ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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Clevelands’ gift builds opportunity in a meaningful place


andy and Nina Cleveland were married in 1983, just before Randy’s last semester at Mississippi State. The newlyweds moved into University Village,the former campus housing for students with families, and began their new life together at MSU. Nina, who grew up in Demopolis, Alabama, attended the University of Alabama prior to their move to MSU. She went to work in the office of Roy Ruby, who was MSU’s vice president of student affairs, while Randy completed his coursework. During her time there, she quickly grew to love MSU and has been a True Maroon Bulldog supporter ever since. As a petroleum engineering student, Randy spent much of his time in Carpenter Hall. Conveniently located near Nina's office in Lee Hall, it gave Randy the chance to visit her between classes. The path he frequented to see his new bride was primarily marked by sidewalks along the Drill Field, however, just steps away stood a historic building that would eventually come to mean much more to the couple. Tucked between McCain Hall and the Walker Engineering building, the former Materials Testing Laboratory is one of the oldest buildings on campus. Built in 1909, it has served various purposes over the years, including functioning as a high-bay workshop. It is designated a Mississippi Landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and has been an unoccupied storage facility for several years. Thanks to a generous commitment from the Clevelands, the building will once again benefit engineering students at MSU as a state-of-the-art student services center. Support from the Fort Worth, Texas, couple will enable a complete renovation of the building, now known as the Randy J. Cleveland Engineering Student Center. Upon completion, the facility will serve as a modernized space to advance collaboration and successful learning experiences among the


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By Addie Mayfield, Photo by Robby Lozano James Worth Bagley College of Engineering’s students, faculty and staff. “In business and engineering worlds, there are so many things that enable success that aren’t necessarily taught in a classroom, like the ability to communicate effectively and work with others as part of a team,” Randy said. “MSU is unique in many regards, but especially in the hometown feel that is embodied across campus. That environment

“When I step back and think about my time on campus, I realize what I gained at MSU was so much more than just an education—it was the building blocks of how to be truly successful.” ~ Randy Cleveland encourages collaboration and networking, which translates well into the professional industry," he continued. "This building will provide space to further opportunities for students to grow those critical interpersonal skills.” Having many fond memories of gathering with classmates to study and work on projects at their small village apartment, Randy is proud to support the establishment of a center dedicated to such engagements. The location of the building is also a point of pride as it is both convenient for engineering students to visit between classes and, as the mid-point between Engineering Row and Lee Hall, is a sweet reminder of the Clevelands’ newlywed life on campus. When the opportunity was presented to invest in the transformation of the former laboratory, Randy and Nina knew it was meant to be. “It was truly a perfect opportunity,” Randy said. “Not only did it provide a unique chance for us to turn a historical landmark into a worldclass facility that students and faculty can be proud of and make their own memories in, but it’s also central to a lot of great memories that Nina and I share of our time here.”

Randy graduated from MSU in 1983 and began working for Exxon Company, U.S.A. the following year. The Newton County native spent more than 35 years in the oil and gas industry, serving the company in a diverse range of progressive leadership roles at locations across the United States and abroad. After coordinating the 2010 merger of XTO Energy, Inc. into ExxonMobil Corp., Randy became president of XTO headquartered in Fort Worth. He was later named vice president Americas for ExxonMobil Production Co., a position he held until his retirement from the company in 2019. Throughout his career, Randy has maintained strong connections with MSU and was instrumental in the 2014 reestablishment of the university’s petroleum engineering program. He is a member of the MSU Foundation board of directors and also serves on the dean’s advisory council for the Bagley College of Engineering. For his dedicated service and support, Randy was named the university’s 2022 National Alumnus of the Year. He was also recognized as a Distinguished Engineering Fellow for the Bagley College in 2008 and as the college’s Alumnus of the Year in 2019. Together, Randy and Nina have invested in areas across campus over the years. In addition to establishing the Randy and Nina Cleveland Endowed Professorship in petroleum engineering in 2015, they also have made generous commitments for the Bagley College, undergraduate research and scholarships—including an endowed scholarship—among other areas. “When I step back and think about my time on campus, I realize what I gained at MSU was so much more than just an education—it was the building blocks of how to be truly successful,” Randy said. “It’s always been important to us to give back in support and recognition of those things that helped us be successful.” n