while doing their normal work. You want people to forget they’re wearing the technology because only then will you get the actual realistic movements that they would do in a workplace, practice or game scenario.” Wearable textiles have been a perfect fit for Erin Parker, who graduated this spring. She said she came to MSU because it was a good place to "As engineers, we get really focused study both computer engineering and on the hardware piece. Charles fashion design and Freeman, an associate professor in merchandising— two areas she enjoyed fashion design and merchandising, in high school. A friend told her about has helped us study the comfort the sock prototype and fit of the tool. It needs to be development when the team was looking comfortable if you expect people to for additional use it while doing their normal work. students. Parker has been You want people to forget they’re working on the sock’s design from both an wearing the technology because only electronics and textile then will you get the actual realistic perspective. She said the experience can movements that they would do in a help her get a leg up workplace, practice or game scenario." in a growing industry. She is now enrolled ~ Reuben Burch in MSU’s industrial and systems engineering graduate program. “I want to develop prototypes like this and see what the possibilities are for wearable technologies and smart textiles to see where we can take it,” Parker said. “It’s hard to explain how amazing it is that I can come in and get this experience so young. This has really helped me plan my next steps.”

INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS While athletics has embraced wearable technology to optimize performance, the same cannot be said for industry. Members of the research team recently received funding for focus groups with key industry stakeholders. The team will use the same methods that provided insights into coaches’ attitudes of the technology to determine how those in industry perceive the technology. East Mississippi Community College’s The Communiversity, a new workforce training center, is a partner on the project.


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Burch said that industry personnel often are more skeptical of the technology, with workers citing privacy concerns and management wary of financial costs and unsure of how to effectively use it. However, there are many potential benefits if used correctly. By using the wearable devices to mitigate injury, companies help keep their employees safe on the job, working and performing well. “Repetitive motion can really add up into a workrelated muscular skeleton disorder,” Burch said. “For example, if you bend over past a certain point, that’s bad form, and if you do it over and over again, that puts you at risk for injury. A wearable can provide haptic or vibration-based feedback to remind them to not bend over too far. You can use these devices like training wheels—meaning for limited periods of time while learning their job—instead of wearing them all the time.” The tools also can be used in unexpected ways as new needs arise. Over the summer, Burch and Courtney Taylor, EMCC vice president of workforce and economic development, met with area industry leaders to share how wearable technology can be used for COVID-19 contact tracing. Taylor said the partnership with MSU is helping to take workforce development to the next level by bringing together the best of resources available at MSU, EMCC and elsewhere in the community. “At The Communiversity, our goal is to connect our industry partners to our community where possible,” Taylor said. “This is one example of how we can do that. We have the opportunity with local industry partners to look at this technology and find out what people are truly saying about it instead of just assuming people are going to be scared and anxious about it. It also helps industry understand what challenges they are going to face.”

MOVING FORWARD With a strong team in place, the Athlete Engineering research group looks to continue building key partnerships with athletics, industry, military and medical entities. Burch said that the university’s collaborative culture positions the team well to take on new challenges moving forward. “Thankfully we’re a big research university, so there’s usually somebody specializing in areas where we need additional expertise,” Burch said. “We want to be as diverse as possible. The National Science Foundation is really big on interdisciplinary teams right now. They would be challenged to find a team more interdisciplinary than what we have right here at Mississippi State University.” n

The Athlete Engineering research group has designed a wearable sock that is outfitted with sensors to collect data on movement and performance. Beyond sports, the sock has potential benefits for people in military, industry and rehabilitation settings.

MAKING SURE SOCK-BASED SENSORS STAND THE TEST OF TIME With the Athlete Engineering research group working to develop sophisticated sensors that can be embedded into a sock to capture precise motion data, a key concern is the durability of both the sock itself and the sensors. Karen Persons, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, is using a National Science Foundation grant to conduct fatigue testing on the novel technology, which will tell researchers how durable the sock and its sensors are. Ensuring the sensors can withstand everyday use will enhance the sock’s real-world applications, which include preventing injury and aiding physical rehabilitation. “My part of this project is looking at how long the sensors last,” Persons said. “How long does the material last, and how long is the electrical signal good for? Because you don’t want a sensor that has

to be changed out every other day or other week. We really want to know what that durability is.” Persons is already a three-time MSU graduate and holds a doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her academic research focuses on improving instruments for veterinary surgeons. She also sees potential for wireless sensors in improving the health of animals. “If wireless sensors work, you can put them on the animal, and the animal can be in the yard or wherever it naturally lives,” Persons said. “You can look at canine gaits to detect lameness. You have service dogs and working dogs that play crucial roles in things like bomb detection, search and rescue teams, military and law enforcement. Keeping them as healthy as possible is important.” n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Our Hands to Larger Service 4-H, MSU ALUMNI GIVE BACK, LOOK FORWARD By Keri Collins Lewis, Portraits by Megan Bean

The 4-H cloverleaf may be one of America’s most recognizable logos, but most people do not know that each “H” represents a key concept that is expressed in the organization’s pledge: “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”


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ississippi State University Extension Service Director Gary Jackson said those same values align with the land-grant university’s mission of learning, research and service, which makes the university a natural partner for 4-H in Mississippi. “Extension is an educational organization, and through our agents, faculty, staff and valued volunteers, we introduce young Mississippians to ideas and experiences they may never have discovered otherwise,” he said. As the Magnolia State’s organizer of the 4-H Youth Development Program, MSU is helping engage Mississippi’s youth in hands-on learning. With programs ranging from Lego Engineering projects and robotics, which teach the engineering design process, to Kids in the Kitchen, which teaches healthy eating habits, 4-H is designed to bridge gaps in education, engage students in positive activities and inspire them to consider a variety of careers. Many even become Mississippi State Bulldogs. “4-H’ers learn about local government, develop public-speaking skills and gain experience in time management,” Jackson said. “Most importantly, they are learning how to relate to one another and serve their communities through club projects such as health fairs and food drives. We hope this commitment to service lasts throughout their lives.”


To a child newly enrolled in a local 4-H club, the words of the 4-H Pledge may seem like rote repetition. However, the pledge takes on new meaning for those members who invest the time and effort into developing themselves and their skills. For some 4-H’ers, these tenets lay the foundation for a lifelong commitment to leadership and community service. Opportunities to meet new people, travel to new locations, and explore new ideas open their vision to greater possibilities and ignite a passion to give back. Three former Mississippi 4-H’ers with MSU ties are making a positive difference in their home state and helping position 4-H for a successful future.


Before she became a public affairs professional, Camille Scales Young was a Lee County 4-H’er from the time she was 9 years old.

“My dad had been in 4-H, his mom was a club leader, and being in 4-H was expected of young people in my community,” Young explained. “4-H was big.” Obligation quickly turned to appreciation as she participated in a myriad of projects: clothing construction, food and nutrition, citizenship, public speaking, visual presentations, and more. “My record book in dairy foods won nationals in 1989,” she said with pride. “I strongly disliked doing a record book. It wasn’t a lot of fun, but it helped me keep up with my time and set and accomplish goals, which have been tremendous assets in my career. Public speaking gave me so much training that I use on a daily basis.” Through 4-H, Young gained familiarity with the MSU campus, and as the daughter of an alumna, she said becoming a Bulldog was an easy decision. She graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s in communication management and in 1996 with a master’s in agriculture and Extension education. She participated in collegiate 4-H, interned for former U.S. Senator Trent Lott and served as a 4-H graduate assistant. After graduation, she went to work for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Six months into her job in corporate communications, thenFarm Bureau President David Waide saw her in the hallway and said, “Good afternoon, Camille, didn’t you work in Washington, D.C.?” When she confirmed she had, he said, “Start going to the capital with Vernon Gayle. He’s getting ready to retire.” Thus began her career in government relations. Now principal and director for Cornerstone Government Affairs in Jackson, Young has spent 25 years giving her hands to larger service as a lobbyist for clients as diverse as C Spire, Nissan and Mississippi State University. “I take a lot of pride in being a partner with clients and in being a trusted adviser because the things we do on a daily basis make a big difference in Mississippi,” she explained. “Early in my career, the first bill I helped pass required safety arms at railroad crossings. People who didn’t grow up in greater Shannon probably didn’t appreciate that not all railroad crossings have that arm. “If that legislation keeps one school bus from getting hit by a train or saves one life, it’s worth it,” she continued. “Every day I get to use my hands in larger service for my ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


community, my country and my world. It’s possible to truly live so much of the 4-H pledge in your daily life–I certainly do.” As a member of the 4-H Foundation Advisory Board, Young admitted she has a different perspective on the youth development organization than she did as a member. “Now I see all sides of what goes into making it the amazing program it is,” she said. “Funding, background work, Extension personnel and volunteer efforts. It’s given me a greater drive and determination to work from this side so current 4-H’ers can have every benefit I’ve had from the program.” Young said today’s youth have many opportunities to learn, including access to information through the internet, so 4-H is adapting by using technology and social media to meet them where they are. “I’m hopeful we will continue to meet the changing needs of today’s youth, maintain our ideals and continue to offer the education opportunities and experiences that made 4-H so valuable to me, my dad and others. 4-H will continue to teach young people how to thrive, make the best better and be good citizens,” she said. Young credits her educational foundation through 4-H and at MSU with making her the person she is today. “Faith, family and 4-H, that’s what has had the greatest impact on my life,” she concluded.


Charles Taylor was a high-achieving 4-H’er from Hinds County with numerous awards and projects to his credit when he was selected as one of the delegates to represent Mississippi as hosts for the 1965 Interstate All-Star Conference in Washington, D.C. He was on the winning team and the individual winner at the state level for gardening and vegetable judging, the state record contest winner for pasture, plus a State Fair winner for showmanship. When he boarded Gov. Paul B. Johnson Jr.’s DC-3 airplane to make the trip, he knew he would be joining about 15 other 4-H All-Stars and Hinds County Extension Agent Mary Jane Hall, who had arranged the trip. What he could not have known that day was ZonaDale Lyons, one of those other award-winning 4-H’ers, would become his wife. For 55 years, Charles and ZonaDale Taylor have pursued professional and personal adventures built on their shared values of education and service. “My 4-H participation was a major reason for choosing MSU,” Charles said. “My regular visits


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to the campus for 4-H activities made me feel comfortable with the campus facilities. “I always loved going to the campus and exploring,” he continued. “Although I chose chemical engineering instead of agriculture, 4-H had taught me to work through tough challenges, to document my work and to work hard to achieve my goals. I credit 4-H for building my skills base and developing my confidence for seeking new challenges.” Charles earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from MSU in 1966 before serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Thailand. He obtained an MBA at MSU in 1971. During his long career with PPG Industries of Pittsburgh,

“Now I see all sides of what goes into making it the amazing program it is. Funding, background work, Extension personnel and volunteer efforts. It’s given me a greater drive and determination to work from this side so current 4-H’ers can have every benefit I’ve had from the program.” Camille Scales Young Pennsylvania, he held many managerial and executive positions, followed by work as a business development consultant with NASA’s Mid-Atlantic Technology Applications Center. In 2005, MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering named him a Distinguished Engineering Fellow. ZonaDale also built on her 4-H experiences while developing her career. She was a state winner in foods preservation. She also won county and district awards in foods, clothing, housing, public speaking, achievement and leadership, including county recognition for meritorious service, and a District Forestry Camp award. Utilizing many of the skills learned in 4-H, ZonaDale obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Her diverse career experiences include being one of the founding editors of Southern Living magazine and serving as an assistant professor of home economics at MSU and at McNeese State University, where she later became department head of home economics. After moving to Pittsburgh, she became manager of consumer and public affairs with GlaxoSmithKline. In 2014, she received an Alumni Achievement award and in 2018, was named a Distinguished Fellow by MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Camile Scales Young

(B. A. Communications, ’94; M.A. Agriculture and Extension Education, ’96)



Charles and ZonaDale (Lyons) Taylor Charles Taylor (B.S. Chemical Engineering, ’66; M.B.A. ’71) ZonaDale Taylor (B.S. Home Economics, ’61)


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“4-H provided so many unexpected situations and opportunities to develop confidence and skills that enabled me to compete and to adapt to the many challenges in life,” ZonaDale said. “Charles and I feel that the possibilities in 4-H for meeting people outside your small group, for exploring related activities and for competing in contests, demonstrations, judging and travel offer a unique combination for developing skills both individually and in teams.” The Taylors’ support of 4-H and MSU includes their time and their financial investment. They were major contributors to the Mississippi 4-H Learning Center and Museum at the Mississippi Agriculture and

“4-H provided so many unexpected situations and opportunities to develop confidence and skills that enabled me to compete and to adapt to the many challenges in life.” ZonaDale Taylor Forestry Museum, and one wing of the facility bears their name. They provide additional financial support to MSU through numerous scholarships awards with the ZonaDale and Charles Taylor Loyalty Scholarship. They also support the Bagley College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They are members of the Old Main Society and Dean W. Colvard Founders Legacy of Leadership Honor Roll of MSU.

“We have been touched by a number of presentations from 4-H’ers to the 4-H Advisory Council, and one was especially profound,” Charles said. “This 4-H’er described his experiences in 4-H and how he had chosen 4-H projects rather than the activities that his best friend chose. He ended the presentation saying that he had recently visited this friend, who was in jail. This reminded us of the importance of our own choices to use the principles of the 4-H Pledge in pursuing 4-H projects in our youth and the lasting life lessons we learned as a result.” ZonaDale is a life member of the Mississippi 4-H Advisory Council and has served on the MSU Foundation board of directors. Charles served on the 4-H Foundation board of directors for many years, and when the 4-H Foundation merged with the MSU Foundation, Charles chaired the committee that managed the process. The couple’s commitment to helping students achieve their educational goals also includes support for scholarships at the University of Mississippi, Northeast Mississippi Community College, McNeese State University and the University of Memphis. Though much has changed in 4-H since Charles and ZonaDale boarded a plane bound for Washington D.C., much remains the same. “4-H offers many new project areas in the environment, STEM subjects, equine projects, robotics and shooting sports,” ZonaDale said. “However, the opportunities for personal skills development, for learning responsibility, for developing interpersonal relationships and leadership remain integral to the programs.” n

New Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development In January 2021, Extension Director Gary Jackson announced the establishment of the Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development to better grow the next generation of leaders. “Renaming the office and program furthers our strategic goal of expanding outreach and engagement while adhering to Extension’s core values,” Jackson said. “The center will allow for greater synergy between state and county level faculty and staff and raise 4-H’s visibility as a

potential partner with other organizations.” Jackson said 4-H is committed to equipping young people for 21st century challenges. “The pandemic gave us a greater appreciation for the parts of 4-H we took for granted–the social interaction and working side by side to solve problems,” he shared. “But it also taught us to make adjustments, become more efficient and continue engaging with young people through any available means.” ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




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Housed in the Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, Mississippi State reintroduced its petroleum engineering degree program in 2015.



With his football career behind him, Williams hen Albert “Al” Williams was deciding focused on his professional career with Chevron, where he wanted to play college which is still going strong 30 years later. football, the Jackson native relished During his time with the company, Williams has the idea of suiting up for the Bulldogs in his been a part of major technical achievements, such as hometown’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, then host being a part of the team that designed, constructed of the annual Egg Bowl matchup. However, his time and started up Chevron’s first deepwater offshore at Mississippi State set a course for competing on a development, Genesis, in the late 1990s in the much bigger, global stage. Gulf of Mexico. He also has gained experience in A 1990 electrical engineering graduate, Williams every major facet of oil and gas operations, from took the helm as Chevron Corporation’s vice president extraction to transportation for corporate affairs in March. to refining resources into Since joining the company "When you look back consumer products that helps shortly after graduation, his power the world forward. positions within the company over the past 100 Most recently, Williams have been based in Thailand, years, energy has been spent two years as managing Indonesia, Kazakhstan, director of Chevron Australia Australia and different regions the cornerstone of all before being promoted to vice of the United States. advances in society. We president of corporate affairs. Williams credits an MSU program designed to increase have solved some of the In his new role, he oversees government and public affairs, exposure to engineering most difficult problems, social investments and the careers among minorities company’s reputation as part in middle and high school overcome huge technical of its executive leadership. as sparking his interest in obstacles and delivered He said he is excited to work electrical engineering. He with all Chevron stakeholders said the athletic scholarship responsible solutions." to help meet the world’s from MSU gave him the ~ Al Williams energy needs, which will be opportunity to fully pursue even greater as the global both his gridiron and population is expected to grow by more than a academic goals. Finding an on-campus mentor in billion people in the coming decades. electrical engineering professor Jimmy Dodd, who “When you look back over the past 100 years, played football for the Bulldogs in the 1950s, helped energy has been the cornerstone of all advances in keep him on track. society,” Williams said. “We have solved some of the “He was a trailblazer and had done what I most difficult problems, overcome huge technical aspired to do,” Williams said. “That really motivated obstacles and delivered responsible solutions. As me even more to play football at a high level and we look to the next 100 years, even as we work achieve my academic aspirations. Dr. Dodd became to create a lower carbon future, energy will play a my role model. He reinforced to me that the path I vital role in achieving a prosperous and sustainable was on would be difficult, but achievable.” world-advancing new technology to develop From 1987-90, Williams played quarterback and affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy. I’m defensive back for the Bulldogs. A career highlight excited to be in my current role as Chevron aims came during Williams’ senior season when he to lead in the future of energy, positively impacting returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown and improving lives and providing opportunity as during a victory over LSU in his hometown of we power the world forward.” Jackson in front of family and friends. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



LEADERSHIP LESSONS As Al Williams moved from an individual contributor to manager to broader leadership roles with Chevron, he has developed his own perspective and framework for being an effective, high performing leader based on his learning over the years. The former Bulldog wore No. 3 on the football field and now breaks his key leader attributes down into three groups of three. His three “Ls” are to listen, learn and then lead, which is to invest time to gain an appreciation for the team and organizational capabilities while learning from others in order to set more informed expectations and make better decisions.

Before becoming a leader at Chevron, Williams helped lead the MSU football team as a quarterback and defensive back from 1987-90. During his career, Williams has led efforts to create a more inclusive environment within the company, serving as the first president of the Chevron Black Employee Network in the early 2000s. He also is a lifetime member of the National Society of Black Engineers. With minorities remaining underrepresented in most STEM fields, Williams said it is important for organizations, whether in government or private sector, to “do their part” to support programs that increase kids’ exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics career opportunities at a young age. As a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Bagley College of Engineering, Williams has seen and supported MSU’s efforts in this area, including some that are carried out in partnership with Chevron. “When you add up the collective efforts of everyone, we will be able to make


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appreciable progress,” Williams said. “I’m pleased with the progress that I’ve seen in our partnership between Mississippi State and Chevron, and I’m also pleased that both of us recognize there is still more to do and are committed to the work ahead of us.” From the challenge of balancing football and engineering classes to being a part of the executive leadership team for a multinational company, Williams said he has never stopped learning from the challenges and opportunities placed before him. “I’ve been a lifelong student,” Williams said. “Mississippi State was really the catalyst for me to pursue and continue to seek higher learning in everything I do. I’ve been fortunate to join a company like Chevron that has continued to cultivate creative thinking and experiential learning in pursuit of solving the world’s most complex challenges. It’s been a very rewarding experience.” n

His three “Es” are engage, empower and enable. Build trust, increase buy-in and remove barriers to individuals and teams contributing their best to achieve common goals. His three “Cs” are care, collaborate and compete, which means have personal accountability to the success of the team and the team working together as one to deliver targeted results. “You do not need a title to exhibit these attributes,” Williams said. “Anybody, in any job role, and in any location can display these attributes. In reflecting back on my time at Mississippi State and over my career with Chevron, the three Ls, Es and Cs have been the essential attributes I have observed and attempted to role model in being an effective and valued leader. As the world around us continues to evolve and societal expectations increase, I have found that these attributes are resilient and will contribute to the success of any team, organization or company in achieving its goals.”

Back in the Saddle

Life-changing accident spurs engineering major’s problem-solving instincts By Leah Gibson, Photos by Beth Wynn

Kalyn Smith uses a specially outfitted all-terrain vehicle to navigate her family’s farm. With her new mount Slick, a 16.5 hand bay, she hopes to once again enjoy the pastime she loves.


n the summer of 2019, Kalyn Smith had a plan. Having completed her classes at East Central Community College, the Carthage native would soon follow in her brother’s footsteps and enroll at Mississippi State University as a mechanical engineering major. Then a day she can’t remember changed her life forever. “I had everything planned out for my first year at Mississippi State,” Smith recalled. “I was getting ready to move out of the house, and I was excited because I had finally figured out what I wanted to do. Then, on July 21, I decided to ride horses with my little cousin after church. My memory of that day stops at about 4 p.m.” A self-described country girl, Smith began demonstrating barrel racing

maneuvers for her cousin. It was a strong run until Goliath, the chestnut quarter-horse cross she was riding, decided to buck. “I was almost to the gate when he threw me 8 to 10 feet into the air,” Smith explained. “When I came out of the saddle, I landed on my right shoulder and that caused the break in my spine.” Local first responders evaluated Smith’s injuries and called for an airlift to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where she underwent surgery to save as much of her mobility as possible. The accident left her paralyzed from the chest down, but Smith said it was just a detour in her journey, not the end. “Even from the beginning, I knew that it was going to be OK. I just had to keep moving forward,” Smith said. “If I sat there

and dwelled on being paralyzed, I knew that I wasn’t going to make any progress. I had to figure out how to live a different way, and at that point, my focus became getting back to school.” Smith said she immediately recruited her brother to help adjust her timeline for moving to Starkville and Mississippi State University. “He came to visit me in the hospital, and I sent him to the lobby with my computer and instructions to email everyone I had been in contact with at State,” Smith said, recalling how she proactively delayed her enrollment for a year. Smith said she used her desire to get to MSU and the self-set deadline of one year as fuel to drive her recovery. As the months progressed, she relearned how to dress herself ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



TOP LEFT, MIDDLE RIGHT: Smith plans to make adjustments to a western-style saddle to accommodate her needs. TOP RIGHT: Smith decorates the back of her wheelchair with stickers given to her by friends. BOTTOM: A self-described country girl, Smith still helps tend her family’s cattle.


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Horses are traditionally measured in “hands” counting vertically from the bottom of their front hoof to the highest point of their withers, the ridge between their shoulder blades.

and mastered many daily tasks. She soon began to get creative with her rehabilitation both to challenge herself and tailor the exercises to her life. “I remember rolling into therapy one day and telling my physical therapist, ‘You’re going to think this is a joke, but I’ve got a saddle in my room and I want to get back on it,’” Smith recalled, noting that her brother smuggled the horse tack into the hospital for her. She said the therapist questioned whether she was taking the phrase “getting back in the saddle” too literally. But for Smith, riding again is a big goal. “It’s just a matter of how and when,” she explained. While working toward reclaiming the pastime she loves, Smith also has worked to regain some of the independence she missed in the early stages of her recovery. With a specially outfitted GMC truck, she can once again drive herself where she needs to go. She’s also remastered piloting an all-terrain vehicle that she uses to navigate her family’s farm and help tend its show cattle. By the fall of 2020—in keeping with her one-year timeline—Smith was ready to restart her education journey and begin classes in the Bagley College of Engineering. She said she was eager to face the challenges of college life, which included finding the perfect wheelchairaccessible housing.

Smith said she met many Mississippi State faculty and staff who eagerly welcomed her to campus and ensured her needs were met. She and her adviser Jennie Maddox, a research engineer at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, toured MSU’s engineering facilities, including laboratories where Smith is pursuing her dream of getting back on a horse by developing an adaptive saddle for people with disabilities. “Mechanical engineering is a problemsolving degree,” Maddox said. “Kalyn’s track record shows that she is able to solve problems. No matter what the problem might be, she’s going to come up with a creative solution that not only addresses the problem but also is safe.” She continued, “Kalyn is going to directly benefit from her degree because she’s helping herself and has the potential to help others.” Now a senior, Smith is as optimistic as ever about both her academic career and life after college. In addition to her coursework and saddle project, she is busy planning a wedding with her fiance and helping her father complete a blueprint for her first home. Though her life doesn’t look exactly like she would have expected two years ago, Smith said she now feels like she was destined for this journey. “Being in a wheelchair has given me new challenges, but my engineering degree will give me skills to help me meet them and maybe help others in similar situations,” Smith said. n

“I remember rolling into therapy one day and telling my physical therapist, ‘You’re going to think this is a joke, but I’ve got a saddle in my room and I want to get back on it.’” ~ Kayln Smith

TAKING THE REINS Long seen as symbols of courage and freedom, horses also can help their handlers find strength and independence within themselves. For participants in Mississippi State University’s Equine-Assisted Therapy Programs, that can mean improved muscle control, breakthroughs in communication skills, or better emotional and behavioral control. It’s something Lori Irvin, an Extension associate who helps coordinate the programs, said she sees every day when watching clients interact with their mounts.

“Riding a horse stimulates the central nervous system, and learning to work with such a large animal builds confidence and selfesteem,” Irvin explained. “It has benefits for a wide-range of conditions and some of the breakthroughs I’ve seen have left me in tears.” Housed at the Elizabeth A. Howard Therapeutic Riding and Activity Center at the Jimmy Bryan 4-H Complex in West Point, the MSU Extension EquineAssisted Therapy Programs include both an accredited service for children with cognitive, physical or emotional needs and the Veteran’s Horsemanship Program.

In addition to Irvin and fellow Extension associate Cassie Courts Brunson, the programs are staffed by volunteers including college students, community members and area 4-Hers. Irvin said these volunteers are essential to the success of the programs, as it takes three volunteers to assist each child with riding. Irvin said the programs serve approximately 35 children and 20 veterans every semester. For more information about the programs, including ways to get involved, contact Lori Irvin at ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




Children’s book from engineering alumnus works to build financial literacy By Susan Lassetter, Artwork by Warn Wilson Jr., Photo submitted


arn Wilson Jr. has a message for his future children. In the meantime, he plans to share it with as many young people as possible, so they can have the knowledge he wishes he had when he was younger. Through his new picture book, “Brown Money,” Wilson said he hopes to provide insight into earning and inspire children to fully explore their career and investment options as they grow. “Many young people in African American communities aren’t exposed to different ways to build wealth,” Wilson explained. “I wanted to write this book to share my experience and insight about multiple ways to make money and ways to make a living other than being an entertainer or professional athlete. “If you can do those things, that’s something to be proud of, but not everyone is going to be a YouTube star or sign a deal with Nike,” he continued. “I want to help kids realize ‘Hey, I can be an engineer’ or ‘Oh, I can be a real estate investor.’” Wilson’s book is written as a conversation between a father and his son during which the two discuss all of “Jay’s” options for after high school, including a variety of technical fields, trades and business endeavors. “Growing up, we’re told, ‘Go to college. Go to college. If you want a good life, go to college,’” Wilson explained. “But college isn’t for everyone and there are many professions that don’t require it and you can still do well for yourself. I want to help kids see those options and not feel like they have to fit into this one box.” A 2016 electrical engineering graduate, Wilson is no stranger to “thinking outside of the box.” By day, he is a manufacturing engineer with Elos Medtech in Memphis but afterhours, he is everything else. He is a selftaught barber and stock investor. He is founder


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“Many young people in African American communities aren’t exposed to different ways to build wealth. I wanted to write this book to share my experience and insight about multiple ways to make money." ~ Warn Wilson


The Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach provides MSU students with resources to build businesses and develop products from conception to securing investors to turning their first profit.

Communication Program and its technical of an electronics company, vondu, and a writing class for teaching him to express his celebrated artist who has sold work at the ideas more clearly. Mississippi Museum of Art. He created “That class showed me the importance the illustrations for both “Brown Money” of good instruction and how to explain and his second book, “Royal Counsel,” things the right way to make sure they’re which was inspired by his mother and easy to understand,” Wilson said. “That’s grandmother. He has created a line of card helped me put things in the simplest form games and clothing that he sells through his possible when writing my books. And if website, and he runs a rental business with you can make these his fiancee. Before the important topics pandemic hit, he was “I want to help kids simple enough for kids also working toward understand, that becoming a licensed realize ‘Hey, I can to knowledge is going to tattoo artist. “I’m kind of all be an engineer’ or last a lifetime.” Wilson’s books over the place,” he are available through admitted with a laugh. ‘Oh, I can be a real his website and on “I just love seeing an estate investor.’” Amazon, but he is also idea transform into taking his message something tangible.” ~ Warn Wilson Jr. straight to the children The Jackson native he hopes will benefit said this creative from it. He has done virtual readings drive steered him to study engineering at and presentations for elementary schools Mississippi State. including several in Memphis, Nashville’s “Growing up, I had so many questions Glencliff Entrepreneurship Magnet School, about how things worked and functioned,” Atlanta’s Coretta Scott King Young Women he said. “Then I found out I could study Leadership Academy and Starkville’s Boys engineering and learn from experts. That and Girls Club. put me on a track where I could one day “I’m trying to give them lessons that design things myself. I gained a lot of I didn’t learn as a kid and expose them to knowledge from engineering and I use it all paths to success they might not have known the time, if not at work, then at home when were possible,” Wilson said. “I also try to be I’m creating my own products. It’s just been an example of the importance of trying new so valuable.” things all of the time and not having a fear He said the engineering curriculum of failure. Just go out and try it all because at MSU has even influenced his creative you never know what your passion is going writing. He specifically credits the Bagley to be.” n College of Engineering’s Technical

Entrepreneurs 'Make Lemonade' More than 200 budding entrepreneurs from across the Golden Triangle got their first taste of business June 19 for Lemonade Day 2021. A national program meant to inspire tomorrow’s business and community leaders, Lemonade Day strives to help young people build self-esteem and life skills through the creation, marketing and operation of lemonade stands. Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach was one of the local sponsors for Lemonade Day 2021. The center first began sponsoring Starkville’s event in 2018, drawing approximately 150 participants. Golden Triangle Lemonade Day coordinator Jeffrey Rupp, the center’s outreach director, said it was that success that inspired the center to expand its sponsorship to include West Point and Columbus. “All of us were blown away by the enthusiasm of the kids and their parents and the support of the community, so we were excited to get to include the whole Golden Triangle region this year,” Rupp said. Stand operators are responsible for securing investors and locations for their businesses, purchasing materials, developing and manufacturing their products, marketing, and sales. Once investors are repaid, the stand owners can keep their profits. “This is a fun way for kids to learn basic business concepts first hand,” Rupp said. “We encourage kids to save, spend and share some of their earnings. Giving back is a big part of the program.” Sprinkled throughout neighborhoods and outside businesses across the region, this year’s sales stands included offerings of classic fresh squeezed lemonade, as well as a variety of inventive flavors, baked goods and other sweet treats. For more information about MSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, visit ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




Poultry science alumnae reflect on Mississippi State lessons that led to success By Sasha Steinberg, Photos submitted


hen Amanda Bushong and Ryn Laster Laster, a Raymond native who also earned an MSU attended a ribbon cutting for Mississippi bachelor’s in poultry science in 1993, said the lessons State’s new poultry science building in Morgan taught her as a student have shaped her professional November 2020, they saw a beautiful place for students to endeavors. Along with serving as president of the Mississippi learn and grow. As two of Mississippi State’s earliest alumnae Egg Marketing Board, Laster currently is director of in poultry science, these Bulldogs also saw an unwavering food safety and animal welfare for Cal-Maine Foods, the foundation of “family” U.S.’s largest egg producer "I was not just a number or a awaiting the next generation headquartered in Jackson. name passing through the halls. of industry leaders. “I remember Dr. Morgan I was somebody with goals and “Mississippi State gave saying communication is the dreams of working in the industry me an amazing experience key. It’s true. You have to be I was passionate about, and great because I was not just a able to communicate to get people at this university helped me number or a name passing things done, and I do that all get there." ~ Amanda Bushong through the halls. I was day long,” said MSU’s 2019 somebody with goals and dreams of working in the industry Distinguished Fellow of Poultry Science who also earned I was passionate about, and great people at this university a bachelor’s in English from MSU. “Whether I’m writing helped me get there,” said Bushong, a Starkville native who instruction manuals or talking with colleagues at the FDA, studied poultry science at MSU in the early 1990s. USDA or Cal-Maine’s different locations across the United Bushong said Wallace Morgan, a fellow Starkville native States, my English degree from Mississippi State gets put to and three-time Bulldog graduate, was one of her greatest work every day.” MSU influences. Before retiring in 2007, Morgan served Laster, a two-time chair of the Mississippi Poultry for 20 years as head of MSU’s poultry science department, Association board of directors, also holds an MSU master’s one of the country’s six remaining poultry science degreein food science and technology, and a doctorate in food granting programs. science, nutrition and health promotion. Lessons from “Whether explaining a concept we were learning these degree programs, she said, continue to inspire her in class or a life lesson, Dr. Morgan kept it simple and personally and professionally. straightforward. He really took his time to help me and give “My major professor Dr. Yvonne Vizzier-Thaxton was a kick in the butt when I needed that too,” Bushong said bound and determined that I was going to get my Ph.D. with a laugh. “To this day, he is like a father to me.” At the time, I thought there was no way I could do that


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between my job and taking care of my family, but she talked me into it,” Laster recalled. “I think it was a good lesson for my daughters as well because it showed them you can do anything you set your mind to. Dr. Thaxton did that for me and Amanda. She taught us how to carry ourselves, and we learned how to have the confidence we needed in the professional world, especially in a predominately male field.” "I remember Dr. Morgan saying communication is the key. It’s true. You have to be able to communicate to get things done, and I do that all day long." ~ Ryn Laster Like Laster, Bushong said her post-MSU career trajectory has been as vast as it is rewarding. She moved in 2016 to Kansas City, Missouri, to serve as director of merchandising and product development for National Beef Packing Company LLC. Currently, she is director of business-to-business sales for Summit Hill Foods. The company develops and manufactures ingredient systems for foodservice and retail brands across the world, as well as markets such as Louisiana Hot Sauce, Better Than Bouillon and Southeastern Mills. Bushong said starting out in food production and working her way into food science taught her to appreciate different facets of the poultry world. She wants to instill this mindset in today’s industry hopefuls, especially fellow Bulldogs. “Whether they forge new trails in established areas or want to explore other areas altogether, I encourage students to remember there’s no one path that is totally defined,” she said. “The world is constantly changing, and what we think of now as ‘new and improved’ may be obsolete in 10 years. That mindset is the way we all grow, and it has helped me tremendously. I’m very thankful for my Mississippi State education in poultry science for leading me to the success and happiness I am experiencing today.” n

Pictured left to right: Gary Jackson, director of the MSU Extension Service; Scott Willard, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; MSU President Mark E. Keenum; Mary Beck, poultry science department head; Reuben Moore, special assistant to vice president of the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine and interim director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station; Justin Harrington, architect at McCarty Architects; and David Howell, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station engineer.

Laying an Eggceptional Foundation For decades, Mississippi State’s Department of Poultry Science has prepared the next generation of professionals for one of Mississippi’s most important industries. In November 2020, the department hosted a ribboncutting ceremony to celebrate the university’s new poultry science building—27,300 square feet of teaching, research and outreach opportunity for students and faculty. “It’s fabulous to finally be in this new building that has been in the works for years,” said Mary Beck, professor and department head. “The vision for the classrooms and laboratories has come together very well, and we appreciate taxpayer, university and industry support in making this possible for the students, faculty and staff in our department.”

In addition to two classrooms, faculty offices, a conference room and a graduate assistant suite, the poultry science building features 10 state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories including the Dr. Elbert and Anne Day Teaching Laboratory. This dedicated space is for any class with a hands-on lab component. The building also has two labs dedicated to physiology, a five-room nutrition suite, a threeroom microbiology and cell culture suite, a molecular lab, and another lab dedicated to poultry products. MSU’s poultry science department offers bachelor’s degrees in poultry science with concentrations in applied poultry management and science, and pre-veterinary science. Master’s and doctoral degrees also are offered in agriculture with a poultry science concentration. Learn more at

FOO D FO R THO UGHT The first MSU poultry science degree was awarded in 1948.

MSU’s poultry science department has provided 100% career placement for graduates since its inception.

Poultry and eggs are Mississippi’s largest agricultural commodity.

In 2020, the poultry and egg industry was responsible for as much as $23.22 billion in total economic activity throughout Mississippi, creating or supporting as many as 95,522 total jobs, according to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association’s economic report. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



YOUNG ALUMNI Spotlight By Sasha Steinberg, Photos submitted

The Young Alumni Advisory Council works to advance Mississippi State University through the support and service of passionate Bulldog graduates and friends under the age of 35. This dedicated group of leaders encourages a variety of active participation in the Alumni Association from financial contributions and event attendance to volunteerism and mentorship. The group also


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supports current and future MSU students through scholarship endowments and the development of other resources. Victoria Hall and Jeral Self, both inaugural members of the Young Alumni Advisory Council, said being a part of this special group has impacted their lives and inspired their efforts to pay it forward, Maroon and White style.

Victoria Hall made her first trip to the Magnolia State in 2007 after her acceptance into the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Early Entry Program. Eight years later, she left with three degrees, a dream of serving others and a heart of gratitude for a university she proudly calls “home” even some 1,000 miles away. Currently residing in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, Hall said she learned about Mississippi State in high school while working at Grady Veterinary Hospital in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. There, she befriended Drs. Debra Quiles and Jeff Grady, who earned Doctors of Veterinary Medicine from MSU in 1988 and 1990, respectively. “Dr. Quiles and Dr. Grady told me about the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Early Entry Program where you are accepted for undergrad and vet school at the same time. I ultimately studied at MSU for eight years, and it became my home,” said Hall, who holds a bachelor’s in animal and dairy sciences, master’s in preventative medicine and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Hall said one of her fondest MSU student memories is a semester-long, undergraduate study abroad trip to Kenya that inspired her passion for wildlife conservation. She said she continues to apply knowledge from that experience in her work at the University of Minnesota. There, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, as well as the executive director

and Patrick T. Redig Endowed Chair of the university’s Raptor Center, where she works to rehabilitate ill and injured eagles, owls, hawks, falcons and vultures. “I got my start as a veterinarian because of the support I received from Mississippi State, so when I read about the opportunity to give back through the MSU Young Alumni Advisory Council, I got excited and applied,” said Hall, who learned about the group through Alumni Association emails. As part of a two-year term, Hall serves on the council’s marketing and communication committee. She said the group was able to meet a couple times in Starkville before the pandemic necessitated a move online. “Meeting virtually is fun, but I do miss an excuse to take a few days off work to travel to Starkville,” she joked. “The folks on the Young Alumni Advisory Council are fantastic. We graduated at different times and from different academic colleges, which makes for engaging conversations.” Hall said there are many ways to support MSU’s mission, and the Young Alumni Advisory Council wants to share that message with graduates. “It’s fun to put our brains together to figure out how we can do that effectively,” she said.

Creativity, compassion and an appreciation for diversity are a few of the many skills Jeral Self gained from her undergraduate experience at Mississippi State. The Madison native said she is using her Maroon and White wisdom to open doors for other young people, including fellow alumni.

“The opportunity to represent the university as an MSU Distinguished Scholar and what that meant financially and in terms of personal growth was something I couldn’t pass up,” the biological engineering graduate said. “I wanted a career where I could make an impact in health care, and the skill set I gained through Mississippi State’s nationally ranked biomedical engineering program set me up for that opportunity.” Self is making the impact she wanted through health care research for Mathematica Policy Research Inc. She also is working to increase opportunities in medical fields for underrepresented minorities as community engagement head and foundation executive director for Panacea Financial. “I did a doctorate in health services research and specialized in economics. In that field, there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me and were doing that type of work. That made me want to help the foundation with addressing why from a financial and mentorship perspective,” she explained. “Creating opportunities and opening the doors for African American males and females helps potentially impact the number of physicians who look like these patients and their comfort level to go to these providers.” Diversity also has been a guiding principle for Self ’s work with the university’s inaugural Young Alumni Advisory Council. Representing different ages, genders, races, occupations and geographic locations helps council members better relate to and advise young alumni on ways to give back to MSU, especially when beginning their careers. “Taking on a leadership role in your local alumni chapter, volunteering your home for MSU game watch parties, and reaching out to get other young alumni involved in the network are just as valuable as a financial contribution,” Self said. “Our alumni network will continue getting stronger. More and more young alumni with a passion for serving the university can be a part of that future, and I can’t wait to see it.” n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Alumni Association



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he MSU Alumni Association welcomes a new slate of officers for two-year terms for fiscal years 202123. The association leaders who assumed office in July are Patrick White of Spring, Texas, as president; Terri Russell of Helena, Alabama, as vice president; and Sherri Carr Bevis of Gulfport remains with the board as immediate former national president. The group was elected in February at the association’s annual business meeting. “Our national officers will continue the long-standing tradition of serving our Bulldog family through their leadership in our association, engaging and involving even more alumni and friends in our offerings, and promoting Mississippi State around the world,” said Jeff Davis, the association’s executive director. “Our association continues its growth, both in our program offerings and the number of active alumni of Mississippi State, which stands at some 47,965.” White assumes the presidency following a two-year term as vice president of the Alumni Association. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication from MSU in 1990 and currently serves as account executive with LSI Industries, a leading producer of high-performance, American-made lighting solutions. Most recently, White served the association’s national board as Out-ofState Region 1 director. He remains active with the Houston, Texas Alumni Chapter, where he earlier served as president and was instrumental in bringing MSU license plates to the Lone Star State. In particular, he continues his work to strengthen student recruitment efforts. Russell earned from MSU a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering in 1984 and a Master of Science in industrial engineering in 1986. She serves as a principal member of technical staff at AT&T Labs Inc. Most recently, Russell served the association’s national board as a two-term director for the state of Alabama. She has been a longtime MSU Alumni Association volunteer with the Birmingham, Alabama Chapter, where she has served in a variety of roles over the past 20 years, including eight years as chapter president. She has been instrumental in student recruiting, community service, scholarship fundraising and putting on events

for alumni in the region. She also played an integral role in making MSU license plates a reality in the state of Alabama. As immediate past president, Bevis assumes the office following a twoyear term as president. She has held a national board seat since 2010. Bevis graduated from MSU in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication. She joined Singing River Health System as community relations liaison last year after serving the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office as assistant secretary of state for external marketing. She remains active with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Alumni Chapter. Riley Nelson of Vicksburg, who was elected to a three-year term as national treasurer last year, continues in that role. He earned two MSU degrees, a 1999 Bachelor of Accountancy and a 2001 Master of Taxation. Nelson is a managing partner with May and Company LLP. He remains active with the Warren County Alumni Chapter and is a member of the advisory council for the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy. Along with incoming officers, the association welcomes back three directors continuing their board service and one new director to the national board. Janelle Finley Adams of Mobile, Alabama, completed her term as an at-large director and will transition to the role of director for the state of Alabama. A 2009 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in communication who also earned a Master of Science in kinesiology from MSU, Adams serves as a communications specialist for Outokumpu, a global stainless steel manufacturing company. Serving as a volunteer with the Mobile, Alabama Chapter since 2013, she led efforts as the student recruiting chair, assisted with the chapter’s annual Senior Bowl event, and has served in chapter leadership as both president and vice president. She was honored by the association as MSU’s Outstanding Young Alumna in 2017. Davis W. “Dave” Dickson, a 1987 Bachelor of Business Administration in banking and finance graduate, continues

his service on the board as Out-ofState Region 1 director. He is president and CEO of Union Bank and Trust Company in Monticello, Arkansas, where he resides. Dickson is active in the Southeast Arkansas Alumni Club, and he is a longtime Alumni Recruitment Network volunteer, encouraging students to attend MSU and hosting the annual Southeast Arkansas Send-off Party. Nathan Cummins, a 2002 Bachelor of Accountancy graduate who also holds a Master of Taxation from MSU, continues on the board as a director for Mississippi Central 3 Region. He resides in Clinton and serves as the attest partner, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Information Technology Professional with May & Company LLP. He is active with the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy and the Warren County Alumni Chapter, and established the Cummins Family Endowed Scholarship at MSU to benefit accounting students. Also incoming is Bradley A. Garrison of Scottsdale, Arizona. The 2000 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in landscape management joins the national board as an at-large director. Professionally, Garrison serves as the western regional sales manager for sports fields and golf for Profile Products Inc. He previously served on the national board of directors as director for the state of Texas. He has been a volunteer and served in various roles with the Nashville, Tennessee Alumni Chapter and the Kansas City Alumni Club, and is a past president of the Dallas, Texas Alumni Chapter. The Alumni Association was founded June 17, 1885, by the first three graduating classes of the thenMississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College. A full-service organization, the association now includes over 100 chapters and clubs. Mississippi State currently has nearly 155,000 living alumni. For more information about the MSU Alumni Association, contact Davis at 662.325.7000 or jdavis@alumni. n

Patrick White

Terri Russell

Sherri Carr Bevis

Riley Nelson

Janelle Finley Adams

Davis W. Dickson

Nathan Cummins

Bradley A. Garrison





ississippi State University has once again shattered fundraising records with $120.7 million in support raised during fiscal year 2021. It marks the highest single year giving total in the land-grant institution’s 143-year history. This achievement, which marks a 9% increase over the 2020 total, comes on the heels of MSU’s billion-dollar capital campaign and amid the cascading consequences of a global pandemic. “In times of need, the Bulldog family always steps up and this year was no different,” said John P. Rush, president and CEO of the MSU Foundation. “This level of support from our loyal alumni and friends amid COVID-19 uncertainties is an inspiring reminder of the strong foundation


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that continues to sustain and propel our university forward.”

"This level of support from our loyal alumni and friends during the COVID-19 uncertainties is an inspiring reminder of the strong foundation that continues to sustain and propel our university forward." ~ John Rush This demonstration of support was further enhanced through a remarkable one-year 35.8% return on investment. The university’s endowment now stands at $698.2 million,

an increase of nearly $178 million over the previous year. Through the support of 20,086 unique contributors, MSU has successfully topped the $100 million mark in private gifts for the eighth consecutive year. Nearly $9.7 million of the total funds raised were from gifts of $1,000 or lower. Additionally, alumni participation at Mississippi State soared to 19.8% keeping MSU ahead of several major peer institutions in support among former students. Most of the institution’s fundraising is conducted by the MSU Foundation that was established in 1962 to help attract support from private sources. More information about the MSU Foundation can be found online at n

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Black Alumni Advisory Council welcomes leaders


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he MSU Alumni Association welcomed leadership of the Black Alumni Advisory Council for the 2021 and 2022 calendar years. The council leaders who began their two-year terms in January are Robert L. Barnes Jr. of Byram as chair and Rocheryl Ware of Clinton as vice chair. They were elected in December 2020 at the council’s winter meeting. Barnes earned a Bachelor of Science in sociology from Mississippi State University in 1972 and was the first African American ROTC cadet to be commissioned into the United States Army from MSU. He served in various leadership positions in the U.S. and abroad and earned many military awards before retiring at the rank of colonel in 2004. The Brookhaven native also holds a master’s degree in transportation management from the Florida Institute of Technology and worked many years in logistic and human resources management positions at Pepsi Cola, General Electric, Systems Management America and Walmart Logistics. He actively promotes MSU through his involvement with the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter, the MSU Alumni Association’s Alumni Recruitment Network and the Black Alumni Advisory Council, which he helped organize in 2016. Barnes recently was named 2021 Alumnus of the Year for the College of Arts and Sciences. Ware is a three-time MSU graduate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1998, a master’s degree in agricultural and extension education in 2003 and last fall, she completed a doctorate in agricultural science. She joined the MSU Extension Service in 2004 and serves as an Extension Agent in Hinds County, where she works extensively to carry out the mission of the university and the Extension Service. By extending research-based information to help citizens improve their lives, she is making a positive difference in her community and with others throughout the state. Ware is active in the Alumni Recruitment Network and is a founding member of the Black Alumni Advisory Council. Along with incoming leaders, the association welcomes eight council members who began a three-year term on the Black Alumni Advisory Council in January.

Di’Marco Baskin of Clinton is a 2000 MSU graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in social work. He is a social service specialist with Magnolia Health Plan for Pine Ridge Gardens Apartments in Jackson. Baskin has been an active member of the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter, serving on the chapter board for several years. He also has co-chaired the annual Evening in Maroon fundraiser since 2016. Maurey Bland Jr. earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from MSU in 2018. He served as chief of staff and director of player development for Austin Peay University’s football program for several years before assuming his current position with Auburn University’s women’s basketball program. At MSU, the Brandon native was an undergraduate assistant for the MSU football coaching staff. James Calvert graduated from MSU in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He is a sergeant first class and senior instructor of the Basic Leader Course for the United States Army at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. Prior to his current assignment, he lived in Jackson and was an active board member for the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter. Marilyn Crouther of Herndon, Virginia, is a 1987 accounting graduate of Mississippi State. She currently is CEO and principal of Crouther Consulting LLC, and earlier served as senior vice president and general manager of the U.S. Public Sector for DXC Technology, formerly Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services. She has been involved in the Washington, D.C. Alumni Chapter and MSU’s Men and Women of Color Summit, where she was recognized as a Distinguished Alumna in 2015. The Jackson native also established the Desi Crouther Annual and Endowed Scholarships at MSU in honor of her husband, a fellow MSU graduate for whom the awards are named. Paulette Ferguson graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2008. She is an Americorps VISTA, and development and

engagement specialist for the United Way of North Central Mississippi. An avid volunteer, she meets with community leaders to identify their needs and discuss capacity building initiatives and coordinates volunteer service events. Ferguson lives in Starkville. W. Brad Jones is a 2000 industrial engineering graduate of MSU’s honors program, which predated the Shackouls Honors College. He also earned a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech in 2009. Originally from Heidelberg, Jones now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is the owner and operator of Life Well Promotions, a public health consulting firm. Jones has served in various volunteer roles with the Greater Atlanta Alumni Chapter, received the MSU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018 and currently serves as president of the Shackouls Honors College Alumni Advisory Board. Mickey Lawrence earned a 2008 Bachelor of Business Administration in management of construction and land development from Mississippi State University. He is a 5G MDU business development manager for Verizon Wireless in Houston, Texas. Lawrence is active in the Greater Houston, Texas Alumni Chapter and frequently leads efforts to get Black alumni more involved in the chapter and events. He also is a former MSU Alumni Delegate. Peggy Rogers is a threetime MSU graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree, educational specialist degree and doctorate in education in 1978, 1988 and 1999, respectively. She currently serves as president of the Council of Community Organizations of Oktibbeha County Inc. and earlier retired from Lowndes County Schools as assistant superintendent. Rogers is involved with scholarship support and student recruiting initiatives at MSU. For more information about the Black Alumni Advisory Council, contact Jeff Davis, executive director for the MSU Alumni Association, at 662.325.7000 or n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


b a c k TAKE IT TO

the House

After being “sidelined” for the 2020 football season, the MSU Alumni Association is looking forward to welcoming alumni and friends back “home” to the Hunter Henry Center for the Official Alumni Tailgate. Visit the Official Alumni Tailgate website to get your tickets and to learn more about how to be a part of this special gameday tradition.


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SENIOR Celebration

The MSU Alumni Association and the MSU Alumni Delegates annually host Senior Celebration to honor the university’s seniors as they prepare for commencement ceremonies. More than 550 seniors attended the drivethru celebration at the Hunter Henry Center on April 20. Special guest Bully XXI, “Jak,” was in attendance and swag bags containing MSU memorabilia were handed out.

The Ring at MSU honors class ring recipients in annual ceremony The MSU Alumni Association hosts The Ring at MSU, a time-honored tradition for the presentation of the university’s official class rings purchased prior to each spring and fall commencement. More than 50 Bulldogs received rings, presented by MSU President Mark E. Keenum, during the spring 2021 ceremony. The in-person, socially-distanced event took place in April at the Hunter Henry Center. During the ceremony, Brad M. Reeves of Jackson also was recognized by the Alumni Association as the spring ring honoree. As one of the university’s most loyal volunteers, Reeves received a special class ring for his dedication and support. Reeves graduated from MSU in 2002 with

a Bachelor of Business Administration in management and construction of land development and later earned a law degree at the University of Mississippi. He is an attorney and partner at the law firm of Randall, Segrest, Weeks and Reeves PLLC. Since 2010, Reeves has served on the National Alumni Association board of directors, including serving as president from 2017-19. He is active with the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter, where he has served in various roles including president. He also has served the university as a member of both the MSU Foundation and Bulldog Club boards. For more information on official MSU class rings, visit

Sleeper wins ‘free’ tuition for fall semester

Payne E. Sleeper of Corinth is the winner of the Mississippi State University Alumni Association’s 15th tuition drawing. A sophomore accounting major in the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy within the College of Business, Sleeper will receive free, full-time tuition (12 credit hours) for the 2021 MSU fall semester. Initiated in 2013 by the association’s student organization, Alumni Delegates, the drawing offers MSU students the opportunity to win one free semester of in-state tuition. The drawing is open each fall and spring semester to any instate undergraduate enrolled full time at MSU. This semester, the Alumni Delegates raised more than $12,000 from ticket sales. Sleeper’s winning ticket was drawn March 25 from 2,866 purchased by parents of eligible students during the beginning of the spring semester. His name was entered by his parents, father Ronnie Sleeper, a 1990 MSU College of Business alumnus, and mother, Natalie Cunningham Sleeper. Funds raised beyond the cost of tuition benefit scholarships and priority programs within the association.

L-R: Alumni Delegates Warner Buxton; Jaime Garcia; tuition winner Payne Sleeper; Bailey Dean, vice president of public relations; Ashley McLemore; and Dylan McDonald, president. (Photo by Megan Bean) ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Bulldog Network



he Mississippi State University Alumni Association is proud to launch a new engagement platform, which will harness the power of the MSU Bulldog Network. The MSU family is one of the world’s most loyal networks, comprised of more than 150,000 alumni living and working in a wide range of industries around the globe. But accessing this robust network to make connections, find a mentor or get support while navigating various stages of career and personal development is sometimes a challenge. Now, thanks to MSU’s Bulldog Network initiative, MSU students and alumni can connect with other MSU alumni who are eager to provide advice and support. And they can do it all with just a few clicks by signing up for the MSU Bulldog Network. The free, online platform facilitates valuable engagements among MSU students and alumni and encourages them to make the most of their True Maroon connections. By tapping into the wealth of knowledge, expertise and loyalty of the MSU family, Bulldog Network users can gain career advice, learn more about a particular field or industry, and further cultivate professional connections and opportunities. The service, provided by the university and managed by the MSU Alumni Association, is a bridge for Bulldogs at every career level to get from where they are today to where they want to go. Helping Bulldogs be successful while they are in school and after they graduate is a priority for MSU. Given some of the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, trusted advice and connections are more important than ever for students entering the workforce, as well as alumni looking to transition in their careers. Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, said the Bulldog Network provides a valuable opportunity for Bulldogs who are eager to help each other in professional and personal development endeavors. “One of the things I love the most about Bulldogs is they believe in their university and in each other,” said Davis. “It’s really true that wherever you go, your Bulldog family goes with you and is there to support you.”


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Online platform makes it easier for Bulldog family to support each other While the MSU Career Center has always offered a wide range of resources designed to help students and alumni realize their full potential, the Bulldog Network supplements those resources by enlisting the help of the wider MSU family. The new platform is a convenient and effective way for students and graduates to remotely access assistance and insight from alumni around the world who have demonstrated knowledge and experience in their respective fields. It is a great catalyst for new connections and will continue to be increasingly valuable as more students join the alumni family in the future. Key features of the Bulldog Network include the ability for MSU students, faculty, staff and alumni to create a profile, search for and connect as a mentor or mentee, and choose involvement levels—from one-time meetings to longer, sustained periods of time. Members can search and connect around areas of interest, expertise, location, MSU experiences and more. In addition, the platform will feature a Bulldog Job Board that will enable alumni to post jobs and refer other Bulldogs to opportunities at their organization. Companies that already recruit at MSU will also be able to post jobs targeting Bulldogs with more experience. One of the hallmarks of an MSU education is the extraordinary connections that can be made within the Bulldog family, beginning as a student and lasting a lifetime. Supporting one another is part of being a Bulldog, and the Bulldog Network service will continue to uphold this tradition in a powerfully innovative way. “The Bulldog Network is a great new approach to foster meaningful interactions among MSU students and our worldwide

community of accomplished and loyal alumni,” said Brent Fountain, MSU associate vice president for academic affairs and interim director of the MSU Career Center. “Today, it is an especially valuable resource for MSU’s newest graduates, the members of the classes of 2020 and 2021, who find themselves entering the job market at a very unique time.”

Bulldog Network encourages mentorship across careers, personal experience and interest Alumni can share their experience to assist students in navigating their journey at MSU and to better prepare them for success after graduation. Whether pairing alumni and students based on their common academic college or major, shared interest in a particular industry or career field, similar experiences or geographic location, the opportunities for meaningful and powerful mentoring are limitless. Ra’Sheda Forbes, vice president for access, diversity, and inclusion, said, “Being able to connect our students with alumni who have been in their shoes significantly increases the university’s potential to make a positive impact in the areas of student success and retention, especially among first generation students.” Davis said MSU alumni—regardless of where they are in their careers—have knowledge and experiences that can be valuable to other members of the MSU community. “Serving as a mentor is an excellent way to help members of the next generation be successful,” he said. “It’s an impactful way to give back to MSU.” For more information on how you can make an impact and utilize the full power of the MSU Bulldog Network please visit n


Maroon & White!

YOUNG ALUMNI AWARDS PROGRAM The Mississippi State University Alumni Association continuously strives to find meaningful ways to engage with the diverse, ever-growing Bulldog family. Recognizing the need to acknowledge the remarkable accomplishments of more of the university’s young alumni, the association is proud to announce the launch of The Reveille 25. The familiar name of the signature program derives from MSU’s former yearbook, The Reveille, which chronicled student life throughout the institution’s history. Moreover, as a signal sounded to wake members of the armed forces, the word “reveille” also serves as a tribute to the university’s foundational military heritage. Accordingly, this signature program will annually honor 25 high achieving, young alumni who are “answering the call” of the university’s mission for excellence, and inspiring others through the positive impact they are making in their communities and professions.

HOW TO NOMINATE Applications open Sept. 1, 2021 for alumni and friends to nominate candidates for the inaugural class of The Reveille 25. Visit to apply.

For more information about purchasing a Mississippi State University car tag, visit our website:

Candidates for the award must have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from Mississippi State University and be under the age of 40 by the announcement of winners in December 2021. Nominations will close Oct. 22, 2021 and winners will be announced in December. For questions or additional information, contact Ava Richardson, young alumni programs and alumni outreach coordinator of the MSU Alumni Association, at 662.325.3349 or arichardson@ ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




s d r a w A Alumni p i h s r e d & Lea e c n e r e f Con

he MSU Alumni Association serves more than 150,000 living alumni of Mississippi State University who share the same love and devotion to the institution as the first three graduating classes that started the alumni association in 1885. This loyalty and passionate spirit of service and accomplishment displayed by many graduates over time is saluted annually in a special awards ceremony. While the annual awards banquet is typically held in February, this year’s event was postponed until May out of respect for the university’s health and safety measures put into



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place during the COVID-19 pandemic. A small group of alumni and friends were in attendance at The Mill at MSU as the university’s 2021 National Alumna, College Alumni of the Year, 2020 Outstanding Young Alumnus and 2020 Distinguished Service Award recipients were honored in May. Additionally, the association’s highest achieving chapters and clubs worldwide were recognized for their accomplishments. For commemorative videos and photos, visit or view the Alumni Association’s Facebook page at


NAMED 2021 NATIONAL ALUMNA Mississippi State University is proud to distinguish Janice I. Nicholson as the 2021 National Alumna of the Year, as well as the first female recipient of this highest alumni honor. Born and raised in Booneville, Nicholson was the first in her family to earn a college degree. Her parents, James and Lena Rivers Nicholson, always stressed the importance of education—a concept she has continued to carry throughout her life and career. After completing an undergraduate degree from Blue Mountain College near her hometown, Nicholson received master’s and doctoral degrees in elementary education from the MSU College of Education in 1967 and 1977, respectively. She also holds an education specialist degree from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. A natural people person, Nicholson was drawn to a career in education from an early age. She understood the importance of good teachers who care for their students and learned first-hand the difference one person can make in helping to nurture young minds. Inspired by the opportunity to offer similar encouragement and guidance to others, Nicholson employed her passion in and out of the classroom. Nicholson’s career, spanning more than five decades, began at the University of North Alabama, where she served for 37 years in teaching and administration positions and is a professor emerita. She retired from Blue Mountain College as executive vice president for student affairs and graduate and special programs in 2012. She is currently serving as interim head of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education at Mississippi State, a position she also held from 2015-17. Although Nicholson’s primary residence is in Florence, Alabama, she continues to uphold and strengthen connections with her Magnolia State home. She is a current member of the MSU Foundation board of directors and has helped promote the College of Education and the university through various committee and leadership roles. Having served in voluntary

Janice I. Nicholson and President Mark E. Keenum

and administrative capacities at both of her alma maters, she was earlier recognized as Alumna of the Year for the MSU College of Education, as well as Blue Mountain College. Nicholson says being able to go back to the places that served as springboards for her has been very meaningful. In particular, she believes her academic experience at Mississippi State University enabled her to develop the knowledge and skills to not only be successful in her career but to reach her goals. After earning a master’s degree, she was able to gain employment in an area she was most interested in pursuing— an accomplishment she attributes to her MSU education. Nicholson has many fond memories as a graduate student at Mississippi State. Although the coursework was demanding, she enjoyed working with classmates and gathering at various places across campus to work on group projects or participate in study sessions. She is also grateful for the encouragement and support she received from Gloria Correro and Herb Handley, two former MSU faculty members who especially impacted her life as a student and beyond. Nicholson credits the two professors for helping her realize what success meant to her personally, and she kept in touch with each throughout her career. Her brother, James, also was a True Maroon Bulldog and longtime educator who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university. The siblings were lifelong friends

whose reunions and get-togethers almost always revolved around a MSU athletic or campus-based event. When reflecting on the fond memories they shared over the years, Nicholson says Mississippi State has always been their favorite place. Upon James’ passing in 2017, Nicholson chose to remember him through an endowed naming opportunity at the MSU Library. Today, the James W. Nicholson Reading Room, which overlooks the university’s historic Drill Field, serves as a meaningful tribute to Nicholson’s brother at the place they both call home. Along with the reading room, Nicholson has also supported other areas at MSU including student scholarships, a faculty award and athletics, in particular women’s basketball. She is an avid supporter and follower of women’s basketball, as well as other sports at MSU. In 2018, Nicholson was named Fan of the Year during the MSU women’s basketball program’s Hail State Hoops annual awards banquet. Finding success in helping others discover and follow their own passions, Nicholson believes the best advice is to always remember that life is a journey that shouldn’t be hurried. Mississippi State University is grateful for the opportunity to honor Nicholson and the accomplishments she has reached along her own journey as a respected leader and dedicated servant, and as the 2021 National Alumna of the Year. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Janice I. Nicholson was presented the recognition of the 2021 National Alumna of the Year by Dr. Mark E. Keenum. She spoke about her time at MSU and how it prepared her for her career and life. Nicholson has supported MSU in many ways over the years including the James W. Nicholson Reading Room named after her brother, student scholarships and a faculty award.


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FRONT: Daria F. Pizzetta, Ruth Francis-Floyd; MIDDLE: Robert L. Barnes Jr., Janice I. Nicholson, President Mark E. Keenum, Margaret Dodd Taylor, John R. Lundy; BACK: Joffrey R. “Jay” Pryor, J. Michael “Mike” McIlwain , Russell W. “Rusty” Booker Jr.

Academic colleges recognize Alumni of the Year

Mississippi State University’s eight academic colleges collectively selected a group of impressive Bulldogs as their 2021 College Alumni of the Year. These individuals are recognized for their many accomplishments and the Bulldog spirit they embody in their personal and professional lives. JOHN R. LUNDY of Ridgeland, Mississippi College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Tribbett native John R. Lundy earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from MSU in 1983. During his time as a student, he worked at the university’s R.R. Foil Plant Science Research Center, better known as North Farm. Lundy began his career at the university’s Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville and later served as a loan officer at First South Production Credit Association in Greenville. In 1987, he was tapped to serve as a legislative assistant handling agriculture issues for former Congressman Mike Espy. This began his 11-year stint on Capitol Hill, where he also worked for former Congressman Larry Combest of

Texas before serving as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. In 1997, Lundy returned to Mississippi and soon after became a partner at Capitol Resources, LLC in Jackson. He also currently serves on the MSU Foundation’s board of directors. DARIA F. PIZZETTA of New York City, New York College of Architecture, Art and Design Daria F. Pizzetta pursued her degree at her father’s alma mater and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1983. The Biloxi native began her career with Shaw Walker Architects in Gulfport, but her desire for more creative freedom eventually led her to New York City. She took up residence there in late 1984 with just two suitcases while visiting a friend and began working with Ferrenz, Taylor, and Clark, and later with interior design firm, Soo Kim Associates. In 1992, she joined Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which later evolved into H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, which she currently serves as a principal. With a career spanning nearly four decades, Pizzetta has amassed an impressive portfolio nationwide. She is proud of the School of Architecture’s national reputation and has served on its advisory board for a

number of years. In 1998, she was honored as the college’s Alumni Fellow. ROBERT L. BARNES JR. of Byram, Mississippi College of Arts and Sciences Robert L. Barnes Jr. graduated as salutatorian of his high school class and became a first-generation college student, earning a degree in sociology from Mississippi State University in 1972. Upon graduation, he also became the first African American ROTC cadet to be commissioned into the United States Army from Mississippi State. In the Army, Barnes served in various leadership positions in the U.S. and abroad and earned numerous military awards including the Legion of Merit. He retired from service in 2004 at the rank of colonel. The Brookhaven native also holds a master’s degree in transportation management from the Florida Institute of Technology and worked many years in logistic and human resources management positions at Pepsi Cola, General Electric, Systems Management America and Walmart Logistics. He actively promotes MSU through involvement with the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter and as chair of the Black Alumni Advisory Council, which he helped organize in 2016. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


ALUMNI News education and university partnership programs. At MSU, Pryor is a member of the engineering advisory board and a former member of the Foundation board.

Jeff Davis congratulating the Alumni of the Year recipients. J. MICHAEL “MIKE” MCILWAIN of Kildeer, Illinois College of Business For J. Michael “Mike” McIlwain, a 1987 accounting graduate, becoming a Bulldog was inevitable. His father, Joe, was a Bulldog alumnus and McIlwain was proud to follow his father’s footsteps to MSU. He went on to complete a Master of Taxation at the University of Alabama and began his career as an accountant for KPMG and later for Arthur Andersen. In 2009, he joined PSAV, an internationally recognized leader in event technology services within the hotel, resort and conference center industry. He recently retired from the organization as president and CEO. McIlwain was selected as the 2017 Alumni Fellow for the College of Business and was named one of its Top 100 Alumni during the 2015 Centennial Celebration. He works hard to remain an ambassador for MSU and is a current member of the advisory board for the Adkerson School of Accountancy. MARGARET DODD TAYLOR of Louisville, Mississippi College of Education Raised in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Margaret Dodd Taylor always knew she was meant to be a teacher. She followed the path of her parents, becoming a second-generation Bulldog, and graduated with three degrees from Mississippi State—a 1982 Bachelor of Science in special education, a 1983 Master of Science in education, and a 1985 Education Specialist. For seven years, she taught children


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with educational and physical disabilities before leaving to become caregiver of her medically fragile daughter and to home school her other two children. Today she substitutes in her hometown of Louisville and volunteers as a counselor for Winston County’s Mississippi Scholars program. She is also a board member of Ballet Mississippi and the USA International Ballet Competition. In addition, Taylor serves on the advisory board for the College of Education. JOFFREY R. “JAY” PRYOR of Houston, Texas Bagley College of Engineering For more than 40 years, Laurel native Joffrey R. “Jay” Pryor has used his MSU education to engineer positive outcomes at home and abroad. The 1979 petroleum engineering graduate is vice president of business development for Chevron Corporation, a position he has held since 2006. Previously Pryor was chairman and CEO of Chevron Nigeria Ltd. and was responsible for directing the company’s oil and gas operations in West Africa. He has spent his entire 42-year career with Chevron, traveling to more than 100 countries and serving in numerous positions. Pryor co-chaired the Nigerian Business Coalition Against HIV/AIDS and launched the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ first branch in Kazakhstan. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Chevron’s CREATE program at MSU. The innovative and comprehensive program “creates” seamless pathways for a diverse student population from pre-K through their university years and into full-time employment. It is part of Chevron’s ongoing support for K-12 STEM

RUSSELL W. “RUSTY” BOOKER JR. of Grove Hill, Alabama College of Forest Resources Russell W. “Rusty” Booker earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry from MSU in 1991 and subsequently began his career with Chesapeake Forest Products Company. For nearly 30 years, Booker has worked in progressive roles across the forestry industry for companies including International Paper Company, Drax Biomass International and Weyerhaeuser. At International Paper, he helped design and institute a better supply strategy to lead the leanest divisional team at the second largest virgin fiber consuming mill in the company and was awarded the inaugural Catalyst Award in the Forest Resources Division. Today, Booker serves as president of Scotch Land Management, LLC in Fulton, Alabama. Founded in 1888, the company currently provides comprehensive land and timber management services for more than 350,000 acres. RUTH FRANCIS-FLOYD of Gainesville, Florida College of Veterinary Medicine A California native who was raised in Florida, Ruth Francis-Floyd earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida. She realized her interest in aquaculture while working as a vet tech at a large aquarium. At the time, Mississippi State was among the few universities with aquaculture programming and Floyd subsequently enrolled to pursue post-DVM studies and clinical experience in the newly emerging field. In 1985, she became the first student to earn a master’s degree from MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Floyd then spent two years conducting catfish research at MSU’s Delta Branch Experiment Station in Stoneville before joining the faculty at the University of Florida. She currently serves as professor and Extension specialist for aquatic medicine at UF, where she also was director of the aquatic animal health program from 2004-13.

THREE VOLUNTEERS RECEIVE SERVICE AWARDS The Distinguished Service Award annually recognizes individuals who have displayed outstanding volunteer and leadership efforts within their local alumni chapters throughout the previous year. Their efforts are essential in upholding the mission of the MSU Alumni Association and also bring favorable recognition to the university. Three dedicated alumni are recipients for 2020. Natchez native Walter J. “Walt” Brown didn’t intend to pursue the same career path as his father, but as fate would have it, he eventually followed his interests into a successful career in law. He graduated in 1986 with a degree in history and went on to earn a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1989. Brown joined his father and partners in a small firm in his hometown, where he practiced law for several years before accepting an appointment as assistant district attorney in 2004. In 2014, he was elected county court judge of Adams County, where he sits as county court and youth court judge. Brown has served in several leadership positions with the Adams County and Mississippi Bar associations and is a former member of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association. Beyond his career, Brown has played an active role in the Adams-Franklin-Wilkinson Alumni Chapter for more than 20 years. He has held several roles within the chapter including president, scholarship chair and student recruiting chair. Known as the “voice of the Green Wave,” for 25 years, Brown has been calling football play by plays on the radio for Cathedral High School, his alma mater. He uses his connections with the school to promote MSU and recruit future Bulldogs. He and his wife Lashon reside in Natchez. They have two daughters—Abby, a 2019 MSU graduate, and Faith Anne, a current MSU student. Cameron G. “Cammie” Bullock of Gulfport is a proud member of the Bulldog family. The Brookhaven native graduated with a degree in business administration and marketing from the MSU College of Business in 2003 and is currently serving as

L-R: Lisa Sharp Newcomb, Walter J. Brown, Cameron G. Bullock an administrative assistant at NAI Sawyer Commercial Real Estate. During her junior year at MSU, Bullock also started her own business and was featured in the Mississippi Business Journal for owning a successful student-run business. She credits her educational background from MSU with preparing her to succeed in areas she feels most passionate about. For more than a decade, Bullock has been involved with the MSU Alumni Association and in 2010, she was instrumental in the reorganization of the Harrison-Stone Alumni Chapter. Since then, she has been a central figure in building the chapter and has served in various leadership roles including president. She currently leads the organization’s community service outreach and is active in recruitment efforts throughout the area. She also coordinated the chapter’s tornado relief efforts in Louisville. Lisa Sharp Newcomb grew up in Jackson and always had a passion for animals. When the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine opened in the late 1970s, she knew that’s where she would pursue her

education. After earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1984, she married fellow CVM alumnus Harold Newcomb and the pair opened South Panola Veterinary Hospital in Batesville the following year. Today, her main areas of practice are small animal medicine and surgery, with an emphasis in preventative medicine, and equine medicine. Over the years, Newcomb has maintained her True Maroon connections in various ways. Since 1991, she has held numerous positions, including president, with the Panola County Alumni Chapter and is a longtime member of the Bulldog Club. She has also served on the Alumni National Board and has been involved with the Alumni Recruitment Network since its inception. Newcomb frequently mentors MSU veterinary students and has served on the college’s accreditation team, admission team and the dean’s liaison committee. Outside MSU, Newcomb is also a member and past president of the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association and is involved with the Mississippi Animal Response Team and the Mississippi Veterinary Corp with training in disaster preparedness and bioterrorism. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Association salutes outstanding alumni chapters The MSU Alumni Association includes more than 100 chapters and clubs worldwide, and 44 chartered clubs were honored during the Alumni Awards banquet. Some 296 events were held on behalf of Mississippi State in 2020, and chapters and clubs played an integral role in this accomplishment. Gold, silver and bronze cowbells were presented to representatives of the top achievers in each category, while others obtained honorary status.

Honor Chapters Attala County Baton Rouge, LA Birmingham, AL Claiborne-Jefferson Clay County Dallas, TX George-Greene Greater Fort Worth, TX Greater Houston, TX Greater New Orleans, LA Greater Tampa, FL Grenada-Montgomery Huntsville-Decatur, AL Lauderdale County Lee County Lincoln County Lowndes County Mobile, AL Monroe County Newton County Northwest Florida Pine Belt Prentiss County Rocky Mountain CO Sharkey-Issaquena South Texas Washington County Washington D.C.

Gold Chapters

Atlanta, GA Central Mississippi Greater Chattanooga, TN Lawrence-Jefferson Davis Leake County

Silver Chapters Greater Orlando, FL Nashville, TN Oktibbeha County Panola County Tate County

Bronze Chapters Clarke County East Texas Memphis, TN Mississippi Gulf Coast Simpson County Southwest Mississippi

2021 Leadership Conference The Alumni Association hosts the Leadership Conference for alumni volunteers each year to facilitate networking and collaboration on ideas for strengthening membership, recruiting and ways to better serve the MSU alumni base. This year, the event was held virtually, giving volunteers 78

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and leaders from across the nation a chance to engage in conferences and training throughout the week-long conference in February. More information on the conference and recordings from the program sessions can be viewed online at


Outstanding Young Alumnus

The MSU Alumni Association annually honors the university’s most outstanding young alumnus or alumna. For his professional leadership and service achievements, Paul M. Minor of Houston, Texas, has garnered the honor of 2020 Outstanding Young Alumnus. A third-generation Mississippi State graduate, Minor has been a Bulldog from the very beginning. The Jackson native graduated with a degree in geosciences from MSU in 2011 and later earned a master’s degree in geology from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from Rice University. He began his career as a petroleum geologist for Southwestern Energy. In 2018, he assumed his current role as a senior consultant for The Carnrite Group, a management consulting firm focused on corporate turnarounds within the energy and industrials sectors, from Fortune 500 to private equity-backed portfolio companies. He enjoys being able to leverage his skills in business and science to solve problems and help his clients succeed. Minor is an active leader in the Greater Houston, Texas Alumni Chapter, serving in various capacities including chapter president. He also played an integral role in the establishment of MSU’s Young Alumni Advisory Council, which he chaired from 2018-20. His True Maroon spirit has and continues to help drive alumni engagement, fundraising and student recruitment efforts.

TOP: Robert Barnes Jr and his family celebrating his recognition of being named Alumni of the Year for the College of Arts & Sciences. MIDDLE: (L-R) Patrick White, Sherri Carr Bevis and Dylan McDonald. BOTTOM: Lisa Sharp Newcomb with family posing for a photo at the Alumni Awards banquet. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



CRESCENDO OF SUPPORT Benefits Music Building By Addie Mayfield


hanks to generous gifts from dedicated alumni, Mississippi State University’s Department of Music and its new music building continue to grow in prominence. Once complete, the new building will include dedicated spaces named for influential alumni, educators and supporters of the university, as well as one of the world’s finest high resolution player pianos—a Steinway Model B Spirio | r. Each of these grand additions serve as meaningful investments in the department and will benefit generations of talented students and educators for years to come. The Dr. Jackie Edwards-Henry Piano Studio honors its namesake, a 30-year faculty member and longtime professor of piano and piano pedagogy. Edwards-Henry earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance and pedagogy from William Jewell College and University of Illinois, respectively, and received a doctorate in piano pedagogy from University of Oklahoma. She pursued additional piano study in Bordeaux, France, as the recipient of a Rotary Scholarship. The naming of the Edwards-Henry studio is possible with a gift from E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and his wife Jeannie of Starkville. Godbold is a professor emeritus of history


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at MSU. He earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in history from Duke University, as well as a Master of Divinity in theology from Southern Methodist University. His wife, a fellow educator and alumnus of Wisconsin’s Carthage College, is a retired preschool teacher. The couple’s friendship

THE DR. JACKIE EDWARDSHENRY PIANO STUDIO HONORS ITS NAMESAKE, A 30-YEAR FACULTY MEMBER AND LONGTIME PROFESSOR OF PIANO AND PIANO PEDAGOGY. with Edwards-Henry began two decades ago when they took an adult piano class under her instruction. Through their gift, the Godbolds hope to honor Edwards-Henry’s talent and dedicated service to the university, her students and her profession. The Dr. Clinton H. Graves Jr. Student Piano Practice Room was established by a similar gift from MSU alumni and Mississippi natives Daniel M. “Danny” Thomas Jr. and Leigh Graves Thomas. Danny earned a

bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1984, and Leigh earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture in 1986. Bearing the name of Leigh’s father, the room serves as a memorial to the late MSU professor emeritus and his lifelong love for music and piano. Growing up, Graves participated in piano competitions and continued to play throughout his life. After serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, he graduated from Mississippi State in 1950 and spent his 40-year career teaching and conducting research at his alma mater. Although his profession was in plant pathology, Graves was an avid supporter of the Department of Music and actively promoted the construction of a new music building on campus. Before his death in 2016, Graves established a scholarship for piano students in the Department of Music in memory of his wife, Nancy Kirby Graves, and in honor of his daughter, Leigh. The following year, the Thomases gifted the Graves family’s antique pump organ to the department. A wedding gift given by Graves’ father to his mother in 1915, the organ will be displayed in the new building as another tribute to the Graves family. The third of the recently designated rooms comes through a gift from its namesakes,

TOP: Architectural rendering of the new music building currently under construction. BELOW: Sharing the keyboard of a Steinway grand piano are professors Rosangela Sebba, foreground, and Jackie Edwards-Henry during a performance celebrating the formal beginning of the university's commitment to make the music education department an All-Steinway School.

Frank and Heather Williams of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Frank is a 1987 MSU chemical engineering graduate and third-generation Bulldog. Heather, an alumna of Texas A&M, shares her husband’s love for Mississippi State. The couple’s son John became a fourthgeneration Bulldog alumnus after graduating with a music education degree in 2019. The endowment further extends their family’s legacy at the university. The Dr. Jackie Edwards-Henry Piano Studio, Dr. Clinton H. Graves Jr. Student Piano Practice Room, and Frank G. and Heather H. Williams Student Practice Room are named with gifts for separate excellence endowments benefiting the College of Education’s Department of Music to enhance the facility. In addition to the naming opportunities, the building will also house the department’s newly acquired Steinway Model B Spirio | r. Given by Robert and Kathy Olsen of Nashville, the piano is a significant contribution to the university’s All-Steinway Initiative. When the couple initially made the gift in January, the instrument was the first of its kind in the state of Mississippi. The Steinway Spirio | r provides new

technology to access, share and experience music through live performance capture and playback. With the ability to communicate with other pianos like it anywhere in the world in real time, the instrument will enable MSU students and faculty to remotely engage in valuable opportunities including

THE OLSENS HAVE BEEN GENEROUS SUPPORTERS OF MSU’S ALL-STEINWAY INITIATIVE SINCE 2017, HOLDING AN EVENT AT THEIR NASHVILLE HOME FEATURING STEINWAY ARTIST AND MSU PROFESSOR ROSEANGELA SEBBA. participating in master class sessions and witnessing concert artists’ performances. The Olsens have been generous supporters of MSU’s All-Steinway Initiative since 2017, holding an event at their Nashville home featuring Steinway Artist and MSU professor Roseangela Sebba and gifting a Steinway

Concert Grand D to the department in 2019. Kathy is a 1973 graduate of the MSU Department of Music. Their most recent gift puts MSU on the front edge of technology within institutions of higher learning. With construction underway, the new 37,000-square-foot music building is slated for completion this fall. The facility has been a longtime university goal and will allow the music department and choral program to be housed in one location, enabling the band program to maximize its existing building and collective growth among the individual programs. Additional opportunities exist within the new music building to name select features, including classrooms, offices, studios and performance halls, among other areas with endowment-level gifts. Such contributions provide adaptive support for the building’s furniture, fixtures and equipment, as well as future maintenance and upkeep. For more information on naming opportunities, endowments and other ways to support MSU’s Department of Music, contact Trish Cunetto, director of development for the College of Education, at 662.325.6762 or n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Industry leaders build support for MSU’s post-DVM poultry training program By Ashleigh Lee

to join them as we seek to expand our Dr. Danny Magee has a vision for program,” Magee said. the post-DVM poultry training program The program exposes the students to at Mississippi State’s Poultry Research real-life experiences in poultry production and Diagnostic Laboratory in Pearl. In medicine through field trips, externships its current model, the MSU College of and hands-on laboratory activities in Veterinary Medicine two-year program has addition to conventional classes. The one junior and one senior resident, but program’s supporters can be involved in Magee and the lab’s three other poultry resident education by participating in veterinarians, Drs. Natalie Armour, developing graduateAlejandro Banda “I think it could be level projects and and Martha Pulido, envision adding easier to recruit students allowing the residents to interact within their two more residents if they knew they would organizations. Students for a total of four have a cohort as they are now able to create in the program at a network with future any one time. This advanced through the clients, colleagues and program focuses on program. We have the employers. poultry production, facilities and personnel As one of the eight health, medicine and post-DVM training diagnostic testing as to accommodate four programs approved by opposed to researchresidents at any one the American College oriented programs. time, but funding has of Poultry Veterinarians, The residents are also successful completion of enrolled in the MSU been a problem.” the program allows the Graduate School and ~ Dr. Danny Magee student to take the board earn a non-thesis exam offered by the ACPV. Otherwise, a master’s degree. veterinarian must have five years of on-the“I think it could be easier to recruit job experience before becoming eligible. students if they knew they would have The MSU PRDL poultry veterinarians a cohort as they advanced through the have already seen the positive effects on program,” Magee said. “We have the the nation’s poultry industry. With existing facilities and personnel to accommodate programs and the implementation of these four residents at any one time, but new ones, MSU is gaining international funding has been a problem.” visibility, especially in Latin American Now, thanks to gifts from three countries, that will continue to grow. And companies, Elanco Animal Health, Merck by continuing to expand, the results will be Animal Health and BioChek, the program beneficial for all involved. is on its way to accomplishing that goal. “Our graduates are recognized as Since the students in the program are top quality job candidates and have also benefits-eligible employees of the received multiple financially rewarding university, the salaries are a big expense for employment opportunities,” Magee said. the program. These gifts provide most of “Our graduates will play a large role in the the funding for the current two positions. growth and development of the poultry “We are grateful to these three industry of tomorrow.” n financial supporters and encourage others


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TOP: Drs. Alajandro Banda, Martha Pulido, Rachel Thiemann, master's student and resident, Danny Magee and Natalie Armour at the College of Veterinary Medicine Poultry Research and Diagnostic Lab. Thiemann is currently the only master's student and resident in the post-DVM poultry training program. MIDDLE: Dr. Alajandro Banda works with a research chick at the College of Veterinary Medicine Poultry Research and Diagnostic Lab. BOTTOM: Dr. Rachel Thiemann, master's student and resident, goes over her research with the faculty at the lab in Pearl. (Photos by Ashleigh Lee)

Affinity Programs Offer Additional Ways for Bulldog Alumni and Friends to Support MSU Exciting news! The MSU Alumni Association has entered a partnership with Commerce Bank® to offer alumni and supporters the official MSU Visa Signature® Card. “Our Bulldog Family always asks how they can support MSU, and this program is another great opportunity to do so,” said Jeff Davis, MSU Alumni Association executive director. “We are especially excited about the MSU Visa Signature® Card program, as alumni and friends can loyally participate in the program and support MSU at no cost to them.” The partnership with Commerce Bank enables the Alumni Association to specifically offer the MSU Visa Signature® Card to the Bulldog family. It will give cardholders the opportunity to show their pride by carrying the MSU-branded card, while supporting MSU, benefiting the Alumni Association and earning Cash Back1 rewards with each purchase. For more information on the MSU Visa Signature® Card, visit

1. A Cash Back redemption is applied as a statement credit. The statement credit will reduce your balance, but you are still required to make at least your minimum payment. Values for non-cash back redemption items, such as merchandise, gift cards and travel may vary. See for full details.

IMPACT by Ironwood Program The MSU Alumni Association and the Bulldog Club recently partnered with Ironwood to offer the MSU IMPACT program that can benefit Bulldogs and friends who own their own businesses.

Whether a retail store front, e-commerce business, wholesaler, or a regional or community bank, the IMPACT by Ironwood program can be of benefit. Ironwood is known as an industry leader in merchant solutions. The way IMPACT works is simple. Every time a participating business accepts a credit or debit card payment, IMPACT gives a portion of its processing revenue to support MSU. By simply running a debit or credit card payment through IMPACT, alumni and friends are supporting MSU without costs to the business. For more information on the MSU IMPACT by Ironwood program visit Ironwood is a registered ISO/MSP with Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Cincinnati, OH, Merrick Bank, South Jordan, UT, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Concord, CA. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




Black History Month Every February, people across the nation come together to celebrate Black History Month. First established in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month serves as a meaningful time for communities to honor and reflect on the history, challenges, successes and contributions of African Americans. In observance of the occasion, Mississippi State University presented a variety of free events on the Starkville campus throughout the month of February. Units across MSU joined efforts by hosting and sponsoring events including social media campaigns and challenges, panel discussions, keynote speakers, a virtual Black business exposition, educational exhibits and several interactive experiences. Students were also encouraged to engage in community service though a 28-

day service challenge, hosted by the African American Studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences. The collective monthlong programming highlighted African American history and culture and helped advance the university’s spirit of diversity. As the campus community came together to honor Black History Month

“WE NEED TO BE ALL-IN TO SUPPORT THE NEXT GENERATION." ~ ROBERT BARNES through the various events, members of the MSU Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Advisory Council were also working to grow support for such efforts through the 2021 Black History Month fundraising promotion. As a result, more than $13,500 was raised in support for the four key areas chosen by the BAAC—the Black Alumni Advisory Council Scholarship, Holmes Cultural Diversity

Center Emergency Fund, Bully’s Closet and Pantry, and the African American Studies program—all of which serve to positively impact diversity and inclusion across campus. “This fundraiser was a powerful opportunity for alumni and friends to come together to celebrate the achievements of our Black students and alumni, while investing in the future of our university family,” said Robert Barnes, a 1972 Bulldog alumnus of Byram and current BAAC chair. “We need to be all-in to support the next generation. The participation throughout this event was an encouraging reminder of the positive difference we can create now, as well as the limitless potential we have to grow our impact for years to come.” The MSU BAAC stands as a representative body comprised of African American graduates, former students and friends of the university. Driven to provide leadership, advocacy and support to serve MSU African American alumni and friends, the organization works with the MSU Alumni Association to promote scholarship excellence, career success and diversity throughout the campus community and greater Bulldog family. n

Foundation welcomes Angle, Smith The Mississippi State University Foundation welcomed two new development team members—David Angle and Jordan Smith. Angle joined the MSU Foundation as director of development for the College of Architecture, Art and Design. The Tallassee, Alabama, native graduated from Auburn University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration and began his career with the Boy Scouts of America, which he served for more than 30 years in progressive leadership positions. Most recently, he was chief operating officer and assistant scout executive for the Indian Waters Council in Irmo, South Carolina. In leading the major gifts program for the college, Angle’s fundraising duties also will extend to its research centers, including the Fred


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Carl Jr. Small Town Center and Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. Also new to the development team is Jordan Smith of Saltillo, who has assumed duties as assistant director of development for the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. Smith graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2019. As a student, he interned with MSU athletics in communication broadcasting and with Mississippi State football recruiting. He also served as a broadcaster for Starkville High School football. Prior to joining the Foundation, Smith worked as a recruiter for Itawamba Community College. A complete list of MSU fundraisers and their contact information is available at www. n



SUPPORT ALUMNI-OWNED BUSINESSES. The MSU Alumni Association is highlighting MSU alumni-owned businesses that could benefit from online and local support. Check our business directory before you shop for goods and services! Our list is growing! Add your business to the list and sign up as a savings partner on our mobile app, and we’ll send you a sticker to display on your door or company website.

Support your Bulldogs today!

318 Howard St • Greenwood, MS 662.453.2114 •






n his 87 years, Ernest D. Moore has made more than a few fond memories. But among those that made the biggest difference in his life is the day he learned about college and what it took to get there. Moore was around 5 years old at the time, not quite old enough to be enrolled in primary school, but he fondly recalls the sunny fall day at his childhood home in Kilmichael like it was yesterday. “I was sitting on the porch watching carloads of happy people heading east. By the end of the day, the same cars passed by, but I noticed some of the people didn’t look as happy as before,” Moore recalled. “I didn’t understand what had changed.” Seeing Moore’s confusion, a family friend and member of the local Rotary Club explained to him that the people in the cars had traveled to a football game at the nearby college and some were happy their team had won, while others were upset their team had lost. That answered one question but brought another to light. “I had no idea what the word college meant,” Moore said. “But when Mr. Castleman told me it was a place where people could get a higher education, I knew I wanted to go to college.” Castleman’s final piece of advice to Moore was simple—work hard, study hard and save as much as you can because that’s what it will take to get into college. More than a suggestion, Moore took those works to heart. “What he said to me changed my life,” Moore said. “You’ve got to have a dream for one to come true and he not only gave me a dream but also told me how to achieve it.” Moore’s family later moved to Grenada, where he attended school. He was a dedicated student who excelled in his studies and a hardworking entrepreneur who took on various jobs to grow his savings. With the help of Castleman, Moore also became connected with local Rotary Club members. The Rotarians were impressed with Moore’s work ethic and honored him as the first Rotary Boy, a title which would later become the nationally recognized Rotary Student of the Month. Although Moore was grateful for the distinction, he was reluctant to accept after learning he would be invited to Jackson to speak and have lunch with a larger group of Rotarians from across the state.


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Ernest Moore and Linda K. Smith

“What he said to me changed my life. You’ve got to have a dream for one to come true and he not only gave me a dream but also told me how to achieve it.” ~ Ernest D. Moore “I didn’t have any nice clothes and was too embarrassed to be presented as the first Rotary Boy if I couldn’t dress the part,” Moore recalled. Much to his surprise, the wife of one of the Rotarians quickly provided a solution. “Mrs. Noble picked me up the next day and took me shopping for the nicest clothes you could buy.” Moore’s hard work and valuable networking paid off when he graduated from high school and learned that, in addition to being accepted at what was then Mississippi State College, he had also earned a scholarship to assist with his expenses. He said the extra support “was like manna from heaven” because it helped him afford food and other necessities while on campus. Moore said he recognizes the profound influence Castleman and the other Rotary

By Addie Mayfield

Club members had on his education and professional development, and believes they changed the trajectory of his life for the better. As a longtime Rotarian himself, Moore is following in the footsteps of his early mentors by paying it forward. In particular, he’s investing in the success of students to whom he can relate and inspiring them to experience things they never imagined. “God was working in the background of my life through the people I met, like Mr. Castleman and Mrs. Noble, to make sure I did something good with the brain he gave me," Moore said. "They were so instrumental in my life, and I thank God every day for them. Now I want to help kids who are in need like I was.” Through his recent commitments, Moore is enriching the MSU experience for Bulldog students through generous gifts that touch several areas across campus. In addition to creating the Ernie’s Kids Food Fund and the Ernest Moore Distance Education Endowed Scholarship, he also honored former MSU faculty member Linda Karen Smith by establishing an endowed scholarship in her name. As a tribute to his late sister’s love for piano he also contributed to MSU’s Steinway Piano Fund. The Ernie’s Kids Food Fund will supplement MSU’s block meals program for students in extreme financial need—a particularly meaningful project as he experienced food insecurity as a student. The Ernest Moore Distance Education Endowed Scholarship was inspired by his years living in Florida where he served as assistant city manager for Fort Lauderdale. “My body was in Florida but my heart was always at Mississippi State,” Moore said. “I decided a scholarship for distance education would be a good way to help people who were not able to physically be on campus but still wanted to be a part of the Bulldog family.” Preference for the scholarship will be given to graduates of Moore’s alma mater Grenada High School and to students with financial need. Additionally, the Linda Karen Smith Voice Endowed Scholarship will benefit students majoring in voice in MSU’s Department of Music, while the gift toward the Steinway Piano Fund will support the university’s All-Steinway Initiative.

A two-time graduate of the land-grant institution, Moore received a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering in 1956 and a master’s in business in 1963. At MSU, he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He earned a fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree at Indiana University. There, he met Linda Karen Smith, a fellow Mississippi native who earned a Master of Music Education from Indiana University in 1964. Moore and Smith are longtime friends whose lives have been shaped by MSU. Smith introduced Moore to opera music, which he grew to love and appreciate. His investments in music education at MSU serve as a way to honor Smith for exposing him to things he never before had the opportunity to hear and enjoy.

Moore and Smith are longtime friends whose lives have been shaped by MSU. Smith introduced Moore to opera music, which he grew to love and appreciate. Moore recently moved back to Starkville. He credits his recent gifts to MSU for inspiring his return. Knowing first-hand the value of an education and the relationships that develop along the way, Moore is looking forward to getting more involved with the university and finding ways to assist more students. Moore said he has benefited greatly from the relationships he’s built and the mentors that guided and supported him along the way. While they may not have known the influence they had on his life at the time, they can be confident that he has embodied everything they instilled in him and is now passing it on to another generation of young people who are trying to make their way in life. “I’m going to live to be at least 100, and I plan to spend my last years giving as much as I can to help others,” Moore said. n

Herbst remembered



hey legacy of Alex Ryan Herbst, a recent MSU graduate, is being remembered at his alma mater through a memorial tree on campus, as well as a scholarship that will benefit students who share his love for meteorology. Herbst was a graduate of the Department of Geosciences who passed away in September 2019. Herbst was born March 16, 1993 in Princeton, New Jersey, to Jan and the late Joseph Herbst. His love of science is credited to Eagle River Day Camp, a place where he spent his childhood acquiring skills as an outdoorsman. He eventually worked with the camp as a young man. Herbst had a desire to become a meteorologist. Thanks to the support of his family and friends he decided to pursue his childhood dream. After graduating from Plymouth State College in 2015, Herbst attended Mississippi State to earn a master’s degree in geosciences. While at MSU, he served as president of the local East Mississippi chapter of the National Weather Association and American Meteorological Society. He graduated from MSU in 2018 and was living his dream, working for KGBT CBS Valley 4 in Harlingen, Texas, as a weekend meteorologist and weekday reporter. In effort to pay tribute to Herbst’s life in a way that would have been meaningful to him and the legacy he left behind, his mother Jan and brother, Matthew Herbst, established the Alex Herbst Memorial Scholarship in the Department of Geosciences. The family hopes to grow contributions to the annual award over time in order to eventually establish an endowed scholarship that will exist in perpetuity. “Alex inspired everyone he came across and was one of the most humble and genuine people,” Matthew said. “He

shared his love and passion of weather with the world. This scholarship goes to students who show similar academic and organization morals, as well as passion for weather.” Candidates for the award will be juniors, seniors or graduate students majoring in geosciences with a concentration in broadcast meteorology and with a minimum earned GPA of 3.0. Recipients of the award must also be members of the National Weather Association or the American Meteorological Society and preference will be given to out-of-state students. Furthering Herbst’s legacy at MSU, the Meteorologist Alex Herbst Tree of Life Fund was also established with gifts from family and friends to support the planting and ongoing maintenance of a tree in Herbst’s memory. The tree was planted this spring in front of Hilbun Hall, home to MSU’s geoscience department and is accompanied by a plaque bearing Herbst’s name. It is part of the university’s campus beautification project, which seeks to keep the MSU campus beautiful while also providing unique ways for donors to honor or memorialize loved ones. Through the generosity of the Herbst family, as well as friends and colleagues of Alex Herbst, generations of Bulldog students and aspiring meteorologists will know the impact Herbst made on the university, his profession and the lives of all who were fortunate enough to have known him. For more information about contributing to the Alex Herbst Memorial Scholarship, contact Mary Beth Baldwin at 662.325.6770 or mbaldwin@foundation. n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Embark on an

ADVENTURE with the

MSU Alumni Association

Now booking trips for 2022 * Antarctica Austraila Austria Belgium Budapest Canada Costa Rica Egypt England France Germany Hungary Italy New Zealand The Netherlands Norway Panama Poland Portugal Spain Singapore Slovakia South Africa Switzerland Thailand ... and more! For a full list of trips and locations visit *All trips and dates subject to change. Visit our website for the most current information.

The MSU Alumni Association annually sponsors trips across the globe through the Traveling Bulldogs program. Itineraries are booked through 2022. Explore our website for more information at or contact the Alumni Association at 662.325.7000.


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Lynn Phillips-Gaines (B.A. communication, ’78) was ranked in the 2021 Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors list, her sixth consecutive year on the list. She is a certified financial planner and registered principal at Phillips Financial in Starkville.


David Pittman (B.S., M.S. civil engineering, ’83, ’88) was chosen for the 2021 Director of the Year award by the Federal Laboratory Consortium. He is director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg. Director of ERDC since 2017, he previously received the Director of the Year honor in 2011 while serving as director of the center’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory. John W. Hester Jr. (BBA, ’85) was named office director for the Office of Prevention and Therapeutic Services of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Jon Carr (BBA, ’88; MBA, ’90; Ph.D., ’01) was elected to the leadership track of the Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management, a professional association for management and organizational scholars. He is the Jenkins Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and head of the Department of Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship at North Carolina State University.


As director of the National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Kenneth Graham (M.S. geoscience, ’94) was announced in May as a finalist for the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. His nomination falls into the safety, security and international affairs category and recognizes his impressive coordination of the national response to the most active hurricane season on record, which also hit during a global pandemic.


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Camille Young (B.A. communication, ’94; M.S. agricultural and Extension education, ’96) was named to the Cal-Maine Foods Inc. board of directors as an independent director and part of the audit, compensation, nomination and long-term incentive plan committees. She is principal and director of Cornerstone Government Affairs, a bipartisan consulting firm, and serves as the organization’s co-chair of the diversity and inclusion working group. She previously worked as a government affairs representative with Watkins Ludlam Winter and Stennis, P.A., and for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Brian W. Meredith (M.S. leadership, ’96) has returned to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, to serve as associate dean of the Graduate School at the University of Memphis. He previously spent eight years at Western Kentucky University as the associate vice president for enrollment management. Matt Wyatt (B.S. sports communication, ‘99) was named the 2020 Mississippi Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. A former Mississippi State quarterback who led the Bulldogs to the SEC championship game during the 1998-99 season, he is currently host of “the Matt Wyatt Show” for ESPN's The Zone.


Rhoshunda Kelly (BBA, ’01) was appointed Mississippi’s Commissioner of Banking and Consumer Finance by Gov. Tate Reeves. She succeeds former commissioner Charlotte Corley, a fellow MSU alumna, in leading the department that “touches every pocket of the state.” Kelly started her career with the state’s Department of Banking and Consumer Finance as a bank examiner soon after her MSU graduation. Aimee Kilpatrick (B.S. international business, ’03) was named chief operating officer of BXS Insurance Inc., a subsidiary of BancorpSouth. In this position she leads BSXI’s marketing and communications teams; resources, recruitment and retention team; international education and talent development programs; and will works closely with the organization’s regional operational leaders.

Know a Bulldog who has news or a recent promotion? Send an email to

Lt. Col Jeremy R. Parker (B.S. civil engineering, ’03) was appointed commander of the Mississippi National Guard COVID-19 Task Force by Gov. Tate Reeves. Parker is responsible for approximately 1,200 Mississippi National Guard service members supporting this operation by serving on the Governor’s Task Force Team. Brook Balducci (BAAC, ’04; MTX, ’05) was named to the Memphis Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list for 2020. She is the managing director for the Memphis tax services practice for CBIZ MHM. She is on the board of directors for the Mid-South Food Bank. Part of the board since 2015, she is currently treasurer. Jessica Campbell Hart (BBA, ’08) was promoted to vice president of the Bank of Holly Springs. She serves as the chief compliance officer and holds the designation of Certified Community Bank Compliance Officer. She has been with the bank since high school and has served in various capacities.


Don McCartney (BBA,’12; MBA, ’14) has been hired as a commercial lender for Providence Bank in Alpharetta, Georgia. He served in various commercial analysis and lending roles prior to joining the bank. U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Rachel West (B.S. chemistry, ’17) was selected and commissioned into the U.S. Space Force Feb. 1 while stationed in Qatar. She was commissioned into the Air Force through the ROTC program at Mississippi State.


Donielle Allen (B.S. microbiology, ‘20) was named a finalist for a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. This is her second time being named a finalist, having also earned the honor in 2020. A former MSU Presidential

Scholar in the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College, Allen was named the university’s first Boren Scholar in 2018, which helped enable her to study abroad in China. Scott Burchett (B.S. meteorology, ’20) was named chief meteorologist at WNKY-TV in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He previously served as weekend meteorologist and a multimedia journalist.

Two Bulldog alumni receive promotions with the Taylor Group of Companies CEO Lex Taylor (B.S. general business administration, ’77) and the board of directors of the Taylor Group of Companies, announced in January the appointment of Brittney Luke (B.S. accounting, ’03; MBA, ’08) as chief financial officer of the Taylor Group of Companies, which is headquartered in Louisville. Luke previously served as manager of the Accounting Division II for 17 years and, in 2016, was one of the Top 50 Under 40 Business Women as selected by the Mississippi Business Journal. In April, Zach Taylor (BBA, ’17) was named general manager for both Taylor Power Systems and Taylor Metal Fabrication. He will be based in Clinton and follows the 94-year legacy of the Taylor family business as part of the fourth generation of the family to move into senior management within the organization. He previously served as operations supervisor for Taylor Power Systems.

Birth Announcements

Emma Reed Mercer was born Nov. 23, 2020 to John and Robin Rae Burns Mercer (’06) of Madison.

Theodore George Nicholson was born April 19, 2021 to Dr. Austin Chandler Nicholson (’07) and Dr. Julie Tierney Nicholson of Seattle, Washington.

Ruth Allen Poindexter was born April 1, 2019 to William G. Poindexter IV (’10, ’14) and Bailey Owens Poindexter (’09, ’15) of Starkville.



Forever MAROON

Remembering Arthur “Art” Davis Arthur “Art” Davis, who scored the first Mississippi State touchdown ever called by Jack Cristil, died Jan. 29. He was 86. A native of Clarksdale, Davis earned a football scholarship to Mississippi State University, where the football stadium now bears his name. Now known as one of the Bulldog all-time greats, he was named the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year in 1954 and a first team All American in 1955, the same year Look Magazine named him college football’s Player of the Year. Davis is in the sports halls of fame of both Mississippi State and the state of Mississippi. In recent years, he was named an SEC Football Legend and inducted into the Mississippi State Football Ring of Honor. The fifth overall NFL draft pick in 1955, Davis played for the Pittsburgh Steelers until injuries abruptly ended his career. He then became a coach, Madalyn Bails (B.S. human development and family studies, ’20) 21, Plantersville – She was a six-year member of the Girl Scouts of America, receiving the President’s Honor for Volunteer Service and the Girl Scout Merit Award. She was the youngest member in the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary and participated in numerous charities including the St. Jude Bike-A-Thon. A graduate of Shannon High School, she was active in Beta Club and the Shannon High School band. Thanks to dual enrollment credits, she entered Mississippi State with a full year of college completed. A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, she was passionate about working with children and worked at Mississippi State’s Child Development and Family Studies Center. She completed her degree from MSU in the fall of 2020 and had enrolled in graduate school at Tulane University with plans to become a doctor. – Jan. 11, 2021 Dael Baughman (B.S. mechanical engineering, ’59) 83, Kilgore, Texas – A member of numerous honor societies while at State, he moved to Texas following his graduation to work for Texas Eastman, a division of Eastman-Kodak, until his retirement 40 years later. During that time, he progressed through various positions in the engineering department, plastics lab and environmental affairs, which he served as manager for the 10 years prior to his retirement. He was also a cattle rancher. He was a member of the United Church of God where he was an Elder and ordained minister. – Dec. 12, 2020 William Jay “Bill” Bryson (B.S. architecture, ’08) 43, Tupelo – A prolific musician, he played


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first for Biloxi High School then Louisiana State University and Georgia Tech. He ended his coaching career in 1963 as defensive backs coach for the national champion Texas Longhorns. Davis, who holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and social studies from MSU in 1956, returned to Mississippi to work for the Mississippi School Supply Company in Cleveland before returning to MSU to serve as the MSU Foundation director of development for 13 years. He then worked in public relations for United Southern Bank and First National Bank of Clarksdale and as a volunteer coach at Lee Academy until his retirement in 2001. Although Davis and his wife moved to Oregon upon retirement to be closer to their son’s family, he returned to Mississippi in 2020. As he told Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland, “There’s no place like Mississippi” and now he’s been laid to rest on “home turf.”

guitar and piano, among other instruments, and enjoyed playing music with his friends. He was a master draftsman in his career and privately a very talented artist. – March 21, 2021 Nell Crowe Dean (B.S. undeclared, ’64; retired staff ) 77, Starkville – During her 34-year career with Mississippi State, she held positions in the College of Education, Office of the Academic Vice President and the Office of the President. She will be remembered for her meticulous attention to detail and dedication to her work. She was active in the Starkville Business and Professional Women’s Club where she served on many committees, as well as being vice president and president. She was involved with the Starkville Community Theater, which she served for a term as treasurer. – Jan. 26, 2021 Sidney Hugh Easley (B.S. accounting, ’69; M.S. public policy and administration, ’03) 73, Brandon – A member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1984-1987, he was a graduate of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State and was named a Certified Grants Specialist by the National Grant Writers Association in 2002. He was a retired vice president of Mississippi Home Corporation, working in the development of low-income housing. He also played guitar and banjo as an amateur country musician. He had been a Mason and was a member of the Knights of Columbus. – July 23, 2020 Jimmy Blaine Fisher (B.S. social studies education, ’63) 79, Corinth – Following his graduation from Mississippi State, he completed a degree from the University of Mississippi School

of Law and began practicing law in Corinth. An active member of the community, he was a 50-year member of the Kiwanis Club, serving a term as president. He was also on the board of several charitable organizations and an active member of Habitat for Humanity for many years. He was a scout master of Boy Scout Troop 129 and earned the Silver Beaver Award. Fisher also served on the Corinth School Board and was serving as a youth court judge for Alcorn County. The Corinth Junior Auxiliary recognized him as the 2015 Outstanding Citizen of the Year. – Jan. 2, 2021 Edward Glennan Grady Jr. (B.S. petroleum geology, ’57; B.S. forestry, ’61) 85, Corinth – A native of Laurel, he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity and an active reservist with the U. S. Army. Following a brief career in the southeast Louisiana oilfields, he returned to MSU to complete an education in forestry and was selected as the outstanding graduate in the School of Forest Resources. He then spent many years with Tennessee River Pulp & Paper Co. and later as principal developer of Chips, Inc., a wood processing plant in Glen. – Jan. 10, 2021 Zack Melvin Jenkins (B.S. accounting, ’61) 81, Summer – He was a member of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity while at Mississippi State and a veteran of the U.S. Army. A former Tallahatchie County Tax assessor-collector, he was a past president of the Mississippi Tax Assessors Association. He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Sumner where he taught Sunday school and served as a deacon for more than 50 years. – Dec. 7, 2020

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Hershel Fulton Johnson (B.S. dairy production, ’58) 84, Canton – A native of Noxapater and 4-H Club leader, Johnson was part of the MSU Dairy Club and Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Team. He began his career with the Farmers’ Home Administration in Noxubee County. He went on to serve in the Attala, Hancock and Itawamba officers where he helped individual farmers, low-income families and seniors in rural areas get financial assistance. He was later promoted to the district level and ultimately the state office in Jackson where he led both the Rural Business and Utility Service Program divisions. He also completed dairy and agronomy research at the MSU-affiliated Black Belt Experiment Station in Brooksville. While there he received the Master Dairyman Award. A military veteran, he was also active in the Lions Club and served as a Meals on Wheels volunteer. – Jan. 27, 2021 Thomas H. “Tom” Loftin (B.S. agriculture, ’53; M.S., Ph.D. agricultural Extension, ’75) 88, Starkville – He completed an associates degree at Hinds Community College before transferring to Mississippi State to complete his education. He began a teaching career at Myric High School in Jones County before joining the MSU Extension Service first as assistant county agent and then associate county agent in Poplarville. He worked with the 4-H program before transitioning into working with farmers. He later joined Extension's Community Rural Development department at MSU and retired as state leader for the Department of Community Development in 1986. Following his retirement, he served as a consultant for 10 years. He was secretary of the state Agriculture Economics Association, state vice president and later state president of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and director and life member of the board of the District 5 Mississippi Retired

Public Employees organization. Loftin served his community as a Boy Scout leader, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Poplarville Rotary Club, a volunteer fireman, Worthy Patron of the Eastern Star, Master of the Masonic Lodge, and a Shriner. – March 11, 2021 Joyce “Joy” Hyder O’Keefe (retired staff ) 84, Paducah, Kentucky – She worked for the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service for more than 35 years. During that time, she earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi. Following her retirement, she took up quilting, joining clubs in Mississippi and Kentucky. She was also heavily involved in genealogical research and enjoyed traveling. – Jan. 24, 2021 Cathy Dianne Dewberry Oswalt (retired staff ) 69, Starkville – Oswalt served Mississippi State for 25 years in the George Hall office of University Relations, now known as the Office of Public Affairs. Known for her sunny and helpful demeanor, her world revolved around her children and grandchildren. She was a member of the First Baptist Church in Mathiston. – Jan. 17, 2021 Elaine S. Parrish (M.S. technology, ’75; Ph.D instructional systems workforce development, ’11) 66, Columbus – Prior to becoming a Bulldog, Parrish attended the University of North Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree from the Mississippi University for Women, where she later worked for three years. After earning a doctorate from MSU, she became a professor at St. Leo University. – Feb. 28, 2021 R.L. Qualls (B.S., M.S, Ph.D. agricultural economics, ’54, ’58, ’62) 91, Little Rock, Arkansas – In addition to his Mississippi State University education, Qualls earned a doctoral degree in economics from Louisiana State University and completed a Postdoctoral

Fellowship at the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University. Recognized as Mississippi State’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year, Qualls served in numerous leadership positions throughout his career. He was president and chairman of the board for the University of the Ozarks; director of the Department of Finance and Administration and cabinet secretary in former Gov. Bill Clinton’s administration; executive vice president of Worthen Banking Corporation; president and CEO of Baldor Electric Company; lead independent director for Bank of the Ozarks; and co-chairman of the Taylor Companies, an investment banking and mergers acquisitions firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. He also directed Executive in Residence programs at University of the Ozarks, St. Gregory’s University and the University of North Alabama. Qualls served his community as president of both the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club in Clarksville, Arkansas; chairman of the Arkansas Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and trustee at Oklahoma City University, University of the Ozarks and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences board. He was also a 32nd degree Mason of Burnsville. A member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and lifelong Bulldog, Qualls was dedicated to Mississippi State. He served as chairman of the development committee of the Foundation board of directors and was part of the Executive Advisory Board of the College of Business where he helped establish the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach. – Feb. 15, 2021

Longtime administrator remembered for transformative service Bill R. Foster, who served as associate vice president for Student Affairs during his 39-year career at Mississippi State, died April 11. He was 88. A native of Tremont, Foster began his MSU tenure in 1960 as coordinator of student activities and then director of housing. He was also the first director of the Student Union, which opened in 1966, and was instrumental in the start of the College of Education’s master’s degree in student affairs. In 1972, Foster was promoted to dean of student services and, at the time of his retirement, held the title of associate vice president. During his career, Foster helped grow the university from an enrollment of approximately 2,800

to a well-respected institution with an enrollment of 18,000 at the time of his retirement. He is one of four former Bulldog leaders to make up the inaugural class of MSU’s Robert L. Jones Student Affairs Hall of Honor, which pays tribute to the groundbreaking work and strong leadership on which the division is built. In 2008, the 9,200-square-foot assembly area in the Colvard Student Union was dedicated in his honor, becoming the Bill R. Foster Ballroom. A two-time MSU alumnus, Foster earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics and science education from Mississippi State. He also held a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the University of Alabama. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


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Back STORY WITH REUBEN MOORE My first trip to MSU was to a 4-H event on campus, the first of many over the years. During those trips, I was introduced to professors like Dr. Joe Bearden and Gerald Taylor who worked to recruit me to dairy science. By my senior year in high school, I was convinced that there was nowhere else for me to attend college. My parents could not afford tuition and I did not want to borrow money, so I came about a month before the semester started and worked at the MSU dairy. Working 10 to 12 hours a day, I made enough money to cover my first semester’s tuition with the help of a few scholarships. The MSU dairy was located across old Highway 82, where the research park is now. The area that now houses most of MSU’s athletic complexes was cow pastures. One of my jobs was to move the cows from those pastures to the milking barn through a culvert under the highway. We started milking at 4:30 a.m. to finish in time for our 8 a.m. classes. At the start of my sophomore year, I was offered a job at an animal nutrition lab in Montgomery Hall working for Dr. John Lusk. I worked in that lab until I graduated. I did not make as much money working for Dr. Lusk so I had to supplement that job with others. I worked on Saturdays at a service station in Philadelphia. At night I worked in the basement of the A&M Creamery running butterfat samples. Following my graduation, I enrolled at the University of Tennessee to work under Starkville-native Dr. Monty Montgomery. It was a great experience, but I could never like UT as much as MSU. Football games were not the same without cowbells. After receiving a master’s in animal nutrition, I accepted a job in Jackson, Tennessee, working at a UT branch experiment station. I was there for less than 12 months when I got a job offer at an MSU branch experiment station in Verona, which also gave me the opportunity to work on a doctorate. The experiment station work gave me good experience I could use for my career with Mississippi State University. Before completing my research project for my dissertation, I learned my brother

needed help. He had returned to our family’s dairy after graduating from MSU and was purchasing it from our father but had recently been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He asked if I wanted to come take over the dairy farm. I realized he needed help and his wife needed help caring for him. It was also an opportunity for my children to enjoy the farm life, so I decided to leave MSU and move back to the dairy. He lived only two more years, but I decided to stay at the farm. I was able to complete my doctorate by changing my research project. In 1988, I earned a position in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science as an Extension research professor. I was able to work with the university that I love and serve an industry that needed educational programs that we could provide. In 1998, I accepted a position as head of MSU’s North Mississippi Research and Extension Center. I was responsible for four branch experiment stations in Northeast Mississippi. The great faculty and staff supported me beyond belief, and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my career in administration. I have truly been blessed to be able to work at MSU for 38 years. There have been very few days in my career that I didn’t look forward to going to work. I was doing things that I enjoyed and getting paid for it. Since my recent retirement, I realize more than ever that I have worked for a great university, I have worked with some outstanding people and I have enjoyed it immensely. What a career! A native of Neshoba County, Reuben Moore earned a bachelor’s in dairy science and a doctorate in animal physiology from MSU, in 1969 and 1986 respectively. He also holds a master’s in animal nutrition from the University of Tennessee. From humble beginnings working at the MSU dairy, he developed an extensive career in university administration that has included administrative positions with the MSU Extension Service, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. He is married to fellow Mississippi State graduate Fay (Pilgrim) Moore, who graduated in 1969 with a bachelor’s in elementary education. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Back STORY RESPONSES Spring 2021 BARBARA PUTNAM MONTS (B.S. MUSIC EDUCATION, ’70) I was driving back to campus from church when I first saw the sign. It was large enough to warn people before we drove up Lee Boulevard as we commonly did then. It was a shock and there was much talk about the grammar. I believe it was the brainchild of Mr. Bill Gearheiser, whose actual title I don’t remember, but he was in charge of engineering at the university. Mr. Gearheiser was a wonderful man who was very talented. He was quiet but once you got to know him, he would reveal his razor wit and humor. He was a dedicated ham radio expert. Many people didn’t know that he was responsible for connecting many people with distant relatives by radio in those days when long distance calls were frightfully expensive. He never talked about how much he helped, but I was a beneficiary of his hobby when I lived overseas and he arranged a call between my parents and me. Who knows how many other people he aided. He didn’t blow his own horn. His cheerful smile was a welcome sight to lonely students in the union. He always had a witty comment. It is easy to believe that his humor and expertise were behind this well-loved sign. Thanks for the laugh, Mr. Gearheiser. WADE WINEMAN JR. (B.S. AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS, ’70; MBA, ’73) Perhaps my most prominent recollection about the intersection was the legendary campus policeman who used to direct traffic through that convoluted intersection. I never knew his real name, but he was colorfully known by all students as “Windmill.” This name resulted from the incessant motions that he made with his arms, as he attempted to direct cars safely through the five roads that joined at the intersection. His arms were constantly in motion. He must have had sore muscles in his arms every night. Another memory is the story that was often told when I was at State in the ’60s about students in earlier eras greasing the tracks of the railroad that ran nearby, just south of the intersection. When the train attempted to move up the hill near the intersection, its wheels would slip and spin, and the train would frequently be unable to make it up the


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Officially known as Five-Points Intersection, Mississippi State’s infamous “Malfunction Junction” sparked much frustration, fear and more than a few prayers for safe passage. As seen in this photo, it also inspired a bit of humor. In this image from the University Archives, a sign reading “Don’t never ever enter” implores drivers to heed the one-way direction of one of the intersecting roads. hill. If I remember correctly, the students most often used bars of soap to grease the tracks. ROB HATAWAY (B.S. ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING, ’99) My Malfunction Junction story happened in the fall of 1999. MSU football was 7-0, and they held a midnight pep rally in the Amphitheatre the night before the Thursday night Kentucky game. On our way to the pep rally, we came onto campus on Bully Boulevard, came up to Malfunction Junction, and made a left-hand circle all the way around it and back out Russell Street to park, and we didn’t catch a single red light. It was a thing of beauty. FRED SHAW III (B.S. ANIMAL SCIENCE, ’73) I enjoyed your Spring 2021 edition’s photo of the infamous “Malfunction Junction.” You stopped short, however, of including two important facts about the photo. The sign which read “Don’t Never Ever Enter” was in place on Lee Avenue in the fall of 1969. It remained there only a short time, however, as the English department demanded its removal. KYLEEN KILCLINE (B.S. PHYSICAL EDUCATION, ’07) I received the Spring 2021 issue and came across a photo and story that is very close to me. On the very last page, the story about the sign that mysteriously appeared at five-points junction reading “Don’t Never Ever Enter.” My grandfather and his coffee group buddies were the master minds behind that prank!

I can remember my grandfather telling me and other family members about how they pulled this prank on the university and drivers but of course we never saw photo evidence! My grandfather was Buck Templeton and he actually had several other stories besides this one relating to the university as he lived on campus for several years and served 43 years as the university electrical foreman. He was one of the first ones on the scene when Old Main was burning, lived at a house right outside Davis Wade stadium, was involved in bringing every building on the MSU campus online between 1944 until his retirement in 1985, helped with the temporary lighting on Scott Field for the first night football game, and even had a baby dropped off at his front door while living at campus housing. Seeing this picture made us believe he was reaching out to us and reminding my family of all his memories and stories on campus as he passed away August 2019. BRENT ORR (B.S. AGRICULTURAL AND EXTENSION EDUCATION, ’86) I was an RA in McArthur for the 1984-85 school year. Not sure what time of the year it was, but an elderly couple pulled up to the front steps of the dorm and asked for directions to the place to purchase cheese. Without missing a beat I told them “I’m sorry but you can’t get there from here. You have to go somewhere else and start!” I think we finally got them to Herzer but it was no simple task.

In this undated photo from the University Archives, students file into the university bookstore to pick up class materials. Formerly located in the Colvard Student Union, the MSU bookstore officially relocated in 2006 with the opening of the Cullis Wade Depot, leaving alumni with only their memories of hauling books and supplies from the subterranean shop. Help us learn more about this photo or share your memories of the MSU bookstore by submitting your remembrances to Alumnus magazine. Please include your major(s) and graduation year(s) as some responses may be published in print or online with the next issue. | Alumnus Magazine P.O. Box 5325 Mississippi State, MS 39762 ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU





P.O. Box AA One Hunter Henry Boulevard Mississippi State, MS 39762-5526


Protecting the Bulldog Family When spring 2020 graduates walked across the Humphrey Coliseum stage in late April for in-person commencement ceremonies, it was thanks, in part, to the work of the Longest Student Health Center. As the university’s on-campus healthcare providers, the LSHC doctors, nurses and staff are on the front lines of protecting the Bulldog family.

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