ALUMNUS Spring 2016 - Mississippi State University

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The Conservation Conversation The future of 180 million acres rests in the hands of 20-member cooperative anchored by Mississippi State expertise.

p. 21

I N S I D E Spring 2016

The lion next door p. 4 | Research means business p. 7 | Fencers face off p. 10 | Paws on the pavement p. 15



15 Paws on the pavement

Bulldog leadership shapes the Magnolia State’s transportation infrastructure.

21 Conservation within an ever changing landscape

Mississippi State co-hosts 20-member cooperative dedicated to protecting the future of 180-million acres.

28 Getting offensive in fight against hackers Mississippi State takes proactive stance in fight for digital security.


Graduate students Tony Frances, wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, and Nate Phillips, computer science, spar in a fencing demonstration in Bettersworth Auditorium in Lee Hall. Photo by Beth Wynn

SPRING 2016 | VOL. 93 | NO. 1


Mark E. Keenum, ’83, ’84, ’88






Harriet Laird Susan Lassetter, ’07




Vanessa Beason Amy Cagle Jim Laird Laura Ladner, ’16 Susan Lassetter, ’07 Addie Mayfield Zach Plair Sasha Steinberg, ’14


Eric Abbott, ’07 Tim Myers, ’11 Heather Rowe

PHOTOGRAPHERS Megan Bean Russ Houston, ’85 Beth Wynn


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





02 12 33 50 60 62

Robert Grala, an assistant forestry professor, and Ray Iglay, a research associate at the Forest and Wildlife Research Center, examine a stand of pine trees in the J.W. Starr Memorial Forest in Oktibbeha County. Mississippi State is part of a 20-member cooperative established to protect 180 million acres of land in 12 states. Photo by Russ Houston

Campus News State Snapshot Our People Infinite Impact Class Notes Forever Maroon


Libba Andrews, ’83 662.325.3479 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 Discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, gen​etic information, status as a U.S. veteran and or any other status protected by state or federal law is prohibited in all employment decisions.

Campus NEWS

Bulldog Bytes inspires K-12 Students to pursue computing By Sasha Steinberg | Photo by Megan Bean

Thomas Weaver recognizes the positive impact a knowledgeable mentor can have on a student’s life. Having received encouragement from his father, 1985 computer science alumnus Bill Weaver, to pursue a degree in computer science at Mississippi State, he now looks for ways to inspire the next generation. This past summer, the sophomore shared his knowledge and passion for technology as a co-leader for the university’s Bulldog Bytes Cyber Dawgs Camp. Along with the Bulldog Bytes Digital Divas camp for middle and high school-aged girls, the residential computing camp for middle and high school-aged boys is sponsored by the English and computer science and engineering departments at MSU. Weaver, who was born with a muscle, nerve and joint disorder known as arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, was able to fund his camp involvement through a grant from the Alliance for Access to Computing Careers, which works to help students with disabilities successfully pursue degrees in computing fields. Sarah B. Lee, assistant clinical professor and undergraduate coordinator in the computer science and engineering department, recognized

Summer Learning

Weaver’s passion for encouraging others and requested his assistance for the camp. “I had never worked a camp before, so this was new for me,” Weaver said. “We spent a couple of months preparing for it, and that included having meetings about the curriculum and then actually learning how to program the robots the kids were going to be working with.” Lee said the university was able to offer the camps at no cost to all participating students, thanks, in part, to support from the National Security Agency and its initiative to support cybersecurity camp experiences for K-12 students and teachers. The market for computing professionals is one of the fastest growing in the country, but there aren’t enough graduates to fill the need. To bridge this gap, Lee, a 1989 Mississippi State graduate, said it’s important to spark students’ interest in computing when they’re young to encourage them to pursue and stick with the field. “It is imperative to develop middle and high school initiatives to support computing literacies and encourage interest in the field,” Lee explained. “It is also important that we

study the variables that impact adolescents’ successful pathways to computing majors and professions.” Throughout the Bulldog Bytes Cyber Dawgs program, campers received computerprogramming guidance from Weaver and other CSE undergraduates during handson technical sessions. They also had the opportunity to develop their computational thinking, communication and design skills while experimenting and exploring their own interests. Cyber safety and the ways in which computer crimes are investigated also were addressed. “A lot of the kids were interested in working on the robots, so they were able to do that,” Weaver said. “During their free time, they also could play in the courtyard of Ruby Hall where we were staying.” Grateful for the opportunities he’s had thus far to give back to his major, Weaver said he looks forward to assisting with more summer camps and activities in the future. “Whenever you’re in camps as a kid, you don’t know about all of the planning that takes place behind the scenes, so this was a great learning experience for me,” he said. n

Each summer, Mississippi State University’s Starkville campus comes alive as K-12 students from around the region arrive to participate in one of many programs meant to inspire young minds. Dixie Cartwright, manager of MSU’s Center for Continuing Education, said university-sponsored summer camps offer a number of different activities, but the overarching goal for each is the same. “These camps provide fun, positive learning opportunities for K-12 students and help foster a bond between potential students and MSU,” she said. With topics ranging from engineering or art to bugs or sports, there is a day or residential program to interest any young person. A growing list of the 2016 programs is available through the Center for Continuing Education at



Find available 2016 camps at

“Whenever you’re in camps as a kid, you don’t know about all of the planning that takes place behind the scenes, so this was a great learning experience for me.” ~ Thomas Weaver



Did you know? A group of cats is called a clowder.

Campus NEWS

THE LION NEXT DOOR Vet school helps local sanctuary care for rescued exotics By Susan Lassetter | Photos by Megan Bean If the security-coded gate and 8-foot high perimeter fence didn’t give it away, the deep rumbles and roars echoing through the trees prove something a little different lives on the grounds of Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary. Located off a busy rural road just outside of Caledonia, the rescue organization maintains a low-key existence as it fulfills a very big mission. “We’re not a secret, but when we started this place 30 years ago, we also didn’t want a high profile,” explained Cheryl Craig, a co-founder of Cedarhill. “We wanted to be for the animals, and that’s exactly what we are.” Among the sanctuary’s charges are 11 tigers, three lions, two cougars and four bobcats. Add to that the dogs, horses, exotic birds, more than 200 domestic cats and a potbellied pig or two and the total comes to around 300 creatures that call the 20-acre lot home. “When we hear of an animal that needs to be rescued, we will take it as long as we have a proper enclosure,” Craig explained. The sanctuary doesn’t operate for a profit. It doesn’t allow visitors. And above all, the exotic residents aren’t considered pets. They’re respected as powerful animals that were dealt a cruel hand and now deserve to live their lives in peace, safety and good health. “The animals come to us in really bad shape,” Craig said. “The exotics, especially, are malnourished and have been mistreated. That’s where the Mississippi State vets are a big help.” The Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine established a relationship with the sanctuary in 2014. Since that time, Dr. Jeb Cade, an assistant clinical professor, and students on his clinical rotation have helped ensure the well-being of Cedarhill’s resident “exotics.” While Cade’s experience with exotics typically is limited to what he calls “pocket pets” like birds and lizards, he appreciates the chance to work with the larger animals and give his students zoo-medicine experience. “Zoo medicine is kind of an exclusive field, so it’s great that our students can get this experience close to home,” Cade said. “We help



with routine maintenance of the parrots—nail, beak and wing trimming—plus we advise on diet and habitat.” For the big cats, Cade explained that the vets provide guidance for the long-term health problems facing the elderly animals. They also assist with things like nail trimming, which for a 600-pound jungle cat requires more than just a sharp pair of clippers.

“We have a rule: Don’t stick anything inside the fence that you wouldn’t be willing to leave in there.” ~ Dr. Jeb Cade A full team of both sanctuary personnel and MSU volunteers—including Jessica Tegt, assistant extension professor from the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture department who is licensed to incapacitate the animals with tranquilizer darts—work together to safely transport, quickly evaluate and treat the big cats. The difficulty of the tasks and possible danger of sedation to the aging animals means the vets only work on the exotic cats when necessary. Unfortunately, neglect these animals experience prior to being rescued usually means even their most basic maintenance needs have become a medical necessity. The cats’ claws are one common issue. Having been rescued from tiny enclosures that fail to provide natural ways to trim their claws, the cats often arrive at the sanctuary with badly ingrown nails. This can cause infections and make it difficult for them to walk. Cade said the difference in the animals’ personalities once they’re treated is remarkable. “There was a cougar, Katie, that I had not seen move. She was very reclusive and extremely lame,” Cade recalled. “We sedated her, trimmed the nails and treated the infection. Now when we go over, she will come to the fence to see us. It’s very gratifying.” However, Cade is quick to note that no matter how personable the animals seem, it’s important to remember that they can be deadly.

PAGE 4 - TOP: Zeus is one of three lions at Cedarhill. Before being surrendered, he was part of a roadside attraction and subsisted on a diet of out-of-date meat from local grocery stores. PAGE 4 - BOTTOM: Rico, a talkative yellow-naped Amazon parrot likes to sing opera. PAGE 5 - TOP LEFT: Katie the cougar purrs in recognition of Cade who helped restore her mobility. PAGE 5 - TOP RIGHT: O’Brien holds one of the sanctuary’s more than 200 domestic cats. During this visit, the brave longhair accompanied the vets as they studied his exotic cousins’ enclosures, often rubbing against the chain link, mere inches from deadly claws and fangs. PAGE 5 - BOTTOM: Shazadi, who was rescued from a residence in Texas, laps water inside his solo enclosure. At 18-years-old, he is one of the sanctuary’s oldest exotics. LEARN MORE ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE’S WORK WITH THE CEDARHILL SANCTUARY ONLINE AT ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU.



Campus NEWS “You don’t enter their enclosure without them being incapacitated,” Cade explained. “In fact, we have a rule: Don’t stick anything inside the fence that you wouldn’t be willing to leave in there.” Despite their wild nature and deadly potential, Cade said it is surprisingly easy to purchase large, exotic cats in the United States. It’s so pervasive that the World Wildlife Federation estimates that there are more tigers being kept as pets in the U.S.—approximately 5,000—than there are in the wild.

“It’s my belief that the people who buy these animals love them; they’re just stupid. I can’t put it any other way.” ~ Cheryl Craig “People get these animals because they like what it represents or they get them as cubs because they’re cute, without realizing how hard and expensive they are to care for,” Craig said. “It’s my belief that the people who buy these animals love them; they’re just stupid. I can’t put it any other way.” It’s when the animals’ size and appetites get to be too much, or when some authority intervenes, that these exotic pets come to live with sanctuaries like Cedarhill where each exotic cat has an enclosure of an acre or more to call its own. Craig said it costs Cedarhill approximately $50,000 per month to maintain the sanctuary and care for the animals. It operates with just a few paid staff members and a small team of volunteers, who care for the domestic animals exclusively. Julie O’Brien, a fourth year vet student from Bellingham, Massachusetts, said the trips to help Cedarhill have given her insight into career possibilities. “It seems like Cedarhill does everything in its power to provide the absolute best care to every animal that finds a home there,” O’Brien said. “It’s opened my eyes to other avenues of helping atypical species as a veterinarian. I hope wherever I may end up, I’ll be able to show support to one of these amazing sanctuary facilities like Cedarhill.” n TOP: Joplin the cockatoo plays peekaboo with the camera. Cade said the bird has a love-hate relationship with the vets; he appreciates how their care makes him feel better, but doesn’t enjoy the treatment. CENTER: Sheba the lioness is one of the first exotics encountered upon entering the sanctuary. She enjoys the toys in her enclosure and running along the fence with her canine neighbors—a vast improvement from her original home where she was abused with cattle prods and fire extinguishers. BOTTOM: Maggie, an African gray parrot, was surrendered to Cedarhill after she plucked out her plumage from the stress of being shut in a room with only a TV for company and peanuts to eat for 12 years. Even though she now receives a healthy diet and plenty of affection, she still sports a fuzzy look from occasional bouts of anxiety-induced preening.



Learn more about research at Mississippi State at


Mississippi State University is responsible for more than half of all academic R&D expenditures in the state. Here mechanical engineering faculty Sundar Krishnan and Kalyan Srinivasan work at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.

MSU leads effort with more than half of all R&D expenditures in state Let’s talk about a business in Mississippi with an annual economic impact climbing toward half a billion dollars. It’s a business employing thousands of Mississippians in communities around the state. And it’s cutting-edge: Innovative. High-tech. World-class competitive. But here’s a little secret. It’s not one business. In fact, it’s the research enterprise underway on the Magnolia State’s public university campuses. And in the latest reporting period to the National Science Foundation, Mississippi State University accounted for more than half of the $410.5 million of research and development expenditures by all institutions in the state. The NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey for fiscal year 2014 released last fall places the university’s

$209.7 million of R&D expenditures at 98th nationally among public and private institutions. It is ranked 62nd among nonmedical school institutions. The report also lists the 138-year-old landgrant institution at No. 8 in the nation for research and development expenditures in agricultural sciences. MSU has ranked among the top 10 in this category for 17 consecutive years, spending $99 million in agriculturerelated research in FY 2014. Engineering disciplines, social sciences and the humanities also saw impressive rankings. The survey is the primary source of information about research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The R&D funding comes from a wide range of sources, including business and industry,

trade groups, and local governments, state offices and federal agencies, including the USDA, National Institutes of Health, Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, NSF and the Department of Defense, to name a few.

Behind the numbers

Of course, the economic impact of research at Mississippi State is about more than these numbers. Driving these significant R&D expenditures are talented faculty, staff and students, along with a commitment from administrators to enhance existing infrastructure and invest in new resources. It’s that expertise and the capabilities that companies need to compete in a global, knowledge and innovation-fueled economy. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Campus NEWS The Association of Public and Landgrant Universities and its Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity have recognized Mississippi State as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University for working to advance engagement and economic wellbeing of the state, region and nation. It is the only university in Mississippi to hold the prestigious designation, which requires an intensive review process. “I meet with people almost every week who are thinking about expanding, opening or relocating a business to Mississippi, and our research is frequently a differencemaker in closing the deal,” said Kathy Gelston, the university’s associate vice president for corporate engagement and economic development and a Mississippi State accounting alumna. She works closely with economic developers, including the state’s lead agency, the Mississippi Development Authority, and its executive director— MSU agricultural economics alumnus Glenn McCullough. MDA works to connect companies with university partners, and features the state’s research capabilities in its outreach efforts, including a robust social media presence. Additionally, Mississippi Public Universities joined with MDA, the Mississippi Research Consortium, the Mississippi Economic Council and the Mississippi Economic Development Council to launch the Mississippi Business Engagement Network, a program designed to develop, grow and sustain collaborative relationships between the business community and the university system. “We are committed to working with all of our partners to create new economic opportunities and help businesses prosper,” Gelston explained. “And of course, the university has a long history of working with national and international agribusiness leaders, and reaching businesses and individual entrepreneurs throughout the state with the MSU Extension Service,” Gelston added. MSU also offers a number of resources that facilitate relationships between faculty



and staff and companies, including the MSU Research and Technology Corporation, Sponsored Programs Administration and the Office of Technology Management.

Building on land-grant legacy

The university’s economic development priority is to strengthen collaborations between the university, economic development organizations and businesses to create high-wage jobs and to leverage its robust research activities through increasing licensing agreements and building other profitable relationships with both existing industries and university startup companies, according to MSU’s chief research officer. “We are in the unique position of helping further transform the state’s economy as technology becomes the catalyst for discovery and production in everything from agriculture to aerospace,” said David Shaw, Mississippi State vice president for research and economic development. “The world is always changing, but even in the 21st Century, we are able to stay true to our land-grant mission of teaching, research and service that makes a difference here at home and around the world,” Shaw said. Since the late 1990s, the university has worked closely with local, state and federal officials to help recruit industries and domestic and international investments to the Magnolia State, including Nissan, Toyota and Yokohoma Tire, as well as PACCAR and GE-Aviation, among others. Moving forward, Shaw anticipates the university’s role becoming more important as the state’s economy grows—in large part because of its preeminence in critical research focus areas like cybersecurity, unmanned aircraft systems, agriculture and natural resources, engineering and materials science, and more. “Research at Mississippi State is an economic development success story, and all of us—students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends—should be very proud of these contributions,” Shaw said. n

The university and its researchers have worked closely with a wide range of businesses in the state. A few representative examples include: The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems on the Starkville campus and the CAVS Extension Office in Canton saw their start when Nissan decided to build an automobile assembly plant in Madison County. Since that beginning, CAVS and CAVS Extension have flourished and now work with a variety of industrial clients developing superior computational, engineering, manufacturing, design and information technologies, and unique workforce training solutions. Mississippi State played an instrumental role in Yokohoma Tire’s selection of the Golden Triangle for its new $300-million manufacturing facility, which opened in Clay County last fall. The university's advanced supercomputing resources and outstanding engineering graduates were key factors. Officials expect the relationship between the manufacturer and state’s leading university to grow as the company expands in the coming years. The Raspet Flight Research Laboratory has served as a start-up facility for various aerospace companies in the state providing workspace, technical training, and assistance with product development and research over the past decade. These efforts and Mississippi State researchers’ expertise have helped companies such as American Eurocopter, Aurora Flight Science and Stark Aerospace establish bases in Mississippi, bringing more than 700 high-tech jobs to the state. The National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, known as NSPARC, worked with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to develop a real-time system that connects available jobs with job seekers through three entry points: MDES online employment system, Jobs for Mississippi Graduates website, and the Mississippi Works portal and mobile app. The Mississippi Works system is a prime example of using “big data” to create “smart data” that can be used for economic growth and to connect people to services that increase their ability to secure a job, build a career or advance their education. In January, HORNE Cyber Solutions became the latest business to locate in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park. A subsidiary of HORNE LLP, Cyber Solutions was established with the firm’s recent acquisition of Halberd Group, which was founded by three Mississippi State graduates—Wesley McGrew, Kendall Blaylock and Brad Fuller—who are now part of the HORNE team.

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Campus NEWS



Nancy Losure (foreground), founded the Mississippi State fencing club in 1996 and served as its first faculty adviser. Now known as Dueling Dawgs, the club has persisted for two decades and is reaching out to a new generation of students, including computer science graduate student Nate Phillips (background).

Only 10 percent of the world's population is left handed, making southpaw fencers an uncommon challenge for opponents.


Fencers face off at Mississippi State By Zack Plair | Photo by Beth Wynn Five years ago, Skye Cooley went to the Joe Frank Sanderson Center at Mississippi State for an afternoon swim. He left a few hours later with a couple of bruises and a new hobby. Cooley, an assistant professor of communication and martial arts enthusiast, had just moved to Starkville from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. On his way to the pool, he passed a studio where people were smashing into each other with swords and grew curious. He discovered they were fencing and wanted in on the action. He was obliged by all 5 feet 4 inches of 53-year-old Nancy Losure. As Cooley recalled, it didn’t go well. ”I was amazed at how good she was and how terrible I was,” Cooley said. “It’s a true mental and physical challenge. But once you get used to the speed and fundamentals, it becomes addicting.” Now faculty adviser for the Dueling Dawgs fencing club, Cooley has gotten better at wielding a blade, often setting pace for the club’s dozen or so regulars. Some compete in state and regional competitions, bringing home hardware for their efforts. Cooley admits he’s still not as good as Losure, a 40-year veteran fencer who founded the club two decades ago. A defeat at her hands in January still plays fresh in his mind. “I underestimated her, and she ran me down,” he said. A left-handed fencer, Losure said she doesn’t waste any energy and uses her savvy to overcome opponents. Her speed and precision are a potent combination, but nothing is more dangerous than her experience. “Even though I’m not as fast as I once was, I’m smarter, so it comes out even,” she said. With evidence of fencing bouts dating as far back as ancient Egypt, the sport that pits two swordsmen against one another has enjoyed a rich European tradition for

hundreds of years. Cooley said the liveaction, contact sport combines the strategy of chess with the physicality of boxing, developing hand-eye coordination and cardiovascular health. The Dueling Dawgs compete in Olympic-style fencing, using light weapons called sabres, foils and epees. All weapons have blunted ends, so opponents don’t score by stabbing at each other, but rather earn points based on “touches.” Bouts involve two fencers—each wearing protective armor and headgear—facing each other on a 3-foot wide strip, trying to thrust and parry their way to 15 touches. When using epees, fencers gain touches anywhere on their opponent’s body. Sabres allow touches on the head, arms and torso. With foils, the weapon most commonly used in Olympic fencing, bouts award touches only on the torso. Anyone who is a member of the campus’s Sanderson Center, where the team practices, can join Dueling Dawgs for $10. The swords and equipment are provided. “Bring an open mind,” Cooley said. “If you don’t mind getting hit with the end of a sword, then it’s a blast. The speed is sometimes frightening to people. It’s tough at first not to want to bail off the strip when someone charges at you.” To overcome those flight instincts, the club doesn’t throw its novices directly into battle. Tony Francis, a wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture graduate student from Raleigh, North Carolina, usually takes in the club’s beginners to teach them the footwork. After about four weeks of practice, they work their way to bouts. He stresses with new fencers how important it is to keep backs straight and steps short—when advancing and retreating—because technique is often the difference between winning and losing. “In a game where 1/125th of a second can make a difference, little movements can be a big deal,” he said. “Speed and technique will win over body size in fencing. There’s a lot of athleticism involved, but you need more than that to win.”


“If I had to run to stay fit, I wouldn’t. Yoga is fine, but it’s not as fun as hitting people with swords."

~ Nancy Losure

More than a competitive sport, the club also took on a role in a Shackouls Honors College production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Cooley and team member Nate Phillips, a graduate student in computer science from Collierville, Tennessee, landed the roles of Paris and an unnamed bar goer in the Shakespearean tragedy. Cooley said their characters dueled in a bar during the production, giving them the opportunity not only to entertain the audience but to display a skill they so desperately wish to teach others. That’s what Losure had in mind when she founded the club in 1996—passing her knowledge onto future generations. She started fencing in 1976 as a freshman walk-on at Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana. Even as an upstart, she performed quite well, earning MVP honors on a coed team, as well as a trip to the national collegiate tournament. She continued fencing in Michigan after college where she worked as a chemical engineer before joining the Mississippi State faculty in 1994. The first faculty adviser for the club, Losure remained a member after returning to the private sector in 2001. Even at her age, she said she’s still a contender. “I’m an aging female, and I still kick the butts of people in their 20s and 30s,” she explained. “There’s no other sport where I could do that. If I had to run to stay fit, I wouldn’t. Yoga is fine, but it’s not as fun as hitting people with swords.” n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




Freshman Amber Chamblee, a special education major from Starkville, keeps warm with a cup of coffee on her way to class during a late January snow shower. The wintry precipitation didn’t stick, but it did bring smiles to many faces as the fast falling flakes briefly turned campus into a scene from a snow globe. Photo by Megan Bean





PAWS ON THE PAVEMENT By Susan Lassetter | Photos by Russ Houston

Bulldog leadership shapes state’s transportation network


tanding at her office window, Melinda McGrath has a clear view of Interstate 55 passing through Jackson as it connects the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. One of Mississippi’s busiest roads, it serves as an important part of the state’s economy. To the east lies another important thoroughfare— Highway 25. Though not as highly trafficked as I-55, it still holds special significance for many at the Mississippi Department of Transportation. It connects the state’s capital to the Starkville home of Mississippi State University. That makes it—in the eyes of McGrath and her fellow MDOT Bulldogs—the “highway to God’s country.” “There are enough Mississippi State alumni here that, yes, over the years the road to Starkville has become known as the highway to God’s country within the agency,” McGrath said with a laugh. “To us, it’s the best road in the state.” Of course, holding a special place in their hearts doesn’t mean the highway gets any special attention. It makes up

just one small part of the approximately 30,000 miles of pavement the agency maintains. That’s enough road to cover the distance from Mississippi to Alaska and back—twice. And as executive director of MDOT, McGrath is in charge of it all. “Mississippi is a rural state, so most citizens rely on driving those roads to get where they need to be,” McGrath explained. “Even those who never get in a vehicle are tremendously impacted by this infrastructure because it allows us to send and receive goods and keep our economy going. “It’s also important for job creation,” she continued. “One of the first things manufacturers look at when they’re considering relocating is whether or not they will have easy and reliable ingress and egress for raw materials and finished products.” The 1985 civil engineering graduate has worked at MDOT for more than 25 years, serving in the top career position for the past five. She reports to three elected commissioners,



Housed across the street from the state Capitol, MDOT is one of Mississippi’s largest state agencies. From L-R Head, McGrath and Hancock at the agency's headquarters.



including Mississippi State alumni Dick Hall, who has a bachelor’s in marketing, and Mike Tagert, who earned master’s degrees in plant pathology, and public policy and administration. On the MDOT payroll, McGrath has a team of approximately 3,400 individuals to help make sure folks in the Magnolia State can get from point A to point B, safely, reliably and in a reasonable amount of time. Among those are Bulldogs in prominent leadership positions, including Lisa Hancock, deputy executive director for administration, and John Head, human resources director. Head explained that part of the reason for the large Maroon and White presence among the professionals at the agency is because it’s the state’s largest employer of engineers. “We’re an engineering-oriented agency and the primary engineering school in the state is MSU; it’s the standard that other programs are measured by,” explained Head, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science, and public policy and administration, respectively. He continued, “Plus, you have other professionals in a variety of areas you would expect at any large agency, like accounting or public relations, and many of them come from MSU as well.” Lest anyone suspect institutional nepotism is at play, Head points out that the agency has

talented employees from many universities in the state and region. But he said Mississippi State’s focus on producing graduates with practical experience in their fields gives Bulldogs a boost in the competitive job market. “When I was recruiting at college fairs in the 1990s, you could tell Mississippi State put an emphasis on co-ops and internships that other universities didn’t,” Head recalled. “Mississippi State has a reputation for producing graduates who can go out and contribute immediately.”

To help prevent litter, MDOT offers these simple steps for a simple mission—Don’t Trash Mississippi. Individuals or groups interested in making a larger impact can also look into the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program through


Head said that in addition to necessary education and technical skills, the agency tries to find employees who are knowledgeable and excited about transportation infrastructure. And while that phrase might make some people’s eyes glaze over, he said it’s actually not hard to find candidates who understand its importance and want to make sure Mississippi’s transportation network serves the citizens and their tax dollars well. “We look for applicants who have a strong work ethic and enthusiasm for the job,” Head said. “It’s also important that they’re not just looking out for themselves, but also want to make sure the agency is doing the best job it can.” Looking at the scope of MDOT’s mission, it’s easy to see why it’s important to find dedicated employees. As primary overseer of


Trashy road conditions cost the Mississippi Department of Transportation an average of $3.2 million each year in litter removal.

Thankfully, at a time when the public is very conscious of where tax dollars go, this is an easy area where individuals can help make a difference.




For perspective, that same amount of money would pay to fully maintain the road from Jackson to Starkville—more than 120 miles—for almost a decade. By any definition it’s a high, but necessary, price to pay, especially considering an estimated 62 percent of roadside litter is deliberate.








the state’s transportation network, the agency not only maintains tens of thousands of miles of road, but also approximately 5,775 state-maintained bridges. It also supports 150 airports, nearly 2,900 miles of freight railroad, 69 public transit providers, 870 miles of inland waterways and 16 ports, which annually facilitate the movement of more than 45 million tons of cargo. “People are accustomed to a reliable infrastructure that allows people and goods to flow freely around the state, and they understandably get upset when something slows that down,” McGrath said. “We take that seriously and do what we can to provide a high level of service to all of the infrastructure we manage.” McGrath explained that to prioritize its work, the agency compiles a complete, indepth assessment of the state’s pavements. To do this, a specially equipped van drives over every state maintained surface. A camera records everything associated with the roads, including the pavement, guardrails and signs, to document their condition, while on-board equipment is used to collect data on roadway cracking, rutting and structural failures. “That’s how we develop our paving schedule,” McGrath explained. “We also inspect bridges and give them a structural rating and replacement index that considers impact to communities and commerce. All of this creates a very intricate, very large database that allows us to prioritize, statewide, everything that needs to be done. This enables us to do everything we can to maximize the resources we have.”

PAYING FOR PAVEMENT In her role as deputy executive director, Hancock oversees MDOT’s budget, which topped $1.1 billion last fiscal year. This total comes from a nearly even split of federal funds and state dollars, which include the agency’s portion of the state fuel tax. It’s her job to make sure these dollars are spent in accordance with all rules, regulations and in the best interest of the state. Those budget dollars include what Hancock calls “pass throughs”—money dedicated for city or county infrastructure development administered through MDOT, so the agency can ensure all regulations are followed and project designs meet all requirements. Once these funds are distributed, the department is left with approximately $900 million for statewide projects and support—including enforcement, construction, maintenance, intermodal transportation and public transit, like the recently

expanded Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit route to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. “The Office of Administrative Services is responsible for everything from budget preparation and financial reporting to asset management and project accounting,” explained Hancock, an accounting graduate. “We also try to promote a culture of stewardship and accountability to ensure people make responsible decisions about spending money.” Hancock said she worries many people look at the agency’s overall budget and wonder why that’s not enough to fund all of the construction and maintenance needs in the state, but she explained the price tag for all 82 counties is more than most people realize. Construction costs for a new non-interstate, four-lane highway average $10 million per mile—a more than 400 percent increase over the cost to build the same road a decade ago. Currently, just maintenance for a mile of existing highway costs $2,800 annually. “The cost of building keeps going up so, like many of the surrounding states, we’re starting to be faced with not being able to adequately maintain the state system because there’s not enough money to make repairs at the optimal time,” McGrath said.

THE TRIBULATIONS OF TRANSPORTATION She explained that in the life of pavement, there is a window of time to complete routine repaving and maintenance to protect its underlying structure. After that, McGrath said it costs six to 10 times as much to repair that same section of road. “If you miss the window, you start to see rutting in the road which tears up the soil underneath. We then have to do a lot more work to restore its integrity,” McGrath explained. “But there’s not enough money each year to hit everything at the optimal time, so we have to use patches and seals in the meantime.” Mississippi also has unique geological issues that complicate road construction. Yazoo clay is found across much of the state, including the Jackson area. This much-maligned substance can swell to 400 times its original size when wet, causing any rigid material on top of it to crack or break from the pressure. McGrath estimates that 40 percent of the state is affected by some type of active, claybased earth. She said this causes a significant increase in construction costs as crews must

remove as much as 6 to 8 feet of the clay, replacing it with select materials suitable for long-lasting pavement. Often, they must also install drains or retaining walls. “It’s not an issue every state faces,” McGrath explained. “Tennessee, for instance, is able to build most of its roads on a solid rock foundation. It’s just one of the unique challenges to civil engineering in Mississippi.” McGrath said Mississippi roads also are facing strain from increased traffic and heavy loads as manufacturing growth across the Southeast has spurred a rise in cargo coming into and out of ports along the Gulf Coast or being trucked to and from the East and West coasts. “Many of our roads are starting to reach maximum capacity,” McGrath said. “That doesn’t mean it’s constant gridlock, but at peak hours they can be pretty congested. And that amount of traffic, plus the increased weight of freight vehicles, which often exceeds the design capacity for the roads and bridges, means parts of our network are wearing out more quickly than expected.” Still, despite these challenges, Mississippi’s transportation network rates a letter grade higher than the country’s overall D rating in the most recent American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card. That organization estimates the country needs $3.6 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2020 to keep up with aging structures, increasing demands and changing needs.

PAVING THE WAY FOR FUTURE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS McGrath predicts that the future of transportation will look different than the infrastructure growth of the past. With that in mind, MDOT funds the Mississippi Transportation Research Center at Mississippi State University to develop novel solutions to traffic woes. Under the direction of Dennis Truax, the James T. White endowed chair and department head of civil and environmental engineering, the center is helping shape the next generation of transportation infrastructure by developing sustainable highway materials, advanced traffic control systems and optimized construction delivery approaches. McGrath said building more and more roads isn’t necessarily the solution to ease traffic congestion or weight-strain. “Look at I-55,” she said. “It’s busy, but it’s only really congested during rush hours. Is it worth the substantial investment to add more lanes that are only necessary four hours a day, five days a week?

Southern Horizons Mississippi State University recently broke ground on a multimilliondollar project to make campus more accessible to visitors from points south. Called The South Gateway in the university’s master plan, the $18.7 million endeavor will create a new campus entry road that bypasses MSU’s South Farm to connect Poor House Road, near the Mississippi Horse Park, to Blackjack Road, which runs adjacent to campus. This will allow visitors arriving via Highway 25 to reach campus without traveling through the center of Starkville. The new entrance will form a prominent part of a developing “green corridor,” which will create a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly area on the south side of campus, reminiscent of the area around Chadwick Lake on campus’s northern side. “Mississippi State University is extremely pleased that, after many years of planning, the new South Entrance Road is soon to be a reality," said Amy Tuck, vice president for campus services. “It’s a testament to Dr. Keenum’s leadership and our federal and state partners.” The Mississippi Department of Transportation is administering $15.2 million of federal funds for the project. The university is providing the remaining $3.5 million to see the project to completion. Tuck said the university sees this as a worthwhile investment in the university’s future as it expands to

accommodate the changing needs of the campus community. “The South Entrance Road will provide an additional artery for our community to assist in the distribution of traffic flow,“ Tuck explained. “It will not only serve as a gateway to campus and help showcase our beautiful landgrant institution, but also improve the overall traffic flow on campus.” ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



“We can’t keep building more lanes,” she continued. “We have to look to other solutions that make sense for the problems we’re facing.” She said one option is increasing the use of transit services such as passenger rail in the state—for instance re-establishing lines to metropolitan areas like Atlanta and Chicago. McGrath said she also believes there will be increased use of freight rail in the future. “It’s one of the safest ways to move materials,” she explained. “Rail allows you to move heavier loads and move more quickly. Plus, it’s much cheaper to build a section of rail than road.” McGrath also said that people in the transportation infrastructure industry have to now consider the implications of introducing driverless cars to the roadways. She explained that in addition to special legislation to dictate how these vehicles can operate, infrastructure updates are needed to make it safe for these vehicles on American roads. “Driverless cars have the potential to save lives by reducing speed and reducing accidents, so long term I think the day is coming when we’ll see them on the roads and possibly in the air,” McGrath explained. She said these are just some of the things on the horizon for transportation infrastructure. And no matter what happens, there will be a pack of Bulldogs at Mississippi’s leading transportation organization to make sure the roads of the Hospitality State stay hospitable— especially those roads leading to “God’s country.” n FOR MORE ON HOW THE TRANSPORTATION NETWORK AFFECTS YOUR LIFE AND THE MISSISSIPPI STATE COMMUNITY, VISIT ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



THE DAWN OF DRIVERLESS Though unmanned aircraft seem to nab all the national headlines, driverless automobiles have started gaining ground in becoming mainstream. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently unveiled plans to release guidelines for the operation of autonomous vehicles on America’s roads. With this policy in place, the task then becomes developing infrastructure to safely integrate these cars into traffic. Driverless vehicles are capable of operating without the real-time input from occupants to reduce instances of human error and distracted driving. To do this, these automobiles use a variety of technology to sense their surroundings and maneuver accordingly. This places increased importance on the development of connected vehicle technologies, which create a network of short-range communication devices to share and collect data from vehicles, passengers’ personal devices and infrastructure, like traffic control devices.

“It’s connected vehicle technologies that will help driverless and regular vehicles safely enter the country’s roadways,” explained Li Zhang, a Mississippi State associate professor in civil and environmental engineering. As part of a continuing research project in conjunction with Leidos Inc. and the Federal Highway Administration, Zhang is studying ways to incorporate efficient and cost-effective connected vehicle technology into existing highway infrastructure. The project explores the use of small, low cost smart boxes that can be integrated into existing traffic control systems to let those mechanisms reliably communicate with connected vehicles, like driverless cars, to ensure they have real-time information about the intersection. Zhang said this is one step toward helping departments of transportation begin preparing for the future of their industry.


Robert Grala and Ray Iglay in a managed pine stand at the J.W. Starr Memorial Forest in Oktibbeha County. Both are part of separate projects funded by the GCPO. Grala studies conservation benefits and landowner perceptions in managed pine stands, as well as other landscapes, while Iglay is evaluating which conservation techniques benefit biodiversity most in managed pine stands.




tlanta currently covers an area larger than Massachusetts, with scientists expecting urban sprawl to increase exponentially in the coming years. These predictions show urban development merging to create a corridor from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Roanoke, Virginia, and from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Charlotte, North Carolina by 2060. Elsewhere, the same pattern is happening from Baton Rouge to Pensacola; Dallas to Shreveport and Springfield, Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas. To offset the impact of this urban development, land-use changes, climate change and sea-level rise in the coming decades, scientists from 20 state, federal and non-profit organizations have come together to form the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO). Through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi State University is co-host of the cooperative, which supports long-term conservation planning and design across 180 million acres in 12 states. Mississippi State Professor Wes Burger, who is co-principal investigator for the cooperative, said studying the

landscape is more than just considering the layout of the area. In conservation terms, landscape includes all of the species that call the area home. “When we define landscapes, it’s a matter of spatial scale and not all species respond to changing environments at the same spatial scale,” Burger explained. “Black bears, for instance, use a lot of space, so when you evaluate their habitat, you must look beyond a single stand of timber and consider the entire Mississippi Alluvial Valley on both sides of the Mississippi River.” The GCPO is interested in much more than black bears. There are more than 75 indicator species throughout the partnership’s area, which spans the East Gulf Coastal Plain, Ozark Highlands, Mississippi Alluvial Valley, West Gulf Coastal Plain and Gulf Coast. Bisected by the Mississippi River, these sub-regions are located in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. “The cooperatives define, design and deliver conservation that helps fish and wildlife species, communities and ecosystems adapt to climate change and other stressors at the landscape level,” Burger explained.






Evans measures the diameter of a tree in a cypress swamp at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. The cypress swamp is one of the landscapes the GCPO is focused on helping to preserve.



Evans with Toby Gray, MSU research associate in the Geosystems Research Institute; and Steve Reagan, project leader for the Choctaw and Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife refuges examine a cypress swamp at the refuge. The partnerships between entities like MSU and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are central to executing the GCPO’s long-term vision. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Interior rolled out a two-pronged approach to mitigate and adapt to the potential impact of climate change on the environment. This Climate Change Adaptation Strategy established eight climate science centers and 22 landscape conservation cooperatives, like the one cohosted by Mississippi State, across the U.S. While the climate science centers work with global climate-change models, the regional cooperatives use scaled-down versions for strategic conservation at the landscape level. “Landscape conservation cooperatives are based on biological underpinnings or what we know about how species use the landscape,” Burger said. From that knowledge, he said conservation management practices are designed,



implemented and evaluated. Variables, like population size or viability, are then monitored to determine if these methods were delivered effectively. “This continuous loop of improvement works in an iterative fashion as one process leads to and informs the next,” Burger explained. The effects of the landscape conservation cooperatives were reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, and the findings proved the importance of a broad approach to conservation. “The report reaffirmed the need for the nation to take a landscape approach to conservation, acknowledging that landscape conservation cooperatives serve a unique niche in helping fulfill that need,” said Greg Wathen,

the GCPO coordinator who works with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. With that in mind, the GCPO centers its work on one massive, collaborative initiative with a focus on the future.

BUILDING A BETTER WORLD Wathen helps lead the initiative to create a conservation blueprint of the entire Southeastern United States through the year 2060. Called the Southeastern Conservation Adaptation Strategy, the initiative partners six southeastern landscape conservation cooperatives and the Southeast and South Central Climate Science Centers. The team plans to deliver the first version of that blueprint at the 70th Annual Conference of the

Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in mid-October 2016. Todd Jones-Farrand, science coordinator for the GCPO, explained the strategy. “Landscape conservation cooperatives are the mechanism for figuring out what is sustainable in a landscape and communicating that vision in explicit detail– how much habitat do we need and where do we need it to keep critters around for the long haul,” he said.

CONSERVATION PLANNING ATLAS Mississippi State University is providing geospatial data and expertise to the Southeastern conservation blueprint through the GCPO’s Conservation Planning Atlas, a tool that helps land resource managers make scientifically supported conservation decisions. “One of the common needs across the partnership is to have data accessible to users who either don’t have the skill set or budget to access a desktop geospatial information systems program,” explained Kristine Evans, geomatics coordinator for the GCPO and an assistant research professor at the MSU Geosystems Research Institute. “It takes a long time with any software program to build up a skill set to actually

use it,” she continued. “That’s a barrier for conservation managers who need that data to make decisions today.” Evans, like Burger, is a co-principal investigator on the agreement designating MSU as co-host for the GCPO. She manages

“In the conservation field, the newest land cover data products were developed in the late 90s or the early 2000s,” he said. “While some newer products may delineate between land use and land cover, most of the detailed data is outdated.”

“The cooperatives define, design and deliver conservation that helps fish and wildlife species, communities and ecosystems adapt to climate change and other stressors at the landscape level.” ~ Wes Burger

the atlas along with Mississippi State research associate Toby Gray. “Before the atlas, land managers sometimes had to make decisions using outdated tools,” Evans explained. “We built a free, Web-based, user-friendly portal where conservation managers have quick and easy access to thousands of up-to-date conservation datasets and tools.”

MAPPING LAND COVER Qingmin Meng, an assistant professor in the Mississippi State geosciences department, is also developing much-needed datasets, which will soon be available on the atlas.

Meng has configured a promising remote sensing method to digitally map land cover— the physical characteristics of the land, such as whether the area is forest, grasslands, marsh or something else—for very large regions, in high resolution. “This will serve as a critical foundational layer for conservation work by giving conservationists and land managers access to accurate, updated images and a better understanding of the characteristics of natural resources, landscape ecology and the interface between natural conditions and human impacts over time and across space,” Meng said.


Want to encourage wildlife diversity in your own backyard? Adam Rohnke says it’s as simple as food, water and cover. A senior associate with the MSU Extension Service at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in Raymond, he offers these five tips for designing a backyard habitat.



Providing food through native plants, both in their fruit and the plant itself, is best. Doing so provides a long-term source of natural food. Supplemental bird feed can also provide needed energy during the lean winter months.



Food is important, but water is essential for making any backyard habitat complete. Make sure water is accessible for all wildlife by providing shallow and deeper options with multiple access points.



Native plants and trees provide natural cover that encourages wildlife to nest. It also provides protection from predators, inhospitable weather and foraging areas for invertebrates.



Wildlife species have different space requirements. Regardless of whether it’s large or small, many species may use your yard to fully or partially fulfill their space needs. Just be aware those needs vary depending on the species of interest.



Understanding species’ individual requirements is an important first step. Also knowing what wildlife is common in your area will assist you in planning specific attributes to include in your backyard habitat.

The final component, he said, is patience. “It will take time to establish the habitat, as well as for the animals to respond to the new available resources.” For more tips on backyard conservation visit ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


WHAT CAN LANDOWNERS DO? “The most exciting part of the research is identifying the gaps and doing the foundational work that will help us manage landscapes in the future.” ~ Ray Iglay

CONSERVATION OF MANAGED LAND In addition to the scientific support, Mississippi State also provides administrative support to the GCPO. In 2013, this support included overseeing a request for proposals targeting knowledge gaps throughout the region. Eight projects from approximately 80 submissions were selected. Two of these involve researchers from Mississippi State evaluating conservation in managed lands. In the first, Ray Iglay, a research associate in the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture department, serves as co-investigator on the evaluation of different land management techniques for plantation pine—a type of cultivated pine forest—to determine what conservation techniques result in the most biodiversity. “The most exciting part of the research is identifying the gaps and doing the foundational work that will help us manage landscapes in the future,” Iglay said. “What can this study teach us that we need to know to better manage these landscapes to help these species of concern down the road?” Iglay and principal investigator Rachel Greene, a research associate in the Mississippi State Forest and Wildlife Research Center (FWRC), are continuing the project established by the late MSU Professor Sam Riffell in 2013. In the second study, Robert Grala, an associate professor of forestry, is working to



There are many programs in place to help landowners contribute to conservation. For instance, fire is very important for certain ecosystems. “Without fire or some sort of disturbance, we wouldn’t have open pine landscapes, on which many imperiled species rely,” Kristine Evans explained. She recommends the following tools as resources for landowners. Each can be found online: n Fire on the Forty cost-share program n Mississippi Prescribed Fire Council n Farm Bill Field Guide for Fish and Wildlife Conservation n The Mississippi State University Extension Service Pine Thin app, developed to allow landowners and foresters to quickly determine if a pine stand needs thinning by taking advantage of smartphone technology.

identify conservation, cultural and economic benefits and perceptions of land management and how it matters to landowners in bottomland hardwoods, open pine stands and grassland habitats across the states involved in the GCPO. The study, which includes Professor William Cooke, head of the Mississippi State geosciences department; Professor Kevin Hunt in the FWRC; and Jason Gordon, an assistant extension professor in the forestry department, aims to determine how these benefits and perceptions affect land management objectives and landowner actions. The team will also work to quantify the monetary value of conservation activities and ecosystem services to determine if and how landowners can be encouraged to change their actions. Maps that illustrate landowner conservation practice and preference at the landscape scale will be published to help inform and support future conservation practices. Researchers from the Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions are collaborating on the project. While that work is underway, Scott Rush, a FWRC assistant professor, is trying to identify the bird species most closely associated with the attributes of open pine and salt marsh habitats. “Two separate graduate students evaluated different indicator birds to determine ecosystem health and likelihood of restoration in specific habitats,” Rush said. “This research will help inform future conservation management practices.”

In one recent study, master’s student Taylor Hannah researched Bachman’s sparrow, redcockaded woodpecker, brown nuthatch and northern bobwhite as metrics for evaluating the landscape attributes of open pine habitat. Hannah determined the presence of Bachman’s sparrow and red-cockaded woodpecker were positively related to open pine habitat while the others were not. “Taylor’s research will help the GCPO as they develop an open pine conservation management tool,” Rush said.

A CONSERVATION CONNECTION Each project, process and role within the GCPO functions on a landscape level, and team members are acutely aware of the bigger picture. The cooperative connects the dots and keeps the conversation between multiple federal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations moving forward in a unified direction. In addition to Mississippi State University, GCPO partners include 10 state agencies, six federal and four nongovernmental organizations. It is a partnership in which MSU plays an important role, Jones-Farrand explained. “MSU, as a neutral, intermediate partner, serves as a catalyst for collaboration between state and federal government and nongovernmental organizations,” Jones-Farrand said. “We wouldn’t be as far along as we are without Mississippi State in that role.” For more information about the partnership, visit n

Evans uses GPS equipment to collect geospatial data in an open pine savannah in the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. Evans serves as geomatics coordinator for the GCPO. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU





They’re in. Soon the city is dark and water service halts as utility plants shut down. Once civil order is restored, many businesses and individuals —wiped out accounts, find a nightmare scenario­ compromised sensitive information and stolen identities. But who are “they?” In popular film, “they” often range from isolated pockets of brilliant malcontents to self-taught teenagers making mischief with a laptop in their basements. The truth, according to cyber operations professional and Mississippi State graduate Wesley McGrew, is actually much scarier.

As technological advances make hacking a more sophisticated and lucrative endeavor, Mississippi State’s nation-leading cybersecurity curriculum is producing graduates to protect individuals and businesses from cyber attacks.

“It’s not the teenager in the basement,” he said. “That’s something out of the 1980s. Your hackers are organized crime syndicates looking for profit or nationstates looking for intelligence. Hacking is big business now, and every aspect of it is funded and skilled.” Staying ahead of the hackers requires pre-emptive strikes, McGrew added. But in his business, it’s not strikes against potential attackers. He strikes potential victims. McGrew is director for HORNE Cyber Solutions, located in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park at Mississippi State. He and his team of cyber operations specialists—otherwise known as “white-hat hackers”—run penetration tests for public and private sector clients, identifying network vulnerabilities and recommending solutions to make networks safer. Quite literally clients hire HORNE to aggressively hack into their computer networks and tell them how and where it breached the systems. HORNE even tests clients’ systems from within to see what kind of damage employees could cause if they went to an unsecure website or opened an email containing a virus or other software that made the system vulnerable.



McGrew leads a team of cyber operations specialists, or “white-hat hackers,” who identify weaknesses in clients’ networks so they can be corrected before malicious hackers can exploit them.

He added his team’s success at finding clients in the fields of banking, construction, The university, in 2013, became one of 14 system vulnerabilities approaches 100 percent. health care, government and beyond. to earn a cyber operations credential, which “There are different levels of compromise,” “Anybody who depends on network focuses on the offensive side of cybersecurity. he said. “But I’ll put it this way: We’ve never infrastructure to conduct business is Mississippi State is one of only six universities submitted a blank report to a client. There potentially at risk to hackers,” McGrew said. in the country who hold all three CAE are always findings, which means there are “That’s basically everyone now.” designations. always some vulnerabilities. It’s better that McGrew, still an adjunct professor, is a “Our students don’t just learn theory; they we find them than someone with ill intent. product of the university’s pioneering efforts in learn what to do. Everything we teach here is Everything we find is a potential hands-on,” said Dave Dampier, disaster averted.” professor of computer science “It’s not the teenager in the basement. That’s A former full-time employee and engineering, as well as something out of the 1980s. Your hackers are at Mississippi State, McGrew director for MSU’s Distributed organized crime syndicates looking for profit earned three degrees as a Analytics and Security Institute Bulldog, including a bachelor’s (DASI) in the research park. or nation-states looking for intelligence. in computer science and From classes focused on Hacking is big business now, and every aspect master’s and doctoral degrees basic information and computer of it is funded and skilled.” ~ Wesley McGrew in computer science with an security, to other components like emphasis in cybersecurity. In digital forensics, cryptography, February 2015, he partnered to start the cybersecurity education and research. Initiated network security and security policy, Dampier Halberd Group for professional penetration in 1997, the program gained National Security said MSU’s cybersecurity program is recognized testing, a company which HORNE LLP—a Agency designation as a Center for Academic as one of the nation’s best. In fact, a Ponemon certified public accountant and wealth Excellence in Information Assurance Institute Study in 2014 ranked MSU third management firm—purchased in January for Education in 2001. Seven years later, MSU nationally in cybersecurity education. its cyber solutions division. became one of the first universities in the More substantially, as results go, Dampier Now, the firm’s team of more than 40 cyber even more prestigious Center for Academic said graduates from MSU’s cybersecurity operations professionals focuses on serving Excellence in Information Assurance Research. program enjoy 100 percent job placement.



Hackers are often portrayed as shadowy individuals with superb technical skills and an ax to grind, but today “black-hat hacking” is a multi-million dollar business more closely related to organized crime than isolated acts of vandalism.

Suitors like the National Security Agency, the federal Defense Systems Information Agency and Army Cyber Command “come out of the woodwork” to recruit graduates. This speaks highly to MSU’s program, which produces 10-12 graduates per year, and to the public need for professionals with cybersecurity expertise, he added. “No school in the country is producing enough graduates to fill the need,” he said. “The Internet is so pervasive that it is inherently insecure. The need to secure people’s information is greater than anyone’s ability to fill it, but we are doing everything we can.” That includes, Dampier added, reaching out through DASI to help others help themselves. From 2005-15, the National Forensics Training Center, a precursor to DASI, led an effort to build 15 digital forensics labs across Mississippi to equip and train law enforcement to solve computer crimes. Most of those cases involved child pornography. While the exact impact of the program is hard to quantify, Dampier said, the Lee County lab produced 30 cyber-crime convictions in its first three operating years. Now, he said DASI is building a forensic cloud app, which will offer a centralized and secure digital space, maintained by an agency like the Mississippi attorney general’s office, where law enforcement agencies can upload evidence and access investigative tools without the expense of running individual labs.

Dampier stresses the importance of an offensive mindset to all cyber security students. Mississippi State is one of only six universities to hold all three prestigious NSA cybersecurity education designations. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


As one of the undergraduates carrying the torch for the continued success of MSU’s cybersecurity program, junior computer science major Evan McBroom of Starkville has zeroed in on cyber operations as a future career. And he already has experience beyond his years. McBroom started working with Dampier at NFTC at age 16 and will serve as an intern with the NSA this summer. He now works with McGrew at HORNE and helps lead Capture the Flag at MSU—a student organization that competes in penetration testing simulations. Established in fall 2015, the team, which averages about 10 members, meets each Monday to practice in Butler Hall, and tends to a rigorous schedule of 48-hour competitions administrated through websites all over the world. “We use time zones to our advantage,” McBroom said. “We wait for the times when we believe the administrators are probably asleep, and then we get to work. That’s usually a good strategy.” McBroom’s passion for hacking is Hollywood-influenced. He particularly enjoys movies about government and computer system breaches, and dreams of one day being one of the good guys. During his work at DASI, NSA and HORNE, and through his studies at MSU, he is speeding toward that dream becoming a reality. “He’s a very impressive student,” Dampier said of McBroom. “He started in sophomore-level courses as a brand new freshman. He’s been well ahead of the curve the whole time.” McBroom, like McGrew and Dampier, stressed that the need for good guys in the cyber world becomes greater every day. “Nobody believes that a hack will happen to them or that they can be damaged by technology, but it absolutely can happen,” McBroom said. “I don’t think it’s as much about the knowledge of the adversary as much as it is the awareness of the public to protect itself.” As technology becomes more sophisticated, McGrew said gone are

the days when hackers simply gain administrative privilege to the most valuable device on a network. Today, hackers can penetrate multiple devices on a network, such as phones, printers, fax machines and security cameras— hijacking documents, monitoring meetings or worse. “It’s a death by a thousand cuts,” McGrew said. More dangerous than even penetrating a business or personal network, hackers also could access public utility and transportation systems, causing havoc for entire populations. McGrew said that’s possibly even easier to pull off. Public infrastructure uses different software than a typical Web-based network. McGrew said mainstream research on how to protect that software is behind the times, meaning vulnerabilities are more abundant and easier to find. He explained most of those systems have manual fail safes in place, but a successful hack into a critical service—even if it only caused a brief stoppage—could cause a domino effect of negative consequences. Regardless of what vulnerabilities arise from ever-evolving technology, McGrew said those are risks we are all forced to take in today’s society. A booming global population has bred a need—and a market—for instant communication, fast product delivery and more efficient ways to provide people’s needs. So, while there’s no turning back the clock on technology, he said, likewise there’s no way to dial back hackers’ efforts to use those advances to their advantage. That’s why, in the growing field of computer security, Mississippi State is leading the way to produce professionals who can identify the risks and develop solutions for whatever threats are on the horizon. “Everybody is vulnerable,” Dampier said. “It’s a game, and we’ve got to work to stay ahead of the competition.” n




STAY SAFE ONLINE Even as hacking and spamming become more pervasive, the key method for keeping your identity and digital files safe remains the same: Common sense. No one is completely safe from a network breach. Computers, cell phones and all connectable devices are vulnerable, but there are simple ways to mitigate the risk. Dave Dampier, MSU professor of computer science and engineering, and Wesley McGrew, director for HORNE Cyber Solutions in Starkville, offer these recommendations:


Dampier said even the best virus protection is 98 percent effective. However, it is still more effective than flying blind while surfing online or simply relying on an email server’s spam filter to identify malicious emails. He also recommends updating anti-virus software as often as possible.


McGrew recommends using passwords so strong, it becomes difficult even for the user to remember them, and he cautions against using the same password over multiple platforms. Hacking into one of the platforms, he said, can then conceivably provide access to all.


McGrew strongly encourages people to check the source before they click. Spammers often write seemingly legitimate emails, but clicking on those links could expose personal or company information. McGrew said to always download programs from the manufacturer instead of third-party vendors, which tempt users with free or cheap programs that often have nasty, hidden surprises.


Dampier said a fastgrowing hacking method involves leaving thumb drives in business parking lots. If a curious, unsuspecting employee plugs one into a work computer, it could then give hackers access to information, not only on that computer, but possibly the entire company network.


The New England Patriots finished first in the AFC East during the 2015 season, Judge’s first as special teams coach. Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

Gridiron Dawg rings up success in the NFL Joe Judge is a bit of a ring collector, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at his hands. There’s his wedding band, representing 10 years of marriage to his college sweetheart. His two college football national championship rings and a Super Bowl ring he earned as a coach, however, are locked away out of sight and out of mind. Because settling, Judge said, is not an option. “The Super Bowl ring is in a safety deposit box, and that’s where it will stay until I pass it down to my sons,” he said. “Those are things you enjoy for a short time, but then you have to get focused and driven for the next season.”

Judge, a former gridiron Bulldog, recently completed his first season as special teams coach for the New England Patriots, helping lead the team to its fifth straight American Football Conference Championship berth. He joined the Patriots’ staff as an assistant special teams coach in 2012 and earned his ring in the team’s Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. New England, since winning its first Super Bowl in 2001, has become one of pro-football’s standard bearers for success. For the highenergy Judge, a self-proclaimed football junkie, reaching for that success is addictive. His special teams units—often ranked near the top in the

By Zack Plair

NFL in kicking, returning and coverage— respond to that philosophy. “It comes down ultimately to having good players, and we have smart, tough football players,” Judge said. “Our guys are very motivated, and they are bought-in. I look at it as my job to be a good teacher because I can’t just sit around being a cheerleader.” When he’s not helping build the next Patriot’s title run, Judge spends his time in the Foxboro, Massachusetts, area, raising a family. But when he enters his New England home, wearing Patriots garb symbolizing how far he’s come, he sees evidence of where he’s been: vases ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Our PEOPLE full of cotton blossoms, decorative cowbells and a picture of the outline of Mississippi on the wall with a star locating Starkville. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judge came to Mississippi State as a backup quarterback in 2000, playing three seasons for Coach Jackie Sherrill and one for Sylvester Croom. He never broke through to starting quarterback but found his place on special teams, first as a holder for the place kicker and ultimately as special punt protection. Judge knew he wanted to be a coach, so he started soaking up knowledge like a sponge,

Gridiron Bulldogs have been on Super Bowl player rosters 46 times.

Belichick had nothing but praise for the 34-year-old, whom he promoted to lead the special teams unit in February 2015. “Joe has his own style, but he’s very well prepared, very thorough, has great experience in the kicking game and all of the situations and techniques, both with the specialists and all the other positions on the field,” Belichick said. “Joe and I spend a lot of time together. I think he’s a great young coach.” Transitioning from the college coaching lifestyle to the pros wasn’t difficult for Judge. He said coaching involves the same fundamentals

“The Super Bowl ring is in a safety deposit box, and that’s where it will stay until I pass it down to my sons. Those are things you enjoy for a short time, but then you have to get focused and driven for the next season.” ~ Joe Judge something that caught Sherrill’s attention right away, especially during special teams meetings. “He paid attention, learned what I was teaching and grasped it better than the other players,” Sherrill said. “There was no question he was a true student of the game. I tell all my former players to find something they can do better than anyone else. Joe has the knowledge and insight to be a special teams coach. That’s why he has the job he has.” Judge served two years as a graduate assistant for Croom, expanding that knowledge base. However, after graduation, football coaching jobs weren’t immediately forthcoming for the threetime letterman with a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in instructional technology. He served a brief stint as the kindergarten physical education teacher at West Point Elementary before he got a call to join the coaching staff at Birmingham Southern. From there, his career took off, as he moved on to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as an analyst. In his three years in Tuscaloosa, from 2009 to 2011, the Crimson Tide won two national championships. Judge left Alabama for a special teams coaching job at Southern Mississippi, but after just a few months in Hattiesburg, Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick, who had heard about Judge from Saban, came calling.



and tireless hours of attention regardless of the level. It’s hardest on his wife, former MSU soccer captain Amber Meesey, and their four children. “There are whole weeks during the season when I don’t see my children awake. They sometimes call our home ‘Mommy’s house’ and the stadium ‘Daddy’s house,’” he said. “Your family goes through the highs and lows with you. They feel the wins and losses just like you do. The key is to make sure they know they’re a part of it.” Judge met Meesey, a Texas native, at Mississippi State and they started dating their freshman year. The two married and started their family in Starkville while Judge was earning his master’s, and he said it was a place he’d like to return to someday. He’s considering completing a doctoral degree in education at MSU and said his children are interested in one day following in their parents’ academic—and maybe even athletic—footsteps. He admits, though, it might be best if their athletic prowess came from their mom. “She was a way better soccer player than I was a football player,” Judge said. In the meantime, Judge said his family tries to visit Starkville as often as possible. They’ve even penciled in a trip for Super Bulldog Weekend in April, where Joe and Amber can share even more Bulldog tradition with their brood. “MSU has given a lot more to me than I’ve given to it,” Judge said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to return the favor at some point.” n

Top: Originally recruited as a quarterback, Judge hit his stride as part of the Bulldogs’ special teams in the early 2000s. Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics. Bottom: Judge observes game play from his place on the Patriots’ sideline. As special teams coach he oversees the players responsible for executing and defending punts, kickoffs, returns, extra points and field goals. Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman.

ALUMNA SETS SIGHTS ON SERVING OTHERS By Sasha Steinberg | Photos by Megan Bean

At 7 years old, Dr. Marion Harris Flowers received a gift to ensure her continued success in school—the gift of clear sight. Today, she uses that success to ensure kids in Tennessee receive that gift as well. A native of Leland, Flowers is part of a team of optometrists that administers full eye exams to children ages 4-18 in the Shelby County School District as part of Well Child, the largest school health provider in the Volunteer State. “It’s really hard to thrive in school if you can’t see; I know from personal experience,” Flowers explained. “A lot of these kids wouldn’t otherwise get the care they need because their parents may not be able to take

them to the doctor. It’s a good thing for us to be able to bring this service to them.” Through the Well Child service, students are only out of class for the time needed to complete a routine eye exam. Those who need glasses are able to pick out frames on the spot with help from medical assistants. A licensed optician later delivers the completed pairs of glasses to the school and ensures a proper fit for the patients. Flowers said even those students with perfect vision are advised of the importance of routine exams to maintain eye health. “I’ll send home a letter letting the parents know what we did, and if I find anything severe or that needs a referral, I’ll also offer

those recommendations,” Flowers said. “The good thing about these comprehensive eye exams is that we can find things you wouldn’t otherwise notice.” Some eye conditions, she explained, might not affect a child’s vision or cause any pain, so parents might not know anything’s wrong. In those cases, Flowers said it’s still good to be aware of the problem to help minimize the effect it can have later in life. A 2008 magna cum laude biochemistry and molecular biology graduate from Mississippi State, Flowers later earned a doctorate from Southern College of Optometry. When she’s not treating children through the school system, she sees patients of varying ages at a ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Our PEOPLE private practice in south Memphis. In addition to performing routine eye exams, she treats urgent conditions such as infections and inflammation of the eye, and helps patients manage glaucoma and other ocular diseases. She explained that eye exams can be instrumental in identifying or managing general health conditions. “We can find a lot of systemic diseases that you may not even know you have, or if they are uncontrolled, it shows up in your eye,” Flowers said. “By routinely

Digital eye-strain affects a reported 65 percent of Americans, according to a Vision Council study.

State,” she said. “Everybody’s down to earth, and there’s always someone you can go to if you need help with something. There are always different activities going on, so you can have a life outside of academics. “My coursework was definitely academically challenging,” she admitted, “but I liked that because it prepared me for the even bigger challenge of optometry school.” To continue the tradition of giving that affected her education, Flowers, along with her husband and fellow Leland native

“I want to make a difference and do something where I know I’m impacting somebody’s life. I get to do that by helping them take care of something very important—their vision.” ~ Dr. Marion Harris Flowers dilating your eyes and looking at the blood vessels in the back, we can see signs of diabetes or hypertension and refer you to a primary care doctor or specialist.” Whether she’s working in an educational or clinical setting, Flowers said she is committed to providing the best possible care for her patients, so they can maintain and improve their quality of living. “One of the main reasons I went into the field is that I want to help people,” she said. “I want to make a difference and do something where I know I’m impacting somebody’s life. I get to do that by helping them take care of something very important—their vision.” Flowers attributed her passion for hard work to her Mississippi State education. During her time at the land-grant university, she received the R.C. and Sophie E. Paige Endowed Scholarship, Minor S. and Helen D. Gray Scholarship, and Dr. Will D. Carpenter Endowed Scholarship. “I love the family vibe of Mississippi



Roddell, independently established a For the Love of Our Mothers Memorial Scholarship this year. Along with helping to fund the educational endeavors of a high school senior from their Mississippi hometown, she said the scholarship has another special purpose. “We both lost our moms to breast cancer in 2013, and this $500 scholarship allows us to give back and honor their memories as well,” Flowers explained, adding that she and Roddell hope to increase the scholarship’s value in years to come. Flowers, who has a 2-year-old daughter Madison, said she remembers her own mother being a big proponent of education. “She never let me settle because she knew I was capable of doing more,” Flowers said. “It hurts that she wasn’t around to see me complete that goal of graduating from optometry school, but because I was in my last semester, she knew I was almost there. She always pushed me, and I thank her so much for that.” n

THE EYES HAVE IT Routine eye exams can be important for children because, unlike adults, they might not realize they’re not seeing as clearly as they should. The American Optometric Association recommends children receive their first eye exam at 6 months of age. Many optometrists will perform this for free as part of Optometry Care’s InfantSEE program. Flowers said it’s especially important to have children’s eyes checked within their first year if they were born prematurely, received oxygen therapy at birth or had a low birth weight. All children should have another exam by 2 or 3 years of age and another at the start of kindergarten. She also recommends that parents schedule an appointment if they notice these warning signs in their child:

n Squinting, holding things really close or sitting close to the television n Eye misalignment, such as one or both eyes turning inward or outward when looking straight ahead n Inability to hold his or her head straight n Repeatedly bumping into walls or objects n A different colored iris or light reflex in one eye. This is especially noticeable in flash photography. To protect eye health, Flowers also recommends limiting time spent using and taking regular breaks from tablets, computers and video games. It’s also important, she said, for children to start wearing UV blocking sunglasses at a young age.

TOP: Flowers uses an eye chart to demonstrate a visual acuity test. BOTTOM LEFT: Dilated-eye exams open the pupil, allowing doctors using a special magnifying glass to see internal structures at the back of the eye. BOTTOM RIGHT: Optometrists commonly use phoropters, also called refractors, to measure patients’ refractive errors and determine their prescriptions.



Our PEOPLE MILLION DOLLAR NOTIONS: ALUMNI’S START-UP HELPS PERSONALIZE CONSUMERS’ LIVES By Susan Lassetter | Illustrations submitted Wouldn’t it be cool to have a million-dollar idea? Steve Caldwell thought so; then he set out to find his. It started in 2013 when his wife Paige gave him a just-released Pebble smartwatch. As one of the first, widely marketed pieces of wearable technology, the black watch with a small digital screen was more of a novelty item than an indispensable part of daily life. And for a tinkerer like Caldwell that presented an interesting challenge. “It was new technology, and there weren’t a lot of apps for the Pebble,” the 2011 Mississippi State communication graduate explained. “I started building some, then I started wondering how to take those ideas and make money, like the companies that built businesses around smartphone development.” Wearable technology is a category of gadgets that the user, well, wears. It can range from simple fitness trackers like the Fitbit to head-mounted displays like Google Glass, to smartwatches that today can perform many of the same functions as a smartphone—at less than half the size, while strapped to your wrist. Wearables set themselves apart from other personal electronics by being in constant contact with the user. Whereas many programs track people’s preferences based



on how they use the technology, the physical contact of wearables allows them to go further by actually tracking biometric data to show patterns in a person’s sleeping, waking or even eating habits. In the business industry, this information is called human data intelligence, a relatively new branch of customer insight. “It’s the next step in personalized marketing,” Caldwell said. “It used to be you

wake up, when and what they eat, how often and how vigorously they exercise, and more. With this personal information, companies can then see, for example, when it’s best to deliver email or when a coupon or advertisement is most likely to spur an individual to action. “Until now, we only knew how consumers shopped, what they did online and what they liked on social media,” Caldwell explained.

“Starting a company to help businesses better market to consumers wasn’t on my road map. But if you pick a direction and learn as you go, you’ll end up where you want to be." ~ Steve Caldwell are what you buy, what you Tweet or what you surf on the Internet. Now, you are what you do, and that sets up opportunities for much more personalized experiences.” That realization led to the creation of Strap, which Caldwell, CEO of the company, co-founded with fellow Bulldog Joey Brennan, who is creative director for the venture, and Patrick Henshaw, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and chief operating officer. “Strap is exciting because it’s a trailblazer in innovating the 'Internet of Things,'” said Brennan, a 2011 Mississippi State graduate in art. Strap is essentially software that collects biometric data from a variety of wearable and smart-device apps to help businesses identify trends in customers’ habits: what time they

“With this, you can take into account physiological data and offline behaviors to create more perfect personalized messages.” Caldwell said the idea is to move away from the onslaught of mass marketing and instead make the world more personal, with messages that are more relevant and tailored to the individual. However, he understands that the idea of sharing information about personal health and habits might be unnerving to some. “Privacy is our No. 1 concern,” Caldwell said. “We make sure users know what we’re tracking and why by having them opt-in. We also make sure the retailers are using the data responsibly.” Strap isn’t Caldwell’s first tech venture. Although he studied broadcasting while at State, he always had an interest in

Learn more about STRAP at

When users opt-in, Strap collects information, including biometric data, from a variety of smartphone and wearable apps. Marketers can then use this data to better tailor messages for consumers.

computing technology. In fact, he took a three-year break from school to pursue a full-time career in the field in Vicksburg. During that time, he started Crosstek, a website and software development firm, at his kitchen table. He took the side-business full time in 2012 after finishing his degree. Within a couple of years, he had 10 employees, including Strap co-founders Henshaw and Brennan. The men teamed up in 2014 to develop the first iteration of the Strap platform and begin pitching it to investors.

By the end of the year, Strap was accepted to The Brandery in Cincinnati, one of the country’s most prestigious accelerators for start-up companies. Caldwell sold Crosstek, which is still in operation, and relocated to Ohio with his family and co-founders. Brennan explained, “Relocating was an exciting time. We wanted to make the best move for Strap and ultimately decided this was perfect for growing our company.” Within months, the company had turned its initial $20,000 funding from

The Brandery into $1.25 million in seed investment from venture capital companies and angel investors across the country. Caldwell admits that this path to his million-dollar idea wasn’t a straight one, but said as long as there’s a clear destination in mind, it’s OK to take some turns and see where the journey takes you. “Starting a company to help businesses better market to consumers wasn’t on my road map,” he explained. “But if you pick a direction and learn as you go, you’ll end up where you want to be." n




By Amy Cagle | Photos by Russ Houston


undreds of alumni and friends gathered on the Mississippi State University campus for the annual awards banquet and leadership conference in February. The Alumni Association recognized some of its most outstanding alumni and friends, and also offered informative sessions for chapter volunteers over the course of the two day event at The Mill at MSU Conference Center in Starkville. It started Friday, Feb. 12 as alumni and friends celebrated 130 years of the Alumni Association with more than 400 in attendance. Some of the university’s top alumni were recognized in a program with Jeff Davis, executive director of the association, serving as master of ceremonies and MSU President Mark E. Keenum as featured speaker. Honorees included outstanding chapters and Distinguished Service Award recipients, the Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year, College Alumni of the Year, and the university’s National Alumnus of the Year.



The following day, alumni leaders from around the country attended a conference meant to provide ideas for alumni representatives to implement in their local chapters. Conference break out sessions included: Serving Your Local Community; Student Recruitment 101 and Alumni Recruiting Network; and The Art of the Ask. Conference attendees heard reports on the state of the university, student recruiting, scholarships and athletics. Participants networked with fellow chapter leaders, learned about outreach opportunities, and shared ideas with other alumni in attendance, while hearing presentations from many key university representatives. Also, during the weekend was the association’s annual business meeting. For a complete recap of the banquet and conference, including videos and photos, visit n



or nearly five decades, Turner A. Wingo has been proudly waving a banner for his alma mater, living a Bulldog life, and aspiring to give back to Mississippi State University for all his degree has helped him achieve. In return, the institution awarded Wingo its most prestigious honor, National Alumnus of the Year. In February, hundreds of faculty, staff, alumni and friends honored Wingo with the university’s highest distinction at the 2016 Alumni Awards Banquet. A Collierville, Tennessee, resident and retired retailer, Wingo is a well-known alumnus and supporter of university athletics and academics. “We are proud to salute Turner Wingo on behalf of Mississippi State University for his professional success and for his loyal lifelong connection with his alma mater,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. “Of our more than 133,000 living alumni, Turner is a distinguished selection for Alumnus of the Year.” National Alumnus is not the first honor to be bestowed upon Wingo by Mississippi State. He was named the 2011 College of Business Alumnus of the Year, and was recently honored among the business college’s top 100 all-time graduates in celebration of its centennial anniversary. A native of Socorro, New Mexico, Wingo grew up in Collierville, Tennessee, with a love for adventure. He graduated from Collierville High School in 1963 before enrolling at Memphis State where he spent only one year. His ambition led him to Mississippi State, where he pledged Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. After earning a business administration degree from MSU in 1967, Wingo returned to Collierville and worked in real estate and opened Sherry’s Hallmark. He also devoted six years to service with the Army National Guard, beginning in 1967. In Tennessee, Wingo maintained a strong connection with Mississippi State. He became a member and vice president of the Memphis Maroon Club, an association for Bulldog alumni and friends. Wingo’s devotion to his alma mater continues. He serves as a member of the MSU

Turner A. Wingo, left, receives 2016 National Alumnus award from MSU President Mark E. Keenum. Foundation board of directors, frequently occupying a board seat since 2009. Today, he again chairs the board’s real estate committee, a role he began in 2015. Many years ago, Wingo began giving to MSU with a focus on scholarships because he believes talented students deserve a first-rate education. Today, his philanthropy supports scholarships in the College of Architecture, Art and Design, the College of Business and the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. Wingo takes great pride in the impact of his gifts, as they touch the lives of numerous students, including some first generation college students. And, his support doesn’t end there. He enlists his recipients as friends—keeping in touch with them and

offering advice as they chart their own paths as successful Bulldogs. “Mississippi State is where students are given the opportunity to accomplish what they once considered impossible,” Wingo said. Along with scholarships, his contributions include the Turner A. Wingo Endowed Professorship in the College of Business, and support for athletics and campus facilities. In honor of his generosity, the auditorium in the new classroom building on campus will carry his name. Wingo and his wife Gloria are residents of Collierville, however they spend much of their time in Starkville. They enjoy traveling the world, and, of course, are passionate year-round supporters of all things Maroon and White. n




College honorees flank National Alumnus Turner A. Wingo and MSU President Mark E. Keenum. Front row (L-R): Thomas, Grady, Wingo, Keenum, Bowen and Mayfield. Back row (L-R): Yonge, Cobb, Enlow and Fisackerly

Colleges name 2016 Alumni of the Year Mississippi State University has eight academic colleges, and each selects one outstanding graduate annually as its alumnus of the year based on personal, professional and community achievements. These individuals truly represent the mission and values of Mississippi State around the world. The 2016 College Alumni of the Year were named in February at the annual Alumni Awards Banquet. The group includes: Robert P. “Bob” Bowen of Holly Springs, College of Arts and Sciences.

A retired CPA, Bowen is a 1963 history and political science graduate who spent 30 years with Arthur Andersen LLP, concluding his career as partner. He became a director and audit committee chair for three New York stock exchange-listed public companies,



and has served on a number of civic boards in Memphis and North Mississippi. He received an MBA from Emory University in 1968.

William M. “Bill” Cobb of Dallas, Texas, James Worth Bagley College of Engineering.

Cobb earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering in 1966 and 1967, respectively, and is a former MSU faculty member, having served as an assistant professor of petroleum engineering from 1972-1975. He is founder and president of the oil-field management firm William M. Cobb & Associates Inc. He received a doctorate in petroleum engineering from Stanford University in 1971.

John D. Enlow of Little Rock, Arkansas, College of Forest Resources.

A 1990 forestry graduate, Enlow is vice president of real estate and southern timberlands at Weyerhaeuser Co. He joined the company in 2014 to lead its southern division and in 2015 assumed leadership

of Weyerhaeuser’s real estate nationally. He holds an MBA from Brenau University and is a graduate of the Executive Education Strategy Program of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Haley R. Fisackerly of Jackson, College of Business.

A 1987 business administration graduate, Fisackerly is president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi Inc., a position he has held since 2008. His career with Entergy has included roles as director of system regulatory strategy and vice president of customer operations, among others. He also had a stint at Entergy Nuclear as vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs. Prior to joining Entergy in 1995, he managed the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. He earned a master’s degree in public policy administration from George Washington University in 1993.

Andrew W. Grady of Jackson, College of Veterinary Medicine.

A 1986 doctor of veterinary medicine

graduate, he directs the Center for Comparative Research and is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Since 2001, he has served as veterinary medical officer for the Jacksonbased Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He serves as an adjunct professor in MSUCVM’s Department of Clinical Sciences. He also holds a Master of Laboratory Animal Medicine from the University of Missouri.

Andrea Scott Mayfield of Pelahatchie, College of Education.

Mayfield is an MSU 2009 doctoral graduate in community college leadership who became executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board in 2015, overseeing the state’s 15 community and junior colleges. Prior to this, she served as president of Shelton State Community College in Alabama. She earlier spent 18 years at East Mississippi Community College, where her roles included vice president of the Scooba campus. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Master of Arts in teaching, both from the University of West Alabama.

MSU names Snider Outstanding Young Alum Known as a dedicated Bulldog with a bright future, Jason Allen Snider was recognized as Mississippi State University’s Outstanding Young Alumnus. Snider earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with a double major in banking finance and risk management, insurance and financial planning when he graduated Cum Laude from Mississippi State in 2010. He also earned a Masters of Heath Services Administration, graduating Magna Cum Laude, from Mississippi College in 2012. Snider lives in Brookhaven where he works as the risk management coordinator for King’s Daughters Medical Center. Recently, he became a certified professional in healthcare risk management. His newest venture is the creation of a private corporation for the development of real estate properties in the downtown

Snider Brookhaven Business District. Snider has volunteered for the Mississippi State Alumni Association since earning his degree. Beginning in 2013, Snider became a National Alumni Board member for the Mississippi South 2 Region. He was chapter president for the Lincoln County Alumni Chapter in 2013 and 2014. n

George D. “Dave” Thomas Jr. of Collierville, Tennessee, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

A 1987 master’s in agricultural economics graduate, Thomas is vice president of marketing for Helena Chemical Co., a role he has held since 2009. He joined Helena in 1987 and over the years has served as location manager for Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as manager for the South Delta Division and South Texas Division. He also holds a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Mississippi.

Eric G. Yonge of Kennesaw, Georgia, College of Architecture, Art and Design.

President and creative director of EYStudios, Yonge is a 1998 fine arts graduate. He began EYStudios in Starkville, where he was raised, and later relocated the company to Georgia. Under his leadership, EYStudios has developed more of the world’s top 1,000 e-commerce stores than any other private firm in the world. n

L-R: McLeod, Tran and Sabourin

Distinguished Service award winners recognized The Alumni Association proudly honors a trio of dedicated Bulldogs with 2015 Distinguished Service Awards. Douglas D. “Doug” McLeod, Brian M. Sabourin and KieuAnh T. Tran represent the best alumni volunteers from across the globe. McLeod is a Lucedale resident and 29-year veteran of McLeod Tire Company. He represents the people of district 107 in his second term as a member of the Mississippi ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Our PEOPLE Distinguished Service award winners recognized Cont. House of Representatives. With the George-Greene County alumni chapter, McLeod served as secretary from 2001 to 2009, vice president from 2010 to 2012, and president from 2013 to 2015. Another distinguished service honoree is Huntsville, Alabama, resident Sabourin, a 1983 aerospace engineering graduate of Mississippi State who also holds an organizational management degree from the University of Phoenix. In his professional life, he is director for corporate development for Strata-G Solutions Inc. With the Huntsville-Decatur, Alabama chapter, Sabourin serves as the chapter’s vice president, earlier having served as membership committee lead, president, past president and national board member. The third Distinguished Service honoree is Kieu-Anh T. Tran of Tucker, Georgia, who is a dominant Maroon and White presence in the busy Atlanta area. Tran uses the 1996 civil engineering degree she earned from Mississippi State as vice president, engineer and project manager at Q Solutions Inc. She has been an officer in the Alumni Association’s Central Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee chapters, and she has served on the Alumni Association National Board. Tran was selected as Mississippi State’s Outstanding Young Alumnus for 2004. n

Chapters received special recognition banners on behalf of their achievements in 2015. In-state honor chapter representatives are pictured above and out-ofstate representatives below. A complete list of all 54 honor chapters appears to the right.



ASSOCIATION SALUTES OUTSTANDING CHAPTERS The Alumni Association annually recognizes chapters for dedication and service to Mississippi State University. This February, 54 chapters of the university’s 93 worldwide were honored at the annual Alumni Awards Banquet for their accomplishments in 2015. Gold, silver and bronze cowbells were given to representatives of the top chapters in each category.

Also recognized for achievements in 2015 were those earning distinction as honor chapters, which included: Adams-Franklin-Wilkinson

Lowndes County

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Memphis, Tennessee

Birmingham, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Montgomery, Alabama

Chicago, Illinois

Nashville, Tennessee

Chickasaw County

New Orleans, Louisiana

Clay County

New York, New York

Covington County

Northeast Florida

Dallas, Texas

Noxubee County

Denver, Colorado

Orlando, Florida

DeSoto County

Saint Louis, Missouri

East Texas

Simpson County

Fort Worth, Texas

South Texas


Southwest Mississippi

Hancock County

Tippah County


Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Jackson County

Union County

Jones County

Warren County

Lauderdale County

Washington, D.C.

Lee County

Webster County


Yazoo County

TOP LEFT: Alumni Executive Director Jeff Davis with chapter leaders Stephen Michel and J.P. Walker. TOP MIDDLE: National Alumni President and Vice President, Ron Black and Brad Reeves. TOP RIGHT: Audrey Pongetti selects Traveling Bulldogs materials. Behind her are Phillip Pongetti and Ann Hossley. BOTTOM LEFT: National board of directors members Brig. Gen. Sam Nichols and Hart Bailey. MIDDLE: Michael Richardson, assistant director of chapter and volunteer programs, with Gena Calvert, left, and Dwanda Moore, center. BOTTOM RIGHT: Kirby Hobbs inquiring about distance education with Mindy Wolfe.

Gold Chapters are: George-Greene Huntsville-Decatur, Alabama Oktibbeha County Panola County

Silver Chapters are: Atlanta, Georgia Central Mississippi Lawrence-Jefferson Davis Lincoln County

2016 Leadership Conference

Bronze Chapters are: Claiborne-Jefferson Houston, Texas Southeast Mississippi Tishomingo County

Photos by Robert Lewis




Junior Olivia Romito of Olive Branch (fifth from right) is receiving free 2016 tuition at Mississippi State through a drawing organized by the university’s Alumni Delegates. With her are AD members (from left) Jermario Gordon, Alex Ezelle, Josh Creekmore, Zavian Burns, Erica Sowell, Austin Grace, Abrianna Thompson, Rob Hairston, Annaleigh Coleman, and Kaylie Mitchell. Photo by Mitch Phillips.

Alumni Delegates’ tuition drawing yields MSU scholarships for Mississippi students By Laura Ladner The Mississippi State University Alumni Delegates, in conjunction with the MSU Alumni Association, are working to create awareness of the need for more student scholarships at the university—an effort already financially assisting students. In 2014, the association and its student organization initiated a tuition drawing and encouraged parents of then-currently enrolled students from the state of Mississippi to help build an endowment for scholarships in support of any student chosen regardless of



academic major. The drawing, which covers the cost of 12 credit hours for the winner, is now open each fall and spring semester to full-time, in-state eligible undergraduates with tickets “purchased” by parents. Following overwhelming support of the first tuition drawing, the group continued its efforts. Once the cost for 12 credit hours of in-state tuition has been deducted from the total raised each semester, the remainder is placed in an endowed fund. “Since a generous $25,000 has been raised from the drawings collectively, we have now reached the minimum level to endow a scholarship at Mississippi State,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. “From this point forward, the Alumni Delegates will use additional funds to grow the endowment and support scholarships and programs.” Most recently, Olivia Romito of Olive Branch received $3,751 for spring 2016. This translates into 12 “free” credit hours of instate tuition for the junior kinesiology and

clinical exercise physiology major. Previous winners are continuing their studies at Mississippi State. The inaugural winner, Harris Ward of Belden, is a business administration major in his junior year of study. He was awarded the scholarship during his freshman year, as was the second recipient, Ross Bell of Madison. Currently, Bell is a sophomore studying kinesiology. The third recipient, Sarah Craig of Canton, was chosen for fall 2015 during her junior year. She is now in her last year of undergraduate study in psychology at Mississippi State. “The Alumni Delegates hope to continue fundraising efforts to benefit more students in the future, and we are very grateful for all the parents who have supported the program,” said Josh Creekmore, the Alumni Delegates president. Individuals who wish to contribute to the endowment or have questions regarding the tuition drawing should contact Libba Andrews, Alumni Delegates adviser, at 662.325.7000 or n

Alumni Delegate leaders continue service The 130-year-old MSU Alumni Association has named officers for its student liaison group. These officers are part of the 35-member group of student representatives who are serving for 2016. Leading the MSU Alumni Delegates in the group’s 35th year are:

Katherine M. Gargiulo, a junior political science/pre-law major from Gulfport who is serving as secretary. Samuel J. “Josh” Creekmore, a senior history and business administration double major from New Albany who is serving as president. Nicholas H. “Nick” Brewer, a junior biochemistry/premedicine major from Columbus who is serving as vice president for education.

L-R: Katherine Gargiulo, secretary; Josh Creekmore, president; Nick Brewer, vice president for education; and Dipa Patel, vice president for public relations. All current officers are residents of Mississippi.

Dipa P. Patel, a senior biochemistry/pre-medicine major from Starkville who is serving as vice president for public relations.

understanding of the role of the MSU Alumni Association through educating and involving students in association activities and events. Members are selected each year through a highly competitive interview process.

Founded in 1980, Alumni Delegates serve as student liaisons between MSU and its more than 133,000 living alumni to improve the

For more on the organization and a roster of members, visit alumni. n

EmBARK on an adventure with the Alumni Association The MSU Alumni Association annually sponsors several trips across the globe through the Traveling Bulldogs program. The schedule below outlines trips for 2016 available for booking. 2016 TRAVELING BULLDOGS Travel the Passages of Lewis and Clark–Clarkston, Washington to Portland, Oregon: May 7-15 The Danube by River Ship, Prague to Budapest: May 25-June 3 Tour Barcelona and San Sebastian, ACA: June 5-14 Cruise the Regal Routes of Northern Europe, London to Copenhagen: June 13-24 Roam Coastal Maine and New Brunswick: June 22-29 Bask in the Glory of Southeast Alaska: June 24-July 1 View the Magnificent Great Lakes: July 8-17 Discover the Art of Living in Tuscany: Aug. 5-27 Celebrate Oktoberfest in Germany: Sept. 13-26 MSU Football at UMASS, Boston, MA: Sept. 21-25 Immerse yourself in London: Sept. 26-Oct. 7 MSU Football at BYU, Park City, UT: Oct. 13-15 Navigate the Mediterranean Pathways and Piazzas–Rome to Monte Carlo: Oct. 14-24 MSU Football at Kentucky, Lexington, KY: Oct. 21-23

Explore the Alumni Association website for more information at




RING TRADITION SHINES RIGHT: Thirty-one individuals joined MSU President Mark E. Keenum for the fall 2015 class ring ceremony. The MSU Alumni Association serves as caretaker of the ring program, which continues to grow in popularity.

In ceremonies twice annually, participants gather with family and friends in the historic Chapel of Memories to receive their official MSU class rings.



Each participant rings a special gold cowbell three times, signifying the university's trifold mission of learning, research and service as part of the ceremony.



Infinite IMPACT

Alumni chapters play vital role with scholarships By Laura Ladner

Since the early 1900s, alumni of Mississippi State University have taken an active role in providing student scholarships. Mississippi State currently has 93 chartered chapters worldwide, and many of them award funds to talented students by initiating fundraising efforts within their local chapters. Each of MSU’s alumni chapters have an opportunity to ease the financial burden of incoming

throughout the year, and two of the most popular fundraisers are golf and tennis tournaments. Managed through the Mississippi State University Foundation, annual scholarships and endowments for scholarships sponsored by chapters play a significant role in helping students attend Mississippi State. Many chapters award multiple scholarships each year to recipients who meet established criteria. Since

“We are very grateful to our alumni chapters that play an integral role in supporting students and their education through scholarships.” ~ Jeff Davis freshmen, transfers and those already enrolled by providing a scholarship. Approximately $167,000 has been awarded from chapter scholarships in 2015-16 to support more than 170 students in academic disciplines across campus. “We are very grateful to our alumni chapters that play an integral role in supporting students and their education with scholarships,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. “Our chapters award deserving students the funds needed to attend MSU, and this provides a great way for our alumni to give back in a tangible, meaningful way.” Local chapter members serve as MSU representatives in their communities through events including socials, student recruitment parties and community service projects. Their work also extends to scholarships as they raise money collectively to benefit future Bulldogs from their geographic area. Chapters across the country hold many different fundraising events



some scholarships have not financially reached a level to award, individual gifts from local alumni, friends and parents are extremely important to keep these chapter scholarships active. Gifts may be designated to a specific chapter’s annual scholarship or a chapter’s endowment to provide financial awards for more students in the future. As with all gifts to the university, a contribution automatically activates membership within the Mississippi State University Alumni Association. To get involved with an MSU alumni chapter, visit www.alumni. or contact Michael Richardson or Janet Downey with chapter programs at 662.325.7000. For assistance with establishing chapter scholarships or supporting them, contact a local chapter or Leanna Smith, stewardship coordinator with the MSU Foundation, at 662.325.4214 or Gifts may also be made online at n

TOP: Grenada-Montgomery Chapter president Stephanie LeClair with scholarship recipient Grace Worthy. BOTTOM: Officers of the Panola County Chapter (L-R) are Thomas Toney, Lisa Newcomb and Clay Seale flank scholarship recipient Keith Thornton (center) and his mother.

Ride with Pride.



MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY CAR TAGS ARE AVAILABLE IN AL, DC, GA, MS, TN AND TX. There is no better way to show your loyalty and pride in Mississippi State than by owning an official university license plate. Displaying an MSU tag will let everyone know, wherever you drive, that Mississippi State University is your institution of choice. For more information, visit

3719_USSP_NCAA_MIssStAlumniProgramAd_FINAL.indd 1



Infinite IMPACT

Student’s passion for forestry

fostered through scholarship By Addie Mayfield

In the fall of 2008, Kelvin Banks finished his last football game as a high school senior. With a scholarship offer to continue playing at a local community college, any aspirations of pursuing a degree at Mississippi State University were put on hold. However, an interest in science provided a turning point with the opportunity of a lifetime. “I was competing in the Science Olympiad during my senior year of high school when a recruiter from Mississippi State asked me about my plans for college,” Banks said. “After I told him that I was interested in forestry, we exchanged contact information and he told me he would be in touch. I’d met a few recruiters from other schools before who told me the same thing and never followed up, so I didn’t really expect to hear back from him either.” A few days later, despite his doubts, Banks received a phone call to discuss his potential future at Mississippi State. During the conversation, he learned that he was eligible for a scholarship that had recently been created by the Dick Molpus Foundation in the College of Forest Resources. Dick Molpus, former three-term Mississippi secretary of state, has been an advocate for education throughout his career. Accordingly, he established the Dick Molpus Foundation as a private charitable organization to further his support efforts. Molpus also serves as president of The Molpus Woodlands Group (MWG), a timberland investment management firm headquartered in Jackson. Upon further expressing his enthusiasm for science and forestry, Banks was eventually invited to a meeting with Molpus, where he was surprised to learn that he had been selected as the inaugural recipient for the Dick Molpus Foundation Annual Scholarship. As a once stifled dream became a reality, the Madison native traded in his football pads and set his sights on MSU. Banks graduated with a degree in forestry from the MSU College of Forest Resources in 2014. During his time as a student, he also



Banks handles an alligator during a presentation by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. gained valuable field experience and working knowledge through the MWG summer internship program. “I spent one summer working in Michigan and another working in several states across the south,” Banks said. “Everyone I worked with at Molpus was so welcoming. In my first summer, they taught me everything from the basics of dendrology to how to use a compass and a chainsaw. I felt like they’d taught me a lifetime of knowledge in just a few months.” Today, Banks serves as a forest manager for MWG, overseeing nearly 300,000 acres of timberland in southern Louisiana. He admits that many of his accomplishments would have seemed impossible without the Dick Molpus Foundation’s private support, which provided Banks with not just an opportunity but a stimulus for success. “The scholarship award has been the most wonderful thing in my life,” Banks said. “Without it, I probably would have given up on my education. But when I accepted the Dick

Molpus Foundation Scholarship, I made a commitment to work hard. That commitment was, and still is, a huge motivation for me.” The Dick Molpus Foundation Annual Scholarship within the MSU College of Forest Resources continues to foster the recruitment and retention of minority students for the college, as well as the MWG summer internship program. It also encourages participation in the Society of American Foresters and requires recipients to maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA. Banks, whose relationship with Molpus has remained close since their introduction, is grateful for the scholarship opportunity, which he credits for helping him to find his purpose in life. “I will always be thankful for Mr. Molpus and his support,” Banks said. “Anyone that can contribute to a scholarship opportunity should do it full heartedly. Even though they may not know it at the time, they can absolutely change someone’s life for the better.” n



Infinite IMPACT


A love of the game of tennis and a sincere appreciation for Mississippi State University have led Jeannie Swain Mullen to impact women’s sports in a major way. The Ridgeland resident has established the Mullen Endowment for Women’s Athletics at Mississippi State. The endowment will help recruit future student-athletes to MSU by providing up to five scholarships for talented and deserving individuals who are part of the varsity women’s tennis program. Additionally, the endowment supports women’s facilities, enhancements and beautification. “It is important to support young women who participate in varsity sports as a way to finish their education and receive a four-year college degree,” Mullen said. “I am the grateful beneficiary of two college scholarships, so helping other young women with similar financial needs finish their education and begin working toward the fulfillment of their own hopes and dreams is a natural fit.” A full tennis scholarship enabled Mullen to earn a two-year liberal arts degree in 1977 from Miami Dade Junior College. Without the finances or proficiency to play local qualifying tournaments for the pro tour, she began seeking another scholarship for two more years of college. Her search yielded a full scholarship from former Mississippi State women’s tennis coach Libba Birmingham. At Mississippi State, Mullen played tennis from 1978-1980 as she worked toward a bachelor’s degree in social work she earned in 1980. She also holds a master’s degree in public policy and administration from MSU, graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average in 1982. For Mullen, her time in Starkville was bittersweet as both of her parents passed away while she was enrolled. However, her MSU education helped her overcome the challenges their deaths presented.



“I lost my father in my junior year, and my mother in my senior year," Mullen recalled. "Looking back on it now I am certain that finishing a degree and finding a decent job to support myself would have been very much in doubt without MSU.” She continued, “I am just so grateful that under those difficult and unforeseen circumstances, my education was secure financially. I found myself with no support system and suddenly on my own in every way. The structure of classes, tennis practice and team matches were all crucial for me to stay focused on something positive and productive.”

“It is important to support young women who participate in varsity sports as a way to finish their education and receive a four-year college degree.” ~ Jeannie Swain Mullen With Mississippi State degrees in hand, Mullen became a budget analyst for the Commission of Budget and Accounting in Jackson, then director of the budget division at the State Fiscal Management Board and eventually senior staff member for the mayor’s office for the City of Jackson. She also worked in the brokerage business, and returned to that sector following her husband’s death, working there until retirement. Although she gives credit to Mississippi State for helping her establish a firm foundation, in a sense, Mullen was an accidental Bulldog, having no connection with the university until she became a student.

Jeannie Swain Mullen Mullen was born in Newport, Rhode Island, into a military family. Growing up, she lived mostly on the East Coast, as dictated by her father’s commissions as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy. The family eventually settled in John Reid Swain’s native Miami, Florida, where Mullen spent most of her formative years and cultivated an interest in tennis. “My dear mother, Mona Jean Chesney deserves all the credit for my love of tennis and all that has come from my involvement in the game," Mullen explained. She continued, “I doubt my mother ever imagined when she first introduced me to tennis and afforded me with afternoon lessons at age 14, the kinds of doors this wonderful sport would open for me. From the people that I have met to the life that I have lived, I’m convinced it wouldn’t have happened had she not sent me for that first after-school lesson.” Her passion and transformative scholarship opportunity conspired to bring Mullen to Starkville, where she continues her relationship with Mississippi State by encouraging and supporting the dreams of aspiring female athletes. “I have always believed that young people, young women in particular, miss an early and important opportunity to learn critical life and business skills when they don’t participate in an organized sport,” Mullen said. “Every sport encourages and develops leadership

“I have always believed that young people, young women in particular, miss an early and important opportunity to learn critical life and business skills when they don’t participate in an organized sport. Every sport encourages and develops leadership skills, teamwork, self esteem, self confidence, a healthy competitiveness, a sense of fair play, the ability to perform in the face of adversity, resilience, and analytical skills, among many other benefits.” ~ Jeannie Swain Mullen TOP: (L-R) Richard Puckett, Jeannie Swain Mullen and Richard Rula. BOTTOM: Mullen, second from the left, as part of the 1979 MSU women's tennis team. skills, teamwork, self esteem, self confidence, a healthy competitiveness, a sense of fair play, the ability to perform in the face of adversity, resilience, and analytical skills, among many other benefits.” In recent years, Mullen’s appreciation for Mississippi State has grown, as has her understanding of how private support provides the university with a competitive advantage. The lessons in giving she learned from two fellow alumni, Richard Rula and Richard Puckett, who have both served on the MSU Foundation board. Rula, a 1970 civil engineering graduate, is president of Hemphill Construction Co. and Puckett is a 1977 general business administration graduate who is chairman and CEO of Puckett Machinery Co. Mullen plays social and recreational tennis with them at River Hills Club in Jackson. “What started out as a common love of the game has developed into wonderful friendships with each of them, their spouses, Sherry and

Mary, and their families,” Mullen said. Initially, Mullen met Rula through her late husband Wayne who was a graduate of Mississippi College in Clinton and a competitive tennis player. The two men were teammates in various men’s leagues over the years, and she played mixed doubles with them. “If you spend any time around either Richard, you pick up on their personal commitments to MSU,” Mullen said. “Both of them have always taken the time to answer my questions about their work with MSU and how the giving process works. They have also led by excellent example through their own personal giving.” Mullen admits her gift to women’s athletics was influenced by her personal time at MSU, her positive experiences as a student-athlete and the examples set by others. “The game of tennis has blessed me with a wonderful and interesting life, meaningful friendships, memorable travel to far-flung

places and a healthy lifestyle,” said Mullen, who reached No. 1 in women’s national 35 (senior) doubles in 2001. “For these many blessings I thank both my mother and Wayne.” She continued, “Sharing a love of tennis was a wonderful part of the seven short years Wayne and I had together. He encouraged me in every way to pursue my dreams, on the tennis court and off. It is also through Wayne’s financial success that I am able to make this gift to MSU.” The endowment from Mullen was carefully planned to “result in something meaningful, tangible and lasting,” and she believes her support accomplishes this. “Last year I had the great pleasure of meeting several members of the MSU women’s tennis team—what a lovely group of happy and healthy student-athletes," Mullen said. "I was particularly struck by their strong academic emphasis and by their future career plans. MSU is beautifully represented by these young women, and I know the future will bring more Lady Bulldogs like them.” n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Infinite IMPACT

Bardsley estate benefits veterinary students By Amy Cagle Over the course of their lifetimes, Charles and Viola Bardsley used careful planning to ensure their giving inspires student success in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. After years of faithful annual support to the college, an estate gift from the Bardsleys will provide scholarships for the most talented students in perpetuity. The CVM scholarship fund the couple initially established in their name will now sustain their financial awards. The Bardsleys, who were residents of Ocean Springs in their later years, began supporting Mississippi State in 1996 with the creation of an annual scholarship in CVM for academic scholars. The scholarship is awarded to the fourth-year senior who has attained the highest cumulative grade point average during the professional program. “Our college gratefully appreciates and will uphold the wishes of the Bardsleys to educate promising students and make available scholarships to those with potential who may need financial assistance,” said Kent Hoblet, CVM dean. “The students benefiting from their generosity will address the health and well-being of animals and associated human and environmental health issues through modern veterinary medical science.” The late Charles Bardsley shared a rich history with Mississippi State University. A native of Newport, Rhode Island, he received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Rhode Island in 1948 and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from MSU in 1950 and 1959, respectively. An accomplished trumpet player, he wrote and arranged music for a number of bands, including MSU’s Famous Maroon Band. Bardsley had a distinguished career in the development of pesticides and related work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was vice president of the Agritec Co. in Houston, Texas, and was a research manager with Mallinckrodt Chemical Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. He also taught and directed graduate



The Bardsley legacy will forever be connected to students who are beneficiaries of their scholarship in the College of Veterinary Medicine. research at Clemson University and was a research associate with American Can Co. in Wisconsin. He held two patents and authored 48 scientific articles and book chapters. Viola Georgetta Bardsley was a native of Litchfield, Illinois. She earned a bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of Illinois and

in a new endowment,” said Jimmy Kight, the college’s director of development. “The earnings from the endowment will result in significant yearly support of our students.” Charitable gift annuities, which are available in most states, provide a donor with lifetime income and do not require a large donation. In

“The students benefiting from their generosity will address the health and well-being of animals and associated human and environmental health issues through modern veterinary medical science.” ~ Kent Hoblet a master’s from the University of Missouri. She taught chemistry at the college level and was a senior chemist and technical associate with Mallinckrodt Chemical Co. Along with their annual gifts, the Bardsleys established gift annuities that benefited them and the university. Following Charles’ passing in 2003, Viola continued funding the annuities. In all, 24 gift annuities from the couple have benefited Mississippi State. After Viola’s death in 2015, the remainder from the annuities and a bequest through her will created the Charles E. and Viola G. Bardsley Endowed Scholarship in Veterinary Medicine. The estate nearly doubles the college’s overall endowment, and earnings from the endowment will continue the scholarships the couple held dear. “Because of the way the Bardsleys’ bequest was structured, CVM has more than $7 million

exchange for an irrevocable gift of cash, stock, bonds, or in some cases, other assets like real estate or timberland, a donor will receive fixed income payments for life, as well as a charitable income tax deduction in the year of the gift. When the annuity terminates, the remaining assets are used by MSU in accordance with the donor’s designation. Another popular way to support Mississippi State University is through a bequest. The MSU Foundation encourages alumni and friends to notify its Office of Planned Giving if considering including Mississippi State as part of their estate plans. For more on including Mississippi State University in estate plans or other deferred gifts such as annuities, contact Jack McCarty, executive director of development for the MSU Foundation, at 662.325.8852 or n

Deavenports’ $3M gift moves MSU capital campaign past goal A By Amy Cagle

new $3 million gift from Earnest W. “Earnie” Deavenport and his wife Mary Ann will support student scholarships at Mississippi State University through the ongoing Infinite Impact campaign. The Deavenports’ commitment led a flurry of calendar year-end gifts for Infinite Impact. Since its launch in mid-2010, the campaign has exceeded its $600 million goal, and Mississippi State is continuing to place an emphasis on campaign fundraising priorities at this time. “Mississippi State University gratefully acknowledges Earnie and Mary Ann Deavenports’ continued generosity and commitment to assist their home state,” said John P. Rush, vice president for development and alumni and president and CEO of the MSU Foundation. “They are setting an example for other alumni and friends as they help our university pursue its long-range goals through Infinite Impact.” Specifically, the Deavenport gift supports scholarships with preference given to engineering students. Each recipient of the Earnest W. and Mary Ann Deavenport Scholarship will be awarded up to eight semesters of schooling, provided established academic criteria is maintained. “As an alumnus of the university, I particularly value the education I received here and wish to return something to the institution that contributed to my professional success,” said Earnie, a 1960 chemical engineering graduate. Though they now reside in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, the Deavenports are Mississippi natives. Earnie Deavenport is from Macon, and the former Mary Ann Penton is a University of Southern Mississippi graduate from Bay Springs. They met and married while working at Eastman Kodak in Kingsport, Tennessee, where Earnie began his career. The couple’s support of Mississippi State also includes the Earnest W. and Mary Ann Deavenport Jr. Chair, an endowed position held by the dean of engineering. A second endowed position, the Earnest W. Deavenport Jr. Chair, directs the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering also benefits from their support. The position was established by the Eastman Chemical Co. in honor of Earnie’s lifelong contributions to education and the chemical industry. The Deavenports’ giving began at MSU in the 1990s when they established the Earnest W. and Laura Mae Deavenport Endowed Scholarship for

engineering students in memory of Earnie’s parents. Earnest William Deavenport Sr. died in 1982, and Laura Mae Deavenport died in 2004. Both were residents of Noxubee County who made their home in Macon, where they farmed and operated a Western Auto store. After graduation from MSU, Earnie earned a Master of Science in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School in 1985. In 2000, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws from King College in Bristol, Tennessee. Then in 2011, he received an honorary Doctor of Science in the fields of business and engineering from Mississippi State. He was honored in 2015 as the university’s National Alumnus. Earnie serves as a member of the Bagley College’s Dean’s Advisory Council and chair of the board of directors for the MSU Foundation. He is also an inductee of the university’s Chemical Engineering Hall of Fame. Spanning more than five decades, Earnie’s career in business and engineering began with the chemical division of Eastman Kodak Co., and a number of progressive managerial positions followed. By 1989, he was named group vice president of Eastman Kodak and would serve in that role until 1994. That year, he became chairman and CEO of Eastman Chemical Co. as the result of its spin-off from Kodak. He would remain with Eastman Chemical until his retirement in 2002, after which he continued to serve on the boards of several corporations including Milliken and Co., Pacolet Milliken, AmSouth Bancorp, Theragenics Inc., King Pharmaceuticals, Acuity Brands and ZEP Inc. From 2010 through 2013, he was chairman of the board for Regions Financial Corp. As the Infinite Impact campaign continues, gifts are needed for priorities across campus in the university’s academic colleges and schools, MSUMeridian, athletics, the library, and the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College. Alumni and friends can join the Deavenports and contribute to Mississippi State’s continuing success and growth by making a campaign commitment today. Gifts through the campaign may support scholarships, chairs and professorships, facilities and programs. More on the campaign can be found at n

Mary Ann and Earnest Deavenport

“As an alumnus of the university, I particularly value the education I received here and wish to return something to the institution that contributed to my professional success.” ~ Earnest Deavenport



Infinite IMPACT

MSU names foundation board leaders, incoming members The Mississippi State University Foundation is announcing 2016 leaders and incoming members for the 47-seat board of directors that guides the fundraising arm of the 138-year-old land-grant institution. Incoming officers with one-year terms that began Jan. 1 are: Earnest W. “Earnie” Deavenport Jr. of Kiawah Island, South Carolina, D. Hines Brannan Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia, and William A. “Lex” Taylor III of Louisville. Deavenport begins his first term as board chair, following several terms as vice chair. He earned a chemical engineering degree in 1960, and was awarded a 2011 honorary Doctor of Science in the fields of business and engineering, both from MSU. He is the retired chairman and CEO of Kingsport-based Eastman Chemical Co. He also earned a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School in 1985 and received an honorary Doctor of Laws from King College in Bristol, Tennessee, in 2000. Brannan and Taylor serve as vice chair and treasurer, respectively. Brannan is a 1970 industrial engineering graduate who earned an MBA the following year. He is a retired managing director with Accenture. Likewise, Taylor is an MSU graduate, having earned a general business administration degree in 1977. He is chairman and CEO of the Taylor Group Inc. and president of Taylor Machine Works Inc. Rounding out the remaining Foundation board officers are MSU personnel. John P. Rush, vice president for development and alumni, is the board’s president and CEO; David Easley, executive director of finance, is chief financial officer; and Jack McCarty, executive director of development, serves as board secretary. All are MSU graduates.



New members beginning three-year terms are: Randy J. Cleveland of Fort Worth, Texas, received a 1983 bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering. He is president of XTO Energy Inc. Paula A. Schuerer of Franklin, Tennessee, received a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1992, and a DVM and MBA in 1995. She is veterinarian at Animal Ark Animal Hospital. Bryan S. Wilson of Fulton received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in entomology from MSU in 1982 and 1984, respectively. He is managing partner of Tacoma Ag.

Board members may be reappointed after vacating the board for at least a year after serving a threeyear term. Those incoming members who previously served with the board are: Tommy Dulaney of Meridian attended Meridian Community College and received an honorary Doctor of Science in public service from MSU in 2015. He is president and CEO of Structural Steel Services Inc. Linda M. Garrett of Atlanta, Georgia, is a 1969 accounting graduate of MSU who is the retired principal of Garrett Associates Inc. She also holds an MBA from Georgia College.

Mark S. Jordan of Ridgeland is a real estate developer of Mark S. Jordan Companies and earned a landscape architecture degree in 1976.

Mike M. McDaniel of Houston, Texas, is CEO of M3 Resources LLC. He earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1979. Robert L. Qualls of Little Rock, Arkansas, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics in 1954 and 1958, respectively. He is co-chairman of Taylor Companies, director for Bank of the Ozarks, and the retired president and CEO of Baldor Electric Co.

Mike W. Sanders of Cleveland is a 1964 physical education graduate of MSU and is the retired president and CEO of Jimmy Sanders Inc. Holliman

Leo W. Seal III of Bay St. Louis earned a bachelor’s degree in geoscience in 2000. He is president of the Leo Seal Family Foundation.

Douglas T. “Doug” Terreson of Point Clear, Alabama, earned a petroleum degree from MSU in 1984 and is the senior managing director of energy research at Evercore ISI. He also holds an MBA from Rollins College.


Also incoming for the board, by virtue of their positions, are Ronald E. “Ron” Black of Meridian and Wilbert G. “Mickey” Holliman Jr. of Belden. Black begins a second term as MSU Alumni Association president, and Holliman is the incoming

STAGGERS JOINS DEVELOPMENT TEAM Starkville native William “Will” Staggers has been a True Maroon fan from day one. In his new position with the MSU Foundation, Will is able to assist his alma mater as he helps others give back to Mississippi State University. “I grew up in a family of big State fans,” Staggers said. “My dad and grandfather took me to just about every MSU athletic event possible, and my grandfather even used to check me out of school when I was really young for midweek baseball games.” After graduating from the College of Education in 2010, Staggers joined the faculty of Quitman High School as a physical science teacher and football coach. He later returned to Starkville and spent three years in commercial insurance before landing a job with Mississippi State as an accounts payable specialist for the Department of Procurement and Contracts.

president of the university’s Bulldog Club. Black holds a 1980 bachelor’s degree in marketing and is director of human resources for Southern Pipe & Supply Co. Inc. Holliman earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from MSU in 1960 and is the retired chairman and CEO of Furniture Brands International.

Chartered in 1962, the MSU Foundation has raised more than $1.3 billion in its history. It closed fiscal year 2015 marking the largest giving year ever recorded for Mississippi State with more than $109.6 million raised. The organization administers most of the campusbased fundraising activities and endowment funds, and is currently in the midst of Infinite Impact, its largest capital campaign to date. For more on the work of the MSU Foundation, visit or follow the organization on twitter @MSU_Foundation. n

“When I was teaching and coaching at the high school level, I realized how much I wanted to get back to MSU and contribute any way I could,” Staggers said. “After reading a recent edition of MSU’s Extension Matters publication and seeing the impact the university has, I thought, ‘I’m all in; I want to be a part of this.’” In December 2015, Staggers accepted his current position, where he is serving as assistant director of development for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Joining fundraising efforts with the colleges’ director of development, Jud Skelton, Staggers will also work with the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station, both of which serve all 82 counties within the state. "MSU is a great school with very hospitable people," Staggers said. “You’d have a tough time convincing me that there is a another school compiled of more genuine people. This university means a great deal to me, so being able to work in a position that allows me to

spend time communicating with our Bulldog family about all things MSU is the opportunity of a lifetime.” To learn more about contributing to the outreach efforts of the MSU CALS, MAFES or Extension Service, contact Staggers at 662.325.2837 or wstaggers@foundation. n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Class NOTES ________________________________________


Hugh Summerville (B.S. agriculture, ’68)

was named to the Cotton Inc. Cotton Research and Promotion Hall of Fame. Now in its second year, the hall of fame recognizes industry leaders who made significant contributions to the field. ________________________________________


Clay McWilliams (B.S. management, ’71)

has retired from Renasant Bank in Cleveland, ending a 45-year career in the banking industry.

Lynn Phillips-Gaines (B.A. communication, ’78) earned

a Woman of Distinction Award from the Raymond James Network for Women Advisors. The award recognizes financial advisers who support the professional growth of their peers and are involved within the community.

Barbara Thompson Alexander (B.S. zoology, ’79) earned the Platinum Medal for Excellence in Research from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A professor of physiology and biophysics, she has received more than $6 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. ________________________________________


Lynn Long (B.S. mechanical engineering, ’81) has published his first novel “Down for the Count: A Gulf City Saga.” He said he was inspired to become a writer after reading a profile of fellow Bulldog John Grisham.

Joan Campbell (B.S., M.S. electrical engineering, ’82, ’90) won the 2015

national Goethals Medal from the Society of American Military Engineers. The Air Force lightning protection systems engineer was nominated for the award after receiving it at the local level. The honor recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of engineering, design and construction.



Renee N. Turner (B.S. civil engineering, ’83) has

been selected as deputy of the Programs Directorate and chief of the Civil Works Integrations Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division and the Mississippi River Commission.

Doug Davis (B.S. marketing, ’84) was a featured speaker

during the annual American Football Coaches Association convention in San Antonio. An Oregon-based financial adviser, he addressed the importance of coaches having a “Fourth Quarter” game plan for their finances.

Travis B. Moore (B.S., M.A.R.G agriculture economics, ’84, ’86; B.B.A. banking and finance, ’84) was inducted into

Mississippi Business Journal’s Leaders in Finance program, which recognizes individuals who exhibit exceptional professional accomplishments and active citizenship. He is regional president of The Citizens Bank, Hattiesburg. FMC Corp. named Tom Wharton (B.S., M.S. agronomy, ’85, ’88) national sales manager for North America Professional Solutions, which comprises FMC’s turf and ornamental and structural pest solutions segments. He will play a key leadership role in expanding those markets.

Bartley P. Durst (B.S., M.S. civil engineering, ’86, ’02) was named director of

the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory for the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center at Vicksburg.

Scott Townsend (BARC architecture, ’88) announced

the merger of 3tarchitects and McKinney MacDonald Architects. Partner and design director at 3t, he said the Troy, New York-based firm will retain the 3tarchitects name and build upon the firms’ shared philosophy of personalized service and collaborative efforts.

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William Corder (B.S. banking and finance, ’89)

is now Columbus community president for BankFirst Financial Services.



Alben D. Roland, (B.S. electrical engineering, ’90) was featured as a Carol Brand

Electronic Products “Wire Wizard” in a General Cable publication. He is director of engineering at the company’s Lincoln, Rhode Island, facility.

The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Walter Alan Davis (B.A. political science, ’91) to the Mississippi Board of Bar Admissions. He will serve the third district, which covers north Mississippi.

Jerry Toney (B.B.A. real estate and mortgage finance, ’96) was named one

of the Top Bank Advisors for 2015 by industry-magazine Bank Investment Consultant. He is president of Cadence Bank. ________________________________________


Shelley Cresswell Thomas (B.S. educational psychology, ’00; M.S. counselor education, ’02) is now executive

director of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau. She will oversee all of Greenwood’s tourism programs and implement programs designed to attract visitors to the area.

C. Meade Hartfield (B.B.A., B.A. general business administration, economics, Spanish, ’01)

has joined Bradley Arant Boult Cummings as counsel for the firm’s Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson offices.

racer Seth Barnes (B.S. chemical engineering, ’03) ran the


2016 Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile international competition. He successfully ran the Iditarod in 2015 and stands out from other mushers with the Mississippi State hat he wears during races.

Christopher D. Meyer (B.B.A marketing, ’03; M.S. physical education, ’05) has been named partner at Burr and Forman’s Jackson office. He focuses on complex civil litigation in the areas of construction, commercial, real estate and financial services throughout the Southeast.

Lucy P. Priddy (M.S. civil engineering, ’05) was named associate technical director for the military engineering branch at the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory. ________________________________________


Courtney Harris (B.A. communication, ’13) has been named community relations coordinator for the Public Affairs Division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation.



Ellie Redden Berryhill, June 4, 2015 to Paul Berryhill (’03, ’04) and Lisa Adcock Berryhill (’03, ’04) of Memphis, Tennessee.

Annabeth Elise and Isabel Grace Parker, June 9, 2015 to Brock Parker (’04) and Kristen Parker (’03, ’07) of Birmingham, Alabama. Kathryn Caroline Moore, Aug. 19, 2015 to Bob Moore (’05) and Haley Huggins Moore of Corinth.

Julia Frances Weiskopf, Sept. 26, 2015 to William Lee Weiskopf (’07, ’09) and Amy F. Weiskopf (’11) of Jackson.

Kyle Miller Walley, Dec. 21, 2015 to James Walley (’01) and Shey Walley of

Irmo, South Carolina.



Forever MAROON Margaret Ann Moore Acosta (B.A. piano, ’75) 61, Winnfield, Louisiana – While at Mississippi State, she was a majorette with the Famous Maroon Band and a member of the clarinet choir, the Sigma Alpha Iota honorary music sorority and Chi Omega. She retired from the Winn Parish School System after 27 years as a music and special education teacher and guidance counselor. She was organist for First Presbyterian Church in Winnfield and a music accompanist for other churches in the area. – Aug. 16, 2015 Harry Raymond Boschert (B.S. animal science, ’55 ) 82, Greenville – A Korean War veteran, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army. He spent 30 years farming his family land in Bolivar County until he furthered his career with Staplcotn. He was active in many organizations, including the Rotary Club, Farm Bureau and the Washington County Alumni Association, which he twice served as president. – Dec. 4, 2015 Howard Thomas Boozer (B.S. business information systems, ’70) 68, Amory – A member of the National Guard, he worked for the Walker Manufacturing Co. for 27 years. He was involved with the Rotary Club, American Legion, Three Rivers Development P.O.D., Chamber of Commerce executive board, and the Gilmore Memorial Hospital advisory board. He also served as First Baptist Church deacon and president of the NMIDA. He was mayor of Amory for eight years and an alderman for four. – Jan. 11, 2016 Phillip Brandon (B.S., M.S. physical education, ’51, ’61) 94, Tupelo – He served in the Navy during World War II before attending Mississippi State. He was a pitcher for the Diamond Dawgs and part of the SEC championship teams in 1948 and 1949. During his career,



he was a coach, teacher and counselor in several high schools. – Jan. 2, 2016 David M. Bufkin (B.S. civil engineering, ’85) 53, Autaugaville, Alabama – He spent his early career with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and as assistant to the county engineer in Lamar County, Alabama, before moving to Autauga County, Alabama, where he became the youngest county engineer in the state. – June 26, 2015 Marion Cooley (B.S. forestry, ’58) 80, Brookhaven – A 50year member of the Society of American Foresters and the Mississippi Forestry Association, he was a registered forester and land surveyor, and owned property recognized as a certified family forest. He was a lifetime deacon at First Baptist Church and a member of the George County Jaycees and the Exchange Club. He was named an alumni fellow by the Mississippi State University College of Forest Resources in 2011. – June 11, 2015 Joseph Francis Curry (B.S. accounting, ’52; M.S. professional accountancy, accounting, ’52) 93, Starkville – He enlisted in the Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After a stint in the infantry, he volunteered for the Air Corps and received flight school instruction at Mississippi State. After the war, he returned to MSU to finish his degree while working for W.W. Littlejohn as an aspiring accountant. He later began what turned into a 25-year career on the Bulldog faculty. He served as faculty adviser for Pi Kappa Alpha and began an independent accounting practice with fellow instructor R.S. (Scotty) Wofford that lasted 23 years. In retirement, he was very active with Global Outreach, completing mission work on four continents. – Dec. 31, 2015

Debra Lipe Daws (B.A. landscape architecture, ’83) 56, Greenville – Born in Greenville, she a longtime member of St. Joseph Catholic Church and graduated from St. Joseph Catholic School before attending Mississippi State. – Aug. 25, 2015 Greg Dees (M.S. kinesiology, ’11) 29, Clinton – A teacher and coach at Raymond High School, he loved baseball and was an avid Bulldog fan. He had a passion for helping others and was a member of Pinelake Church in Clinton. – Nov. 5, 2015 Norman Herschell Duncan (B.S. dairy science, ’51) 92, Olive Branch – A U.S. Army veteran who served in World War II, he retired as a salesman from Universal Foods – Oct. 20, 2014 Edward “Cookie” Epperson (B.S. finance, ’48) 90, Starkville – He joined the Army Air Corp following his high school graduation. At Mississippi State, he was a manager for the football team for four years and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He worked in the pet food industry for 14 years, including managing a 10,000-acre cattle farm. He later became a stock broker for Goodbody and Company and Hayden Stone. He then partnered with Jim Tubbs and bought a Chevrolet dealership in Amory. He was active with First Methodist Church, the Amory Chamber of Commerce and the TennesseeTombigbee Waterway Development Board. – Jan. 12, 2016 George Thomas Everett (B.S. general business administration, ’50) 88, Magee – He graduated from Mississippi State following his time in the Navy aboard the USS West Point. He joined his family business, Magee Auto Supply, and the Magee Volunteer Fire Department, which he served as chief for 20 years. He was the longest serving active member in its history. He was active in the First Baptist Church and held many community service

positions. He served the MSU Alumni Association as treasurer and on the board of directors, and was named Mississippi State’s National Alumnus of the Year in 2013. – Jan. 7, 2016 Jimmy Gassaway, Ph.D. (former faculty) 83, Starkville – Joined the Mississippi State family in 1967 and taught electrical engineering classes at the graduate level until his retirement in 1997. A member of the Mississippi National Guard, he was deployed when the United States entered the Korean War. He earned degrees from the University of Mississippi and Purdue University. – Oct. 3, 2015 Thomas Guinn Goode (B.S. general business, ’66) 76, West Point – A Kodak All-American while at Mississippi State, he was the first Bulldog to play in and win the Super Bowl, when he snapped the ball on the Baltimore Colts’ game-winning field goal in Super Bowl V. In addition to high school and junior college coaching positions, he also coached at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Alabama. He was inducted into the university, Mississippi Sports, Mississippi Junior College Coaches and East Mississippi Community College Sports halls of fame. – Oct. 8, 2015 Benton “Carl” Gordon (B.A. psychology, ’71; M.S. psychology, ’72) 67, McMinnville, Oregon – Following his graduation he briefly worked at Whitfield State Hospital in Jackson before beginning doctoral work at the University of Southern Mississippi. He completed that degree following an internship at Denver (Colorado) General Hospital and Capitol Hill District Clinic. He served as chief psychologist at Oakley Boys School in Raymond and chief of pediatric services at the Community Health Center in Russellville, Arkansas, before joining the Federal Bureau of Prisons, working his way up to chief psychologist. – Nov. 22, 2015

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Marth Estes Gordon (B.S. social studies education, ’74) 69, Okolona – She was a member of the First Baptist Church, the Lanier Club, the Chuquatonchee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Mississippi Democratic Executive Committee, the Okolona School Board, Itawamba Community College board of trustees and the Okolona Chamber of Commerce. – Dec. 26, 2015 Howell Holmes Gwin Jr. (B.A. English, ’59; M.A., Ph.D. history, ’60 ’62 ) 78, Beaumont, Texas – Was a member of the history faculty at Lamar University for 53 years, including several years as professor emeritus. He was an active cultural historian researching medieval medical education, leprosy, art and architecture. – Sept. 3, 2015 Robert Charles Hickman (B.S. physical education, ’68) 70, Middleton, Wisconsin – An member of the Army Reserve, he worked for U.S. Steel in Chicago for two years before joining Xerox Corp. from which he retired as a sales manager. – Sept. 5, 2015 Benjamin Franklin Jarman (B.S. banking and finance, ’49) 88, Greenwood – He served in the U.S. Navy during both World War II and the Korean Conflict. He joined Leflore Bank and Trust following his graduation from Mississippi State and became president in 1975. He retired from Deposit Guaranty in 1989. – Jan. 4, 2016 Bert Jenkins (attended) – 90, Hattiesburg – An Army veteran

and World War II prisoner of war, he was a member of Heritage United Methodist Church and a devout Mississippi State University fan. – Sept. 23, 2015 Francis Donald “Frank” Joffrion (B.S. electrical engineering, ’49) 88, Charlotte, North Carolina – He graduated from Mississippi State after spending more than two years in the Navy during World War II. He had a 39-year career with Southern Bell and BellSouth beginning as a lineman and culminating as operations manager of independent relations for four states. Throughout his life, he was active in his communities serving numerous organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, the Rotary Club and Habitat for Humanity. – June 17, 2015 Bernard Kastenbaum (attended) 95, Richmond, Virginia – He attended Mississippi State on a football scholarship. Later, he served in the intelligence section of the 1st Air Division Headquarters in England during World War II. He received a Distinguished Service Award as a member of 303rd Bombardment Group Combat Team. He spent three decades as a manufacturer representative and professional salesman for Personal Sportswear. – Oct. 26, 2015 Robert W. Keirs (former staff) 89, Starkville – A native of Illinois, he joined the Navy at the age of 16 and served aboard the USS Nautilus submarine during World War II. He earned three battle stars and a commendation

signed by both Generals Nimitz and MacArthur. He earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1954, which started his 63-year career in the field. He joined the poultry program in Mississippi State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1981 where his research helped hatchery success rates approach 100 percent. He holds a spot in both the Mississippi and U.S. Department of Agriculture Poultry halls of fame. – Nov. 13, 2015 Jo Ann S. “Charlie” Koonce (B.S. marketing, ’56) 81, Woodbury, Tennessee – She and her late husband Billy Lee Koonce both served as cheerleaders at Mississippi State. She was named Miss MSU her senior year. She spent 20 years in the apparel business as a buyer for a variety of retailers across the Southeast and remained an avid Bulldog fan throughout her life. – Nov. 28, 2015 Curtis Langley (B.S. management, ’65) 72, Mantachie – A veteran of the National Guard, he worked in human resources for Futorian, Mahasco, Barcalounger, Heartland and Tecumseh until his retirement in 2000 when he became a realtor. He was a Mason and a Shriner. – Dec. 14, 2015 William R. Meredith Jr. (B.S., M.S. agronomy, ’56, ’57) 84, Greenville – He was a research geneticist for the federal government at Stoneville for 46 years. After receiving his degrees from Mississippi State, he went on to earn a doctorate in plant genetics from Cornell. He taught

at MSU for two years before moving to the Delta. He was the only twice-awarded recipient of the Cotton Genetics Award by Cotton Inc. In 2001, he was recognized as Senior Research Scientist of the Year. He served as deacon chairman and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist in Greenville. – July 2, 2015 Jo Ann Lindsey Owens (B.S. education, ’57 M.S. education, ’64 ) 85, Starkville – Following her graduation, she spent most of her career teaching in Starkville public schools for 40 years. In retirement, she tutored Bulldog student athletes and devoted much of her time to delivering meals, flowers and friendly company to those in need. – Nov. 13, 2015 Edna Ruth Rider Pate (B.S. industrial arts education, ’62) 85, Pine Bluff – A retired school teacher of 20 years and a real estate agent, she was an active member of the Church of God. – Jan. 2, 2016 George “Carey” Revels (B.S. industrial engineering, ’71) 70, Hattiesburg – During his 34year career as a financial adviser, he worked for Revels Securities, Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. Always involved in his community, he served his church and many other organizations, including the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, and the board of the Asbury Foundation. – May 19, 2015 Thomas Slough Jr. (M.S. aeronautical engineering, ’59) 88, Madison – A World War II veteran, he began his professional

Evan Ragland III (B.S. electrical engineering, ’49) 88, Diamondhead – A veteran of the U.S. Navy, the namesake of the Mississippi State University Evan Ragland Advanced Physics Laboratory began his engineering career with Victor Electronics following his graduation from the university. He also held positions at Motorola and Friden before starting American Regitel, one of the first systems port-of-sale companies. He was awarded numerous patents for developments in areas including the daisy print wheel, bar code technology and cold fusion. But despite his technological achievements, he considered himself a businessman first, engineer second and physicist third. – Sept. 15, 2015 ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Forever MAROON career with Mid-South Oil Co. and E.I. DuPont before coming to Mississippi State. After completing a master’s degree, he taught math for 10 years at the university. He later became general manager of Blue Channel Enterprises and retired in 2002 as president and CEO of Delta Industries Inc. – Sept. 16, 2015 Gerald Tyson Taylor (B.S. general agriculture, ’54; M.S. dairy sciences, ’70) 83, Starkville – Following his graduation from Mississippi State, he worked with the Cooperative Extension Service in West Point before serving two years in the U.S. Army. He returned to the Extension Service as assistant agent in Union County before joining the MSU Extension Staff as assistant dairyman. He led a 4-H dairy program for 20 years. – Sept. 28, 2015 Joe B. Thompson (B.S. general agriculture, ’50) 89, Bassfield – He attended Mississippi State after receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy. After earning his degree, he began a 40-year teaching career in the Jefferson

Davis County School System. In addition to teaching veterans through the Veterans Training Program, he taught science and later moved into administration. The baseball field at Bassfield High is named in his honor, and he was active in many public service roles. – Jan. 20, 2016 Richard J. Vasek (former staff) 80, Starkville – During a 37year career at Mississippi State University, he served as head of the industrial education department and associate dean for the College of Education. He earned degrees from Texas A&M. – Nov. 12, 2015 James Ford Wilson (B.S. chemical engineering, ’47) 92, Serverna Park, Maryland – As a member of the U.S. Army, he deployed to Europe and the Philippines during World War II. He worked for FMC Corp. for 40 years, holding numerous management positions across the country. He was a volunteer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and SCORE, and held a trustee position for the Chemdyne Site Trust Fund. – Oct. 30, 2015

In Memory of János Radványi Mississippi State Lifetime Achievement award winner János Radványi, who founded the university’s Center for International Security and Strategic Studies and later was inaugural holder of an endowed chair by the same name, died Jan. 11, 2016 at the age of 93. A former Hungarian ambassador to the United States, Radványi was granted political asylum in 1967, completing a doctorate at Stanford University before joining the MSU history faculty in the early 1970s. During his career with the university, he brought worldwide military leaders, diplomats and government dignitaries to MSU and Mississippi. Through the Executive Leadership Forum, Radványi, helped develop a more comprehensive understanding of conflicts and resolution, making the ELF one of the most prestigious associations in the U.S. In 1994 after the collapse of communism in his homeland, Radványi was honored by Hungary with the Award for Development of Foreign Economy for strengthening that country’s ties with the U.S. and Japan. In 2002, the Mississippi World Trade Center honored him with the Guy Tozzoli Peace Through Trade Distinguished Leadership Award. The Mississippi Senate passed a resolution in 2009 recognizing his service to the state and designating him an honorary ambassador. He remained active in his later years as an environmental security researcher.

Remembering Robert Louis Jones Robert Louis Jones, who served as Mississippi State’s first vice president for student affairs, died Oct. 3, 2015. He was 87. Jones came to Mississippi State University in 1967 when he accepted the position. He was charged with initiating and implementing a modern, professional organization to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and growing student body. During his 20-year career at State, Jones mentored young staff, initiated training for heads of resident halls, established student counseling and career centers, started aggressive student recruitment initiatives, and programs for parent orientation, freshmen, intramurals and student leadership training. Jones also helped lead the university through societal upheavals, including the civil rights movement, the Jackson and Kent State tragedies and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as war protest and women’s liberation, including the implementation of Title IX. This leadership helped lay the foundation for what is today the Division of Student Affairs. In 2013, Jones became one of four inaugural inductees



into the Robert L. Jones Student Affairs Hall of Honor. The road encircling campus’s sorority row also bears his name. In June 2015, the East Texas Chapter of the MSU Alumni Association named its chapter scholarship in his honor. A native of Russellville, Arkansas, Jones earned degrees from both Arkansas Tech and the University of Arkansas. He worked as principal at Mountain Home (Arkansas) Elementary and Washington Elementary School in Fayetteville. He served in the Korean War as part of the National Guard and received the Bronze Star. Jones later joined the University of Arkansas and held many positions, including dean of men. While there, he completed a doctoral degree and later served as vice president for hospital administration at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences before moving to Mississippi State. Following his time in Starkville, he worked as a vice president and professor at the University of Texas at Tyler before retiring as professor emeritus. The institution later created in his honor the Robert L. Jones Award, which is awarded annually to an outstanding, peer-selected student leader.

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