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Lost then Found

Mississippi State archaeologists give families closure, explore state’s past through study of historic, unmarked cemetery p. 18

I N S I D E Winter 2017

Supporting those who serve p. 2 | Byte by byte p. 12 | ‘Disease detective’ protects public health p. 36


FSC logos_new_no-Recycle or TM







students at Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary in Starkville race their computer-programmed robotic “fish” across the classroom floor. The race was part of an outreach effort by faculty and students in MSU’s Mississippi State University fills nation’s growing computer-science needs one Department of Computer Science and Engineering. generation at a time. FSCBz6toI.cmyk.eps FSCMTE6Xx.cmyk.eps The fun classroom time provides valuable educational experiences for both the elementary and college students. Photo by Megan Bean

12 Byte by Byte

18 Lost then Found

Archaeologists from Mississippi State University give voice to the lost and uncover Mississippi history.

24 Where There’s Smoke

Bulldogs use skills and knowledge to kindle solutions to America’s fiery problems. FSCyzKIWG.cmyk.eps


WINTER 2017 | VOL. 94 | NO. 3


Mark E. Keenum, ’83, ’84, ’88







Harriet Laird Susan Lassetter, ’07


Vanessa Beeson Amy Cagle Bob Carskadon, ’11 James Carskadon, ’12 Emily Daniels Tom Kertscher Susan Lassetter, ’07 Addie Mayfield Abby Ready, ’18 Sasha Steinberg, ’14


Heather Rowe

PHOTOGRAPHERS David Ammon, ’08 Megan Bean Russ Houston, ’85 Kelly Price Beth Wynn


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

08 DEPARTMENTS 02 Campus News 10 State Snapshot 32 Our People 42 Dawgs In 55 Infinite Impact 60 Statements 69 Forever Maroon


Jeff Davis 662.325.3444

COVER Molly Zuckerman examines a skull model in an Etheredge Hall laboratory. As part of a team of archaeologists from Mississippi State University, she oversees the curation and ethical study of the 67 sets of unidentified human remains discovered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, on land that was once Mississippi’s state asylum. Photo by Russ Houston


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 Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity institution. Discrimination in university employment, programs or activities based on race, color, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, or any other status protected by applicable law is prohibited.

Campus NEWS

MSU CENTER LENDS SUPPORT FOR THOSE WHO SERVE By James Carskadon Photos by Russ Houston

As a soldier in the United States Army, Sgt. 1st Class Eddie Scales has spent over a decade leading soldiers at home and through two tours of duty in Iraq. In his current role as veterans outreach coordinator for Mississippi State’s G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans, Scales leads service veterans and their dependents through the transition to civilian life by helping them make the most of their time at MSU. He said this position is a natural fit. “In the military, my job is to lead and take care of soldiers,” said Scales, who joined the center in 2010. “It works the same here. Having the responsibility of soldiers and dependents on my shoulders is something I can do in my sleep. It’s something I enjoy doing.”



Dedication from employees like Scales is one of the reasons Mississippi State is consistently recognized as one of the country’s most veteran-friendly universities. The staff at the veterans center assists with GI Bill benefit administration and serves as a liaison between veterans and others in the university community. In addition to these services, the university offers a non-resident tuition waiver for all honorably discharged veterans and their dependents. When he’s not in Starkville, Scales is often on military bases or at education fairs representing the university, highlighting Mississippi State’s strong academic programs and the support veterans receive on campus. “Besides being a great university, our center is top-of-the-line,” Scales said. “There are not many universities, especially in the

Southeastern Conference, that have a center like this one.” Founded in 2006 and named after alumnus, veteran and former U.S. congressman G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, the center is housed in Nusz Hall, a 7,500-square-foot facility that opened in the fall of 2016. The building contains study rooms, a computer lab, office space and a lounge area where students can socialize. Tommy and Terri Nusz, who both graduated from Mississippi State in 1982, contributed a significant gift that sparked construction of the building. The new facility helps the Center for America’s Veterans build on the legacy of service it started when it was founded over a decade ago. Charles Pearman, a U.S. Navy veteran and a senior civil engineering major, said the

Interested in learning more about the Green Zone, visit

center has allowed him to bond with veterans that have had similar life experiences. Pearman knew he would be a nontraditional student when he enrolled at Mississippi State in 2015. On the first day, he was quickly reminded that he was older than most of the students in his freshman-level class. “I walked into English comp, saw the instructor sitting there and I was like ‘Oh, Hey Chris, how’s it going,?’” Pearman recalled. “All the other students were like, ‘Do you know him?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we went to high school together.’ Then all the students were like ‘You’re old.’” The connections he’s made at the center led to an internship with a renewable energy company, a field he has wanted to pursue since he was stationed in Hawaii. “I would say 90 to 95 percent of my social interactions happen because of relationships I’ve formed through the center or the Student Veterans Association,” said Pearman, who currently serves as SVA president. “Having a place like this, where you can easily find those people, is very important because having that social aspect is crucial to getting through school.” In addition to the challenges every student faces, veterans have their own small and large challenges to deal with when pursuing an education. To better help the university community understand and serve these students, the Center for America’s Veterans regularly holds Green Zone training sessions. The training provides insight into veteran, service member and dependent transitioning difficulties, as well as active-listening tips and information about available resources. It also facilitates panel discussions with veterans for members of the university community who wish to better understand the veteran experience. After completing Green Zone training, faculty and staff members receive stickers that can be displayed in their offices to designate the space a veteran-friendly area. Scales said the most important thing people can do for veterans is have patience and understanding. “We don’t want to be treated like we’re special or looking for a handout, but a veteran needs a little extra patience, especially one that has had a contingency operation overseas,” Scales said. “To come back here and transition into normal civilian life is definitely a challenge. “At a university, there’s a lot of evolving they

FAR LEFT: Eddie Scales, pictured outside of Nusz Hall, is a U.S. Army veteran and currently serves as the veterans outreach coordinator for Mississippi State’s G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans. In that role, Scales recruits military veterans to MSU and is part of their support team once they are on campus. ABOVE: Charles Pearman shown holding a metal seal of the U.S. Navy, a veteran and senior civil engineering major, said the university’s Center for America’s Veterans has allowed him to make many important social and professional connections.

have to do and sometimes they’re not used to that. They’re so used to structure and things being a certain way every day. But they bring good things to the table—leadership, for sure.” Scales understands veterans who have seen combat can have difficulty transitioning to college, which is why the center partners with Student Counseling Services. “The difficulty with that is sometimes veterans want to talk to veterans,” Scales said. “We can sit here and talk. They’re comfortable because of the camaraderie and the brotherhood that we share, which helps them know that things are going to be OK.” In addition to helping veterans transition to civilian life, the center also assists reserve and active-duty service members with the logistics of preparing to leave for a tour of duty. When the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team of the Mississippi National Guard deploys in 2018, staff members will assist the deploying soldiers and provide them peace of mind by taking care of their dependents. “We’ll take them under our wing,” Scales said. “It’s important for dependents to have someone they can come to, that they can trust, that’s actually responsible for them when their parents are away. We take care of them the same way we would our own children, and as a veteran myself, I have dependents that go to school here.” n

“I would say 90 to 95 percent of my social interactions happen because of relationships I’ve formed through the center or the Student Veterans Association. Having a place like this, where you can easily find those people, is very important because having that social aspect is crucial to getting through school.” ~ Charles Pearman



Campus NEWS

The New ‘Boom’ i n S o c i a l Wo r k By Susan Lassetter | Select photos by Megan Bean


hen the first baby boomers turned 65 in 2011, they ushered in a new era for America’s service industries. Boomers are living longer, more independently and with less family support than their parents, and as more and more reach retirement age, this gray wave brings with it an increased need for services related to senior citizens. “The elderly population is expanding and that’s going to bring up a whole host of more intensive needs to be met,” explained Melinda Pilkinton, director of the social work program within the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. Though most people associate social work with children and families, Pilkinton said the discipline has long served the needs of senior citizens. “We work with people across the lifespan,” Pilkinton explained. “From birth to death, we help people with whatever



The Villages, Florida, is the country’s fastest growing metro area and home to one of the largest age-restricted retirement communities in the world.

they might need to enrich their quality of life and be more functional. “For the elderly, that means helping them live as independently as possible, retain dignity as they age and continue to make their own decisions as long as possible.” The U.S. Census Bureau reports more than 47.8 million Americans are aged 65 or older. That’s 14.9 percent of the population, the largest percentage of seniors the country has ever had—and it’s growing. For those reaching that milestone, it’s more than just a statistic. Hitting retirement age comes with a series of lifestyle, financial and often health changes. And more so than those from previous generations, many boomers who cross that threshold find themselves not only dealing with personal changes, but caring for aging parents or, in some cases, young dependents as well.

“We work with people across the lifespan . . . For the elderly, that means helping them live as independently as possible, retain dignity as they age and continue to make their own decisions as long as possible.” ~ Melinda Pilkinton “Making the plans and decisions that come with growing older can be difficult, so many times people need advocates. That’s where social work comes in,” Pilkinton said. “Social workers are there to help navigate complicated issues and make sure people’s needs are met.” Being the voice for one person, much less a social worker’s full caseload, is taxing. That’s why Pilkinton said Mississippi State’s social work degree is designed to not only expose students to the theories and practices that will allow them to work with any population, but also to test their mettle, starting with shadowing professionals during their first semester. “Most students who major in social work know they want to help people, but don’t necessarily know how,” Pilkinton said. “We start exposing them to real-world experiences as soon as possible because they need to know right way if social work isn’t right for them. “Social work has an established code of ethics and it is unconditional acceptance,” she continued. “We’re nonjudgmental and work with anybody. So, if a student can’t

Being a caregiver or someone’s voice is taxing when it’s one person, much less a social worker’s full caseload. That’s why Mississippi State incorporates numerous field experiences for students into the degree program. Classes often incorporate discussions so students can talk about their experiences and learn from each other. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Campus NEWS accept everybody—even the most difficult to accept—there are plenty of majors that will allow them to help people in other ways.” A two-semester, theory-based class helps students build the foundational knowledge needed to assist populations of all ages and circumstances. Field experiences, such as volunteering and internships, ensure students are exposed to a variety of social work careers, which can involve working with any group from children and families to the aged, addicted, ill or incarcerated. Pilkinton said no matter the group, social workers start by focusing on the positives. “We’re strengths-based, meaning we don’t look for a diagnosis first,” Pilkinton explained. “We look for what people have going right in their lives, what they can build on.” Celie Beardain puts that strengthsfirst focus into practice every day at Starkville’s Carrington Nursing Center, which can house as many as 60 individuals at any time. “Each resident is different,” the 2016 graduate said. “They all have different needs and different things going on in their lives, and it’s my job to make sure everyone’s well-being is taken care of.” Beardain said she always knew she wanted to work with the elderly, but


like many new graduates, she didn’t get to start with her preferred population. Her first job as a field educator with the Family Resource Center in Columbus focused on families, but she said the broad education she received at Mississippi State allowed her to adapt. “I don’t know if anyone is ever 100 percent prepared for their first job after graduation, but getting out of the classroom and into the world to see how things are really done helps you get there,” Beardain explained. “Books are important but so is getting out and seeing. “The social work program at State is demanding of us because these 60 residents are demanding of me,” she continued. “If you don’t learn to work under pressure as a student, you’ll have a hard time doing it when so many people depend on you.” Keunshea Fleming, a senior from Jackson, agrees. She said her field practicum with Fresenius Kidney Care in Columbus has been an “eye-opener.” “Teachers stress how important what you’re learning is, but nothing compares to your learning experience in the field,” Fleming said. “It’s nervewracking when you do your first assessment by yourself but you’ve seen it done, you’ve done your research, and now it’s just a matter of going in and doing it. And in the end, you know

Every day, Celie Beardain sees people struggle to make the “right” decisions for their families as they face the realities of aging or illness. It’s often an emotionally fraught time made more complicated by uncertainties, unfamiliar situations and financial strain. However, Beardain and Melinda Pilkinton agree that thoughtful planning and frank discussions can help families navigate this difficult time.

“People should think about endof-life decisions and make sure their family knows their wishes, and they should do it early because when the time comes they might not be able to,” said Pilkinton, an associate professor in social work and program director. Among the things she recommends people have are:

• advance directives, also known as living wills, that outline one’s wishes for endof-life care;

In June 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that millennials—those born between 1982 and 2000—officially outnumbered boomers.

“It’s so inspiring to work with these groups and help improve their quality of life. I have big dreams for ways to help underserved populations and I’m excited to get started.” ~ Keunshea Fleming you’ve done something great because you’ve taken those skills you learned and applied them.” Field practicum is the final requirement before obtaining a bachelor’s in social work from Mississippi State. It is an immersive, semester-long experience that has students working 40-hour weeks as social workers under the supervision of experienced professionals. But rather than helping her narrow down her career aspirations, Fleming said the experience has fueled her desire to find innovative ways to help as many people as possible. “It’s so inspiring to work with these groups and help improve their quality of life,” Fleming said. “I have big dreams for ways to help underserved populations and I’m excited to get started.” n

TOP LEFT: Melinda Pilkinton serves as director of the social work program at Mississippi State. MIDDLE LEFT: Senior Keunshea Fleming, a social work major from Jackson, completed her field practicum with Fresenius Kidney Care in Columbus. BOTTOM LEFT: Celie Beardain, a 2016 social work graduate, serves as the social worker for the 60-bed Carrington Nursing Center in Starkville.

• durable power of attorney, which allows a specified “agent” to handle specific health, financial or legal responsibilities; • and a last will and testament that addresses posthumous wishes, including distribution of property. “It’s hard enough to lose someone when you have all of that,” Pilkinton said. “It’s horrible to lose someone without it.” It’s not a topic people like to think about, especially when they’re active and

healthy, but Beardain said it’s important to have these discussions early—even if they’re uncomfortable. “No one wants to be a burden to their family and no family wants to be afraid they’re making the wrong decision for their loved one,” Beardain said. “That’s why you have to put your feelings aside and have these conversations.” Beardain also said it’s important to let individuals make their own decisions as long as possible and to factor in their likes and dislikes when looking for the right care situation, whether it’s home health care, assisted living or a nursing facility.

“Be open-minded, but know what you’re looking for,” Beardain said. “Some facilities are activity-based, while others focus on interaction, therapy or just making someone comfortable.” Finally, she said to remember there are people out there who can help explain the options or connect individuals with the services to best aid their families. “Social workers are like the calm in the storm,” Beardain said. “We know the systems and have the resources, and it’s our job to make sure everyone who needs services has those needs met.” ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Campus NEWS

Sisterly bond inspires MSU researcher to engineer solutions for hereditary disease By Sasha Steinberg | Photos by Megan Bean


enita Horton understands the toll sickle cell disease can have on patients and their families. For more than 30 years, the Lexington native watched her older sister Sanovia battle and ultimately succumb to complications from the disease. Now an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Mississippi State University, Horton honors her sister’s memory through research that will help improve outcomes for those still fighting sickle cell disease. “My mom was told she had the sickle cell trait, but there was no information given to her about the consequences of it,” Horton explained. “It wasn’t until my sister was diagnosed that my family became more familiar with the disease.” Considered the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S., sickle cell disease is a genetic mutation within red blood cells



that causes the ordinarily round cells to take on an abnormally stiff, crescent shape, which affects how efficiently they transport oxygen throughout the body. However, Horton explained it’s not necessarily the disease itself but rather the cumulative effect it has on a person’s organs and internal structures that causes problems. “As my sister got older, we started to see more of the effects on her body. She was in the hospital multiple times a year, was on oxygen because of lung issues and was prescribed strong medications,” Horton said. “Seeing the effects sickle cell disease had on my sister and feeling I can relate to patients’ families is what drives my passion to pursue the research I’m doing now.” Following her sister’s death in 2014 at the age of 33, Horton said her interest in cardiovascular research in general and sickle cell disease in particular intensified.

At the time, the Mississippi State chemical engineering graduate was finishing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. She made the decision to move back to Mississippi following its completion to further her research and be closer to those who help inspire it, including Sanovia’s children, a now 6-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy. Horton, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering sciences from Harvard, now leads Mississippi State University’s Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Laboratory, through which she is working to gain a better understanding of the basic mechanisms of cardiovascular disease. Her research team includes five undergraduate and four graduate students pursuing degrees in chemical engineering, biochemistry and biomedical engineering. It is supported by the Gilbert Memorial Foundation, as well

The Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation reports that at least 2,500 Mississippians of African descent are living with sickle cell disease at any one time.

SUPPORTING THOSE WITH SICKLE CELL Sickle cell disease is a lifelong battle for those who inherit the disorder. However, Horton said there are things others can do to help them receive treatment for the symptoms. Infusions of blood from healthy donors can give a sickle cell patient’s organs and muscles a much-needed boost of oxygen, which can help slow organ damage, provide pain relief and help prevent blockages that can lead to stroke. ABOVE: Renita Horton, MSU associate professor of biomedical engineering, works with a research team of undergraduate and graduate students to gain a better understanding of the basic mechanisms of cardiovascular disease. Pictured with Horton in MSU’s Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Laboratory are (top) Jackson B. Coole of Picayune, a senior biological engineering major and 2017 recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship; and (bottom left) Kristen P. Hubbard, a junior chemical engineering major from Pleasant Grove, Alabama. BOTTOM RIGHT: Horton (right) honors the memory of her older sister Sanovia (seated) through research that will help improve outcomes for those still fighting sickle cell disease. Also pictured is Horton’s sister Yolanda.

as the university’s Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s Strategic Research Initiative. “The heart contains a number of different cell types, but we’re really interested in the cardiomyocyte, which is responsible for heart contraction and relaxation, allowing it to pump blood to the rest of the body,” Horton said. “We use a number of tools and techniques including microscopes and lasers to examine the features and function of the cardiac tissues and to understand tissue remodeling in response to disease.” Composed of a clear polymer and glass, small devices called microfluidic chips enable Horton and her team to culture and look at the cardiomyocytes as they contract. “Essentially, we are able to mimic the structure of the heart to some degree using an organ-on-chip platform,” she said. “By introducing different types of cells to

this platform, we can examine potential treatments to see how well they work. Examining organ systems on a cellular level allows us to ask very pointed questions.” Horton said understanding how cells are affected and organs are damaged could help scientists develop methods to slow or stop the deterioration that occurs over time, which can ultimately improve patient outcomes. “We discussed a bone marrow transplant for my sister, but because of her condition, including some organ issues, the risk was too high,” Horton said. “I believe the cure will come. My team is interested in understanding how to prevent or reduce organ damage and other issues caused by the disease. I think that can help patients live a better life. Doing research that can be sent out into the world and implemented clinically is how I feel I can make a difference.” n

While blood transfusions can help relieve symptoms, bone marrow transplants have been shown to be curative—most effectively in patients in their early teens. With both of these treatments, sickle cell patients are dependent on healthy individuals who are willing to donate blood and bone marrow. Horton encourages everyone who can to give blood when they can and to consider registering as a bone marrow donor as it’s important for patients to have fast access to these biological materials— especially when facing a crisis episode with their disease. As home to the state’s only specialized treatment clinic for patients with sickle cell disease, Horton said the Jacksonbased University of Mississippi Medical Center, in conjunction with the Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation, offers support groups and other helpful resources. “There are great doctors at UMMC who can advise patients on possible clinical trials or the risks and matching process for those considering a bone marrow transplant,” she said. “The more you know, the better equipped you are.” ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


State SNAPSHOT S P I N C Y C L E : Students got a high-

speed reprieve from the rigors of midterms during a Student Association-sponsored Homecoming Carnival. Featuring classic carnival rides, games and food, the free event was a new addition to the university’s growing list of Homecoming week activities. Photo by Megan Bean





Byte by Byte Mississippi State University fills nation’s growing computer-science needs one generation at a time By James Carskadon, Photos by Megan Bean


ike most students, Rian Walker felt nervous when she came to Mississippi State University as a freshman in 2013. The Ocean Springs native moved into her dorm room, ready to tackle the next challenge in her life and pursue a career in computer science. But before she began her own academic journey, she had another obstacle to face—introducing computer science to a group of 14 middle-school girls from across Mississippi. Walker was one of the creators of the first Bulldog Bytes camp, a computer-science camp for girls funded by the National Center for Women and Information Technology and two MSU alumni, Doug Marchant and Emily Epps. She taught the campers basics of computer science, how to program robots and ways to tailor technology to



their interests—whether it was biology, music therapy, psychology or another field. “They all had so many ideas, but they just didn’t have the same resources in computer science back where they were from,” Walker recalled. “At the end, we had a presentation day and their parents came. They were excited to show off what they had made. I could see I was changing their perceptions of computer science. That touches you in a way.” When Walker graduates in May with a degree in software engineering, she will begin working as a tech analyst at Bank of America’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. As she begins her career, she will fill one of approximately 530,000 open computing jobs nationwide



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“It’s interesting to work with kids from different backgrounds and see how they respond, how they interact with each other. I think it’s really useful for us to be able to explain the concepts to them.” ~ Darius Sandford In an effort that includes many Mississippi State academic units and faculty members, the university is working to fill the growing demand for computer-science professionals, increase the diversity of students and employees in the field, and develop connections that will help Mississippi keep pace with 21st-century workforce demands. One of those helping advance Mississippi computer-science efforts is Sarah Lee, an assistant clinical professor in the Bagley College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. She came to MSU in 2011 after a 19-year information technology career at FedEx. Since joining the faculty ranks, Lee has been involved with many initiatives to expose K-12 students in underserved communities to computer science, while also shaping the education of current MSU students as her department’s director of undergraduate studies. In 2016, Lee received a National Science Foundation grant to create the Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing, an initiative that strengthens existing programs and creates new opportunities for young women in computing across the state. The alliance works to develop interest in computer science among women, retain them in computing degree programs and assist them with the transition to the workforce. Among the many facets of the program, students in middle school, high school and community college will soon be eligible for funding to start a chapter of the Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing at their schools. Each chapter is required to do some sort of outreach in its community, such as using



robots to teach programming to elementary students or helping senior citizens learn to use smart devices. “I think to really make these initiatives work, we have to have people across the state involved,” Lee said. “It has to be a groundswell effort. We need the students we’re trying to reach to step up. They may be in school and like computing, but they don’t know the girl over there also likes computing. If they can create an organization there, they can offer something in their community.” Walker, who met Lee through the Aspirations in Computing Scholarship program, remembers well what it was like to be interested in computers at a young age. She had a home computer growing up that she used to play educational games. When MySpace was popular, she used HTML to design her profile page on the social-media platform. “Pretty much everyone I knew in middle school knew some type of HTML because they were all on MySpace copying and pasting profile layouts,” Walker said. “It was important to have a good layout.” However, early in high school, Walker said it felt like it was not “cool” for girls to be into computers, which dampened her interest. But she said by her junior year, she decided not to care whether it was cool or not and continued to pursue computer science. By the time she was at Mississippi State, she was teaching middle-school girls how to create photo filters like the ones they use on Instagram. “Instead of clicking a button and making it happen, we made it happen ourselves,” Walker said. “I try to show them something they use every day and what goes on behind the scenes of those apps.” The planned outreach opportunities she uses are part of Lee’s research-backed belief that new computer-science students gain skills and selfconfidence in their abilities when they explain computing concepts to others, which increases retention among students. With that in mind, students in her freshman-level introductory course spend time at a Starkville elementary school teaching students about computer programming. This October, Lee and her first-year students spent a day at Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary in Starkville teaching computer concepts to second-grade students with robotic “fish” that were hooked up to computers.



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The younger students quickly took to the machines as excitement filled the room. “I’ve never seen a robot before!” one student yelled. “Mine’s doing the moonwalk!” another said after figuring out how to make the device move. Later, the same second graders came to Mississippi State for a field trip to learn more about computer science. As Lee intended, the second graders weren’t the only ones learning something. Darius Sandford, a freshman software engineering major from Greenwood, was one of the Bulldog students helping that day and had the opportunity to spread his appreciation for computer science. “It’s interesting to work with kids from different backgrounds and see how they respond, how they interact with each other,” Sandford said. “I think it’s really useful for us to be able to explain the concepts to them.” In addition to her computer-science outreach efforts, Lee collaborates with faculty members in Mississippi State’s College of Education to help future teachers learn ways to incorporate computer science and cybersecurity concepts into their classrooms. This spring, Joe Crumpton, a fellow assistant clinical professor, will co-teach a new class designed for education majors on the topic. The course is part of a new computerscience education curriculum and licensure path being developed by Lee and College of Education faculty members Jessica Ivy and Dana Franz. Also helping Mississippi State teach K-12 students about computer science and other technical fields is Vemitra White, outreach director for the Bagley College of Engineering. She serves as co-principal investigator with Lee on the NSF grant for the Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing.



She assists with the Bulldog Bytes camps and GenCyber, a National Security Agency-funded camp that introduces students to computer science and cybersecurity. White also oversees the annual Mississippi BEST robotics competition, which brings hundreds of students from across the state to Mississippi State. The competition, and other Bagley outreach initiatives, have received significant support from industry sponsors, which White says is a sign they instill valuable skills. “Our industry sponsors see these students are gaining skills that are so desperately needed in the workforce,” White said. “That’s why they support what we’re doing. We have to plant the seeds early in students so we can see them grow, each and every year.” Both White and Lee recognize not every student will major in computer science, but they do try to ensure students understand that computers will affect almost any job they might have. The students who do major in one of Mississippi State’s computer science and engineering programs leave the university well prepared to enter the workforce and, in many cases, with multiple job offers. One area where Mississippi State graduates are in particularly high demand is the field of cybersecurity. The university recently launched a master’s degree in cybersecurity and operations. Mississippi State also participates in the NSF CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, which completely funds participating students’ education in return for working in public service cybersecurity jobs. Mississippi State produces the third largest number of CyberCorps students among universities, nationally.

“Our industry sponsors see these students are gaining skills that are so desperately needed in the workforce. That’s why they support what we’re doing. We have to plant the seeds early in students so we can see them grow, each and every year.”

~ Vemitra White In addition to ensuring government agencies have a well-trained cybersecurity workforce, the program enhances research and knowledge in the field. More than 70 peer-reviewed publications have been published by graduate and undergraduate Mississippi State Scholarship for Service students. In August, Mississippi State announced a $3.11 million grant for additional program support. “Cybersecurity is an increasingly important component of our national security. Mississippi State has established itself by preparing students to be well-trained cybersecurity professionals,” U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said in a release announcing the funding. “I am pleased the university has secured funding to continue this program.” For approximately 20 years, Mississippi State has worked to build its leading cybersecurity research and education programs. The university is certified as a Center of Academic Excellence in both Information Assurance Education and Research, as well as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. MSU is the only university in the state with all three designations and is one of only 16 schools in the nation with the Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations designation. “A lot of companies and government agencies come here to recruit because of the cybersecurity strengths our students have,” Lee said. “Our graduates are not only getting positions in regional companies but they’re competitive for jobs at places like Facebook, Google, Intel and Amazon. In the last couple of years, we’ve had those companies come here. I think that speaks to the quality of students we’re producing.” n

MISSISSIPPI STATE’S RESEARCH AND CURRICULUM UNIT DEVELOPS STATEWIDE COMPUTER-SCIENCE CURRICULA In partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi State’s Research and Curriculum Unit is helping implement computerscience curricula across the state. The partnership, which includes a wide variety of stakeholder input, is part of Mississippi’s Computer Science for All initiative. Now in its second year, Computer Science for Mississippi has implemented elementary-, middle- and high school-level computer science curricula in 52 pilot school districts. Shelly Hollis, who serves as the Computer Science for Mississippi coordinator at RCU, said the curricula are designed to be taught by teachers without a computer science background and taken by students who may be new to the concepts. The unit conducts professional development for those implementing the courses in their schools. The courses teach problem-solving, coding, data science, robotics, digital citizenship, career exploration and keyboarding, among other topics. “Industry officials said they needed employees to be able to problem solve, think critically and be comfortable with failure,” Hollis said. “We heard that over and over again. We really wanted the curriculum to focus on those areas and build foundational knowledge.”

Schools participating in the program are encouraged to adapt their lessons to the regions where they are located. For example, schools districts near automotive plants can highlight the ways computers are used in automotive manufacturing, or school districts in the delta can showcase how computers are used in agriculture. “Throughout the middleschool course, students are doing career exploration and looking at how whatever career they are interested in uses computers,” Hollis said. “One of the things we want students to realize is regardless of the career you’re thinking about, computers are going to impact your job.” The RCU recently received a $700,000 National Science Foundation grant for Computer Science for Mississippi, which will help develop teacher endorsements in the discipline and additional content support. As the pilot program continues, Hollis and others will continue soliciting feedback from those teaching and taking the courses. The goal is a final curriculum that can be rolled out statewide, helping ensure all Mississippi students are equipped for high-tech jobs. For more on Computer Science for Mississippi, visit

Interested in learning more about what programming is all about? Visit




Fo st t un he d n By S Phot usan L os b a y R ssett e uss Hou r, ston

MSU archaeologists give voice to the lost and uncover Mississippi history Within PVC-free bags, inside acid-free boxes, stacked in straight, even rows on a shelf, rest the skeletal remains of 67 individuals whose lives were anything but neat and orderly. Retrieved from unmarked graves at what is now home to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, these individuals were patients of Mississippi’s state asylum. During its existence from 1855 to 1935, it housed approximately 35,000 Mississippians. An estimated 10,000 people died there, and new studies by archaeologists at Mississippi State University show that as many as 7,000 were buried on the premises. “UMMC had known there were bodies there and had hit burials with other construction projects, but it wasn’t until we went down and started doing background research that we realized it was actually a densely packed historic cemetery,” explained Derek Anderson, an archaeologist with Mississippi State’s Cobb Institute of Archaeology. He confessed, “It’s bigger than anything I expected.” Anderson said Mississippi State received the call to investigate a wooden coffin unearthed during the beginning phases of a largescale, road-construction project at UMMC. Whereas similar discoveries in the past had uncovered a handful of burials, the team of Bulldog archaeologists investigating this new find used remote sensing, ground penetrating radar and historical records to identify a nearly 10-acre cemetery that had been lost to time. Now, the research team is working not only to exhume these bodies but also uncover the history of the asylum to bring closure to the families of the dead and help scientists better understand the past. INSET LEFT: A photo of the MSA in its prime. The asylum stood at what is now the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where Mississippi State archaeologists have discovered an unmarked, previously forgotten, 10-acre cemetery. RIGHT: Molly Zuckerman, associate professor, examines a specimen in her Etheredge Hall laboratory.





ensuring that every bone and bone fragment was recorded and collected, so they could be curated by Zuckerman in her Etheredge Hall lab on Mississippi State’s Starkville campus, where they are beginning to shed light on what brought these people to the asylum and what conditions they experienced while there. “This human skeletal material uniquely preserves a history of biological experiences: health, diseases, nutrition and violence, as well as when people died and what they died of,” Zuckerman explained. “Doing research on these remains can generate otherwise unrecoverable information on the health, biology and lived experiences of past Mississippians. It can also provide answers n o d e to a lot of family mysteries.” i r e bu r a t a Zuckerman has been the primary a t ls th esen a r u p d e i r v liaison between the researchers and i d e lum t y a s t a s “The in e h the descendant community—those ver the o ds of t n l l u a o who had relatives at the asylum. Since r g the e from l p n o a the cemetery’s discovery received e p of kerm c t u o h Z s p y widespread media attention last l sna Mol ” . spring, she has been contacted by t time ~ numerous families hoping to learn at tha what happened to their relatives. “The MSA closed in 1935, so this is not old history,” Zuckerman said. “We’re talking about someone’s great-grandparent or, in some He explained that while he had hoped to remove cases, even just grandparent. These are people the coffins intact so they could be thoroughly who are still talked about within families, and examined in a laboratory setting, the wood was it’s a family tragedy that they have this big gap too deteriorated. Instead, they performed the in their family history because they don’t know work on-site. what happened to this person.” “The soil down there is this nasty, sticky In talking to the descendants of asylum clay,” Anderson recalled. “When it’s dry, it’s patients and poring over the facility’s surviving nearly impossible to dig in and when it’s wet, records, Zuckerman has come to understand it’s really slick, so it was an unpleasant dig. We the life cycle of the asylum. Built during the used a backhoe to remove very thin layers until heyday of government-run convalescence, the we saw indications of wood, which stood out as asylum was meant to house only a couple of dark brown against the pale clay. Then we started hundred individuals, providing a peaceful and digging with hand tools.” engaging environment where they could recover Records show that the coffins used by the their health. However, in the aftermath of the asylum were built on the grounds. They are Civil War, in the face of widespread poverty, simple pine boxes in which the deceased were laid industrialization and urbanization, more and flat with their arms at their sides or crossed over more families were unable to care for relatives their chests. Deterioration of the wood over time with chronic mental and physical ailments, meant that many of the coffins had collapsed and which led to increased institutionalization. filled with settling soil. It also meant that not “It’s a rare instance where the desired outcome every set of remains is complete. was to send someone to the MSA but many families had no choice,” Zuckerman said. “By the 1930s, it housed more than 2,000 people Anderson said the team carefully and had essentially turned into warehousing. documented the process every step of the way, It’s impossible to maintain humane conditions “The individuals that are buried on the grounds of the asylum represent a snapshot of people from all over the state at that time,” explained Molly Zuckerman, an associate professor of anthropology at Mississippi State. “Human skeletal material is in many ways priceless. It is the only direct evidence of human health and biology that we have for the past.” During weekly trips to Jackson, Anderson oversaw the excavation of the 67 burials found in the right-of-way of University Drive, which runs through the east side of UMMC’s campus.

Rediscovering the Lost 20


in a situation like that, so you end up with very stressed, ill people living with insufficient resources. People suffer as a result, and it’s not just those individuals but also their relatives who live with the knowledge that their loved one likely experienced an unpleasant death.” Zuckerman said it was the widespread poverty of the state, as well as its rural nature, that contributed to so many patients being buried in unmarked graves on the asylum grounds. “Many families would have liked to have claimed their dead, but Mississippi is a large state and the mail system wasn’t the best at the time,” Zuckerman explained. “Often, by the time a family received a death notice and was able to get the money to go claim the body, it had already been buried. There is no evidence that the asylum had embalming facilities, so they would have needed to be buried quickly.” Though fires at the asylum destroyed some of its records, Zuckerman has been able to use the historical data and details from the descendant community to find out what happened to many individuals once they were admitted, including a 19-year-old who died only five days after arriving from his family home in the delta. Because the excavated bodies had no identifying information and only admission and discharge records exist for the patients, it is unlikely the 67 recovered sets of remains will ever be positively tied to an individual. However, the information contained on and within the bones provides a glimpse into late 19th and early 20th-century life in Mississippi. Now available for study to Mississippi State faculty and students, as well as visiting scholars, the remains have already been the basis for a variety of research projects. These include evaluation of the oral microbiome, or oral microbial community, as well as the oral health of the deceased, which provides insight into people’s overall health and diet. It also provides insight into dental restorations from that time. The skeletal material has also been incorporated into studies about body mass indexes and pellagra and other historic nutritional deficiencies frequently found in marginalized and impoverished human populations. Though Zuckerman has plans to incorporate the remains into her own study of the evolution and ecology of infectious disease, she is also interested in what the asylum cemetery can tell us about how social identity influences a person’s health. “By learning about and exposing injustices

Derek Anderson examines the contents of a box in the Etheredge Hall curation facility. He is surrounded by boxes that hold the 67 sets of remains recovered so far from the asylum cemetery. Each of the larger, white boxes hold a complete, or almost complete set of remains, while the smaller grey boxes are partial skeletons.



like mass institutionalization in the past, it’s possible to stop it from happening again in the future,” Zuckerman explained. “We don’t have that many people in mental asylums anymore, but lessons like those from the study of the impacts of living conditions at the asylum and in contemporary Mississippi, can inform modern public health care systems and provisions of care to marginalized and destitute populations like the homeless, incarcerated, chronically ill and poor.” Zuckerman and other Mississippi State faculty, along with administrators and faculty at UMMC and members of the Asylum Heights Research Consortium are also exploring ways to excavate the rest of the cemetery. “The desire is to excavate the remains in a professional and ethical manner,” Zuckerman said. “We’d also like for them to be curated, so they can be used by researchers in a respectful manner because being in an unmarked grave, in a big grassy area, is not necessarily how people want to have their ancestors interred.”

Mississippi’s Buried Past

“O ur job is to su rve y de ve lop me nt s an d de te rm ine if an y sig nif ica nt cu ltu ra l re so ur ce s ar e th er e. It pr ovi de s th e st ud en ts on ou r cre ws th e op po rt un ity for re al- wo rld ex pe rie nc e an d all ow s us to re cor d an y fin di ng s so th ey ca n be st ud ied in th e fu tu re .” Je ~ ffr ey Al ve y

While the scope of the asylum cemetery and its proximity to a major medical university caused its discovery to spread across social media and international news sites, it’s actually not that uncommon to unearth historic cemeteries and archaeological sites during construction. “Almost weekly, I’ll get a call from someone who found something and would like to know what it is,” said Jeffrey Alvey. “We try to help identify what they have, which would possibly mean recording an archaeological site that no one knew about previously.” As director of Mississippi State’s Office of Public Archaeology, Alvey oversees a team tasked with preserving the rich prehistoric and historic resources of Mississippi—a state with a long history of human occupation and exploration.



“Our job is to survey developments and determine if any significant cultural resources are there,” Alvey explained. “It provides the students on our crews the opportunity for realworld experience and allows us to record any findings so they can be studied in the future.” Part of the university’s Cobb Institute of Archaeology, the unit was created in 2004. Its climate and humidity controlled storage facility houses more than 5,000 boxes of materials collected throughout Mississippi. This collection is meticulously recorded and available for scholars to study in person or online through the use of photos, scans and 3-D models. “There are very few research questions about Mississippi archaeology that couldn’t be answered by studying some part of this collection, which is preferable to going out

and destroying more sites by excavating them,” Alvey explained. “That’s the paradox of archaeology—we have to destroy the very thing we want to learn about. That’s why it’s important for us to make these materials available for study.” The office’s work primarily comes through federal contracts, which require an archaeological evaluation of any site being developed with federal money—like highways

TOP: Michael McCoy, a staff archaeologist for the Cobb Institute, sifts soil at the Homochitto National Forest. MIDDLE: McCoy displays an arrowhead found at the Homochitto dig. BOTTOM: Jeffrey Alvey works in the curation facility that houses the Cobb Institute of Archaeology’s artifact collection. The two-story warehouse is surrounded by a three-hour fire wall and is both humidity and climate controlled.

or firebreaks surrounding national forests. However, Alvey said services are available to any Mississippian who is conscientious about preserving the past. “We often get calls from landowners asking for advice about possible archaeological finds on their property,” Alvey said. “We’re happy to do that work pro bono because as stewards of these resources, it’s our responsibility to help the public make good decisions about protecting these materials.” What constitutes an archaeological site can vary, but Mississippi’s definition is any site where at least three artifacts—items created or modified by humans—are found. So, whereas a single stone arrowhead or spear point is probably an isolated find, several in one area could be an indication of human settlement or use. But it’s not just prehistoric or Native American artifacts that are of interest. Alvey said “historic” can mean anything beyond a rolling window of 50 years. “The historic period is anything from more than 50 years ago, so something that wasn’t historic last year could be historic now,” Alvey explained. “Archaeology’s big contribution is to teach us things about the past where no historical records exist, from prehistoric inhabitants to the poor of the Depression Era, whose lives were often not documented by historians.” Alvey said in most instances, people are free to collect artifacts they find, as long as it’s not on federal land and no trespass was committed. One important caveat, however, is that no one—not even a landowner—can knowingly disturb a human burial. But whether it’s a human bone or a smattering of stone weaponry, he recommends people contact the Office of Public Archaeology about any artifact discovery. “Any artifact is worth investigating because one on the surface might literally be the tip of an archaeological iceberg,” Alvey said. “Every day, archaeological resources are being destroyed somewhere, often unknowingly but sometimes knowingly, and that’s a tough decision for us to make. Is a site going to be destroyed or are we going to recommend that it be preserved? “It’s always a compromise between development and preservation, but it’s our job as cultural resource managers to find that compromise and to find the best possible solution when we encounter those situations.” n Visit to learn more about the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures and the Cobb Institute of Archaeology. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Where there’s smoke Maroon and White family use skills and knowledge to kindle solutions to fiery problems With its raw power and untamed energy, fire can wreak havoc on a person’s life and livelihood. In 2017, wildfires in California rated among the largest in the state’s history. They burned for weeks—killing dozens, damaging nearly 10,000 structures and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. While exact figures aren’t known, it’s estimated that the economic loss to the affected regions will be in the billions. The most recent reports from the U.S. Fire Administration, which compiles statistics on fires of all types, show that nationwide, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama have the most fire-related deaths per million people. And while the number of unintentional fires has decreased over the past decade, there are still more than 1.2 million reported annually. This force of nature can’t be stopped completely, Mississippi State faculty, staff, students and alumni are finding ways to limit its destruction and help save lives, jobs and property.




Bulldogs serve students, community as volunteer firefighters By James Carskadon | Photos by Beth Wynn


n an October Tuesday night, many of sophomore Tristan Jones’ fellow students busy themselves studying, meeting with organizations or, in some cases, relaxing at home. However, Jones and a few other Mississippi State students have a different night planned. Eschewing the usual campus activities, they gather in the outlying parts of Oktibbeha County learning skills that will allow them to assist fellow students in a time of need. Jones is one of over a dozen Bulldog students serving as a volunteer firefighter with the East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department. On this Tuesday night, the criminology major from Germantown, Tennessee, is training for the emergency calls that could come at any time to address medical crises, structure fires, grass fires and car wrecks. “What we do, we do for free,” Jones said. “If we didn’t do this, who would?” Throughout Mississippi, volunteer fire departments rely on dedicated community members to provide essential emergency services, particularly in rural areas. The East Oktibbeha unit’s service area includes a wide expanse of rural land, in addition to densely populated student housing complexes adjacent to the Mississippi State campus. The department responds to eight to 10 calls per week, and because students have a more flexible daytime schedule, they allow the department to respond to those calls as quickly as possible. “There’s a rush of adrenaline that hits every time you go on a call, every time you hear the tone drop over the radio and the dispatcher lets you know what’s going on,” Jones said. “If I’m doing anything where I’m able to leave immediately and go on a call, I’m going. “Somebody called 911, it’s somebody’s emergency,” he continued. “It may not seem like the world is ending to you but to them, it may feel that way.” Each volunteer firefighter goes through a 12-week certification course that culminates with a skills exam at the Mississippi Fire Academy. Greg Ball, chief of East Oktibbeha VFD since 2001, said new firefighters are often surprised by how much training goes into the process but they typically end up really enjoying it. “Sometimes they think they can just come down here, jump in a vehicle and jump out at somebody’s house,” Ball said. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Tristan Jones (left) and Robert Lehew, both MSU students and volunteer firefighters, train for emergencies during a meeting at the East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department.

“There’s a lot of training to go through before you go to a house fire with turnout gear on. You have to know what to look for and what to do. You find out really quickly whether you can handle it or not.” Robert Lehew, a senior industrial technology major from El Dorado, Arkansas, became interested in volunteer firefighting after learning about it from a fraternity brother. The Army ROTC cadet said he enjoys providing a service to fellow students and the Oktibbeha County community. “When you talk to people about being a firefighter and they find out their apartment is in your district, they usually think it’s pretty cool,” Lehew said. “A lot of people don’t always understand what it takes mentally and emotionally to be a firefighter, but they’re definitely appreciative.” The East Oktibbeha VFD is where most student firefighters serve, but there are more student volunteers at fire departments throughout the county, said Kirk Rosenhan, Oktibbeha County

fire services coordinator. Approximately 15 to 20 Mississippi State faculty and staff members volunteer with the fire department in their communities as well. In addition to learning intangible skills such as leadership, responsibility and working under pressure, volunteer firefighters often learn skills that inspire them to consider different career paths. Some go on to become full-time firefighters or paramedics. Often, Rosenhan said, the students will apply what they’re learning at Mississippi State to their role as a firefighter. “These kids are young, energetic, interested and sharp,” Rosenhan said. “I’ve had several engineering majors get involved and look at it as more than running out and squirting a little water. They get interested in the machinery, like the jaws of life, pumps and hydraulics, and the thermodynamics of it. It’s very important to have the students here because of their interest, abilities and, quite frankly, their time.” n





Because emergency response times are slower in rural areas, fire safety takes on increased importance for those living a country lifestyle. Most rural water systems are not equipped to provide enough water pressure or flow to support fire suppression, so a tanker is usually dispatched to the scene with water. Kirk Rosenhan, Oktibbeha County’s fire services coordinator, said people should take precautions to reduce the risk of fire and help mitigate the impact of those that do occur. For example, residents need to have their addresses clearly visible so first responders can quickly identify the correct home. If the home is positioned away from the road, the house number should be clearly marked at the driveway entrance, usually on a mailbox.

Household fire extinguishers should be readily accessible, particularly in kitchens, to handle small, manageable fires, but Rosenhan cautions everyone to “not be a hero.” “If you have a fire, make sure everyone gets out of the house and assembles in a predetermined location,” he said. “We want you out of the house.” Rural areas also see a lot of brush and grass fires. Especially in the fall, leaves and dead grass can cause a fire to grow quickly. Because of that, rural residents should use caution when burning anything and avoid burning on windy days. The same household fire safety tips that apply to city dwellers also apply to those in the outlying county. Rosenhan said everyone should make sure their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order, avoid powering heaters with extension cords, keep flammable objects away from space and wall heaters, and cover any exposed electric wiring. For more fire safety tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website at www. n


Mississippi State researchers assess risk of pyroterrorism By Vanessa Beeson | Photos by David Ammon




n a country that boasts more than 193 million acres of national forest and grassland, nature serves an important part of people’s lives and livelihoods. Through a collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, a team of Mississippi State researchers wants to protect these resources from malicious attacks. The project, which includes scientists from the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, the Forest and Wildlife Research Center, and the Mississippi State University Extension Service, is a first-of-its-kind study into the threat of pyroterrorism and proactive measures that can limit its destructiveness. “People have done risk assessments for naturally occurring wildfires but they haven’t considered pyroterrorism. It’s a remote possibility but it’s still a possibility,” explained Hugh Medal, an assistant professor in industrial and systems engineering. “Homeland Security is interested in knowing about novel threats and this isn’t something they had considered before.” The security agency isn’t alone in overlooking the possible threat of pyroterrorism. The project’s coinvestigator, Robert Grala, a forestry professor with extensive experience studying wildfires, surveyed more than 1,600 forest managers and fire professionals about the topic. Many reported feeling unprepared. “A majority of the respondents said they consider a pyroterrorism attack unlikely and aren’t necessarily prepared for it,” Grala explained. “We hope this research can make the community more aware of this threat so they can successfully prevent these fires or mitigate the damage they cause.” In this study, pyroterrorism refers to deliberately starting a forest or wildfire to cause large-scale damage to life, property and the economy. The researchers calculated the likelihood of this type of attack by evaluating terrorist chatter on the World Wide Web, in which they found articles with instructions for committing the act. From there they assessed the vulnerability of three national forest landscapes: San Bernardino in California, Santa Fe in New Mexico and Umpqua in Oregon. They considered variables such as the strategic behavior of an attacker, the number of ignition points, wind speed and how many hours a fire may burn until fire crews gain control. “In the first risk assessment, we were only analyzing the strategy of the attacker in order to estimate the worst-case damage, so from a gametheory standpoint, it was a one-player game,” Medal, the study’s principal investigator, explained. Using game theory and mathematical



programming to create a model of the threat, Medal said they discovered the attacker’s decisions make the difference in the scale of the disaster. “Overall, a worst-case scenario event caused about twice as much damage as a random wildfire,” Medal explained. “For instance, our model determined that a pyroterror event strategically set in the San Bernardino National Forest that burned for 18 hours with five ignition points, would destroy about 50 percent of the forest compared to 25 percent damage from a random wildfire with the same number of ignitions.” In the second assessment, the team looked into prevention methods such as reducing the amount of combustible biomass available to fuel a fire. With this approach, the one-player game became two player. “In addition to accounting for the attacker’s actions, we assessed fuel-management programs used on the landscape,” Medal said. “We found that implementation of fuel treatment on 2, 5 and 10 percent of the landscape, on average, reduced the damage caused by a pyroterror attack by 14, 27 and 43 percent, respectively.” The team then added another layer to its model by factoring in first-responder capabilities—enter player three. “We considered both 30- and 60-minute response times to analyze the vulnerability of the initial attack of a worst-case wildfire with one, two and three ignition points,” Medal said. As a final test, the researchers ran the model using the landscape of the Santa Fe National Forest, which consists of five ranger districts. The results showed that larger numbers of ignition points would be harder to contain and, in some cases, not all fire stations could respond to an initial attack due to their distance from the source. Jason Gordon, a co-investigator on the project and an associate extension professor in forestry said despite the unlikelihood of a pyroterror attack, the research shows it is a vulnerability that’s worth exploring. In a country that’s approximately onethird forested land, any chance of it turning to kindling is too serious to ignore. “I’ve studied wildfires my entire career and I’ve never been a part of a project like this,” Gordon said. “While we don’t see this becoming a common threat, it is still important to acknowledge it as a potential tool for domestic and international terrorists. Our job as researchers is to help lay the groundwork that aids in planning for proactive prevention and response, so land managers and emergency personnel might be better equipped to respond in the future.” n

“We hope this research can make the community more aware of this threat so they can successfully prevent these fires or mitigate the damage they cause.� ~ Robert Grala

Prescribed burns, like the one seen on p. 27, are one method of managing the destructiveness of wildfires while also providing a number of environmental services, like improving wildlife habitat. By reducing the amount of combustible biomass available to fuel a fire, these intentional, managed blazes help ensure that should a wildfire occur, it will be more easily brought under control. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




nce a wildfire gets out of control it consumes everything in its path—ravaging homes and destroying lifetimes of memories while evacuating homeowners watch, powerless to stop it. But what if there was a way to protect property without putting lives in danger? Recent College of Business graduate Anna Barker is creating a fire-prevention system to do just that. Barker said she was inspired to address the issue while watching television footage of a West Coast wildfire as a sophomore. It showed a man standing on his roof, armed with only a garden hose, trying to keep the flames surrounding his house at bay as he was showered with embers. She recalls thinking there had to be a way for people to protect their homes without facing the fire themselves.



“The fire-prevention system would have to be completely self-monitoring and self-activating so you didn’t have to be there for it to work,” Barker said. “It would also need to be environmentally friendly so it wouldn’t kill the grass or be harmful to humans or animals. It had to be affordable, readily available and aesthetically pleasing for people to actually want to put it on their home.”

She took her idea to Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach. With the help of center director Eric Hill, she teamed with fellow students to form BioProvision, LLC—a startup company through which she developed her fireprevention system called FIRST and conducted a successful scale-model test. Short for fire inhibiting rapid safety technology, the FIRST system involves a special fire-retardant gel stored in pressurized tanks. Upon sensing a fire danger, the substance is released through a sprinkler system to completely cover a structure’s exterior to protect it from destruction in the event of a wildfire. In the spring of 2017, Barker accepted a position with fellow MSU entrepreneurs at Vibe, LLC, makers of Glo light cubes, which allows her to continue pursuing her fire prevention venture. “I think staying in a startup setting really fosters an entrepreneurial mindset,” Barker explained. “I have the opportunity to experience situations and gain skills that will be so valuable for my future with a company that is on a tremendous growth trajectory.” n



Imagine a world where there is enough water to meet all of our needs. A world where water scarcity and increasing shortages are no longer a problem. Where better irrigation solutions spur recycling of nutrient-rich water that secures the livelihoods of farmers and paves the way for a cleaner environment. Imagine a world where the spark of an idea grows into a solution that molds the future. We are, at Mississippi State University, where we ring true. MSSTATE.EDU




T W O M U S E U M S, ONE MISSISSIPPI Alumni help bring state’s history to the masses



By Sasha Steinberg | Photos by Megan Bean


s the state celebrated its bicentennial in December, the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and adjacent Museum of Mississippi History opened their doors in downtown Jackson. Expected to welcome more than 200,000 annual visitors from around the country, the museums mark the culmination of years of planning, design and construction to become two of the largest museum spaces in Mississippi. “These museums are as big if not bigger than the ones you see in Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles,” explained Matt McWilliams. “It’s wonderful that entities around the state were able to work together to complete a project like this. I think it will do a lot of good for many years.”

“This project is something everybody in the state can be proud of because it’s a great example of folks working together to make good things happen.” ~ Matt McWilliams McWilliams served as principal for the project’s general contractor, Brandon-based Thrash Commercial Contractors Inc., overseeing the construction of the buildings. A 1991 Mississippi State graduate with a bachelor’s in civil engineering, he was one of many Bulldogs involved in turning an empty lot just west of the Jackson fairgrounds into a $90 million, 415,000-square-foot remembrance of Mississippi’s past and beacon for its future. “As part of the state’s tourist attractions, this project has the potential to be a real economic engine,” McWilliams said. Fellow Bulldog Russ Blount, a 1994 architecture graduate, explained the building was designed with the intention of making a permanent mark on the Jackson skyline. He is a partner with Dale Partners Architects, one of three local architecture firms involved in the museum project. “We want this building to last a long time,” Blount said. “We’ve used materials that are intended to last 100 years. Along with limestone, the building’s exterior is terra cotta, and the interior has concrete masonry units, stone and terrazzo flooring.” Blount said the concept for the museums was discussed in public forums, where the architects and designers invited public feedback on the project that is ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Our PEOPLE funded by the state, as well as donations from companies and individuals. Though the two buildings are connected by a shared, glass-fronted lobby, he said there was a desire for each museum to have its own identity. As a result, the history side has a more traditional appearance while the civil rights section is more contemporary. Upon entering the museums’ shared lobby, patrons see the history museum on the left and the civil rights museum to the right. A wood-veneer wall across the way hides a 250-occupant multipurpose room for special events and meetings. While the Museum of Mississippi History presents the entire breadth of Magnolia State history from Native American settlements to the present day, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum focuses on the period of 1945 to 1976 when the state was ground zero for the movement. The first and second floors of the buildings are the public spaces and house the museums’ collections, which consist of more than 22,000 pieces. There are also administrative offices, a store, classroom areas and social settings. The structure features a “green” roof on its attached parking garage. This concept hides from view the machinery that typically clutters rooftops and instead makes it a visitor-friendly terrace suitable for gatherings or outdoor presentations. Its design also helps make the structure more energy and environmentally efficient. McWilliams said he is proud to be among the Bulldog alumni who contributed to this ambitious, innovative project that generations of Mississippians will enjoy. “There was a lot of communication and planning among the engineers, architects, exhibit contractors and consultants, so we were able to work together to solve problems and stay on schedule,” McWilliams said. “This project is something everybody in the state can be proud of because it’s a great example of folks working together to make good things happen.” n




A: A colorful, modern image display inside the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. B: A sweater worn by a varsity football player at Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College, now Mississippi State University. C: Educational accessories in the “Higher Learning” section within the Museum of Mississippi History’s “The World Remade 1866-1902” exhibit include buttons from a uniform worn at what is now Mississippi State University, as well as a 1988 key ring commemorating 100 years of MSU agricultural and forestry experiments. D: An image of two women holding hands located in the atrium connecting the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. E: A Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College entrance and assignment card. New students had to present the card to the professors who held entrance examinations. Students then had to give the card to the director of their respective schools for assignment to studies. F: Mississippi State University alumni Matt McWilliams of Brandon, left, and Russ Blount of Jackson, are among the Bulldogs who brought the two museums to fruition. Together, they stand in the atrium that connects the two museums, which are expected to welcome more than 200,000 annual visitors from around the country. G & H: Two exhibits in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The one on the left provides an introductory timeline for civil rights history in Mississippi, while the other focuses on black empowerment. E







Mississippi State in the Museums Stephenie Morrisey of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History says Bulldog faithful can expect to see several exhibits with a Maroon and White influence at the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

• Historic photograph of State’s campus • Kerosene lamps from MSU’s first dormitory • Buttons from an MSU student uniform • Key ring commemorating 100 years of agricultural and forestry experiments • Sweater worn by a varsity Bulldog football player

MUSEUM OF MISSISSIPPI HISTORY The World Remade 1866–1902 The “Higher Learning” section within this exhibit discusses the establishment of the state’s public and private colleges and has:

Forging Ahead 1946-Present This exhibit area features several artifacts related to football, including an iconic MSU cowbell.

MISSISSIPPI CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM I Question America This gallery includes the story of the “Game of Change” when the Mississippi State men’s basketball team defied court injunctions to play Loyola University Chicago’s integrated team in the 1963 NCAA basketball tournament. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




OUT PUBLIC HEALTH THREATS By Susan Lassetter | Portrait submitted


s a doctor of veterinary medicine, Victoria Hall wouldn’t seem a natural fit for investigating human epidemics. However, it’s her background in agriculture and animal sciences that make her a valuable part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Mississippi State alumna is what’s known as a “disease detective” in the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. Chosen from a highly competitive pool of applicants that include physicians, scientists and skilled nurses from across the country, these young professionals chase down outbreaks and disease to sleuth out what is happening and how to keep the public safe. “We rely on veterinarians in applied epidemiology because they are trained to assess the health of an individual as well as the health of the population,” explained Eric Pevzner, chief of the Epidemic Intelligence Service program. “These skills contribute to our multidisciplinary approach to addressing public health.” The CDC uses a concept called “one health” to serve the public good. It is the idea that human, animal and environmental health are all closely related and that addressing emerging health problems requires collaborative efforts across these disciplines. Hall said she began to really embrace this idea during a semester studying wildlife management in Kenya.



“During that semester, it became very apparent you couldn’t ask people to care about elephants when the elephants were stomping on crops and causing families to go hungry,” Hall recalled. “I really became aware that if you helped people grow healthier animals and have safer food supplies you could really help grow a community and its capacity to do a lot of things. That was my first introduction to improving community health.” A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hall came to Mississippi State as part of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s early entry program, which pre-admits students to its ranks in an effort to smooth their transition from undergraduate to medical degree. She completed a bachelor’s in animal and dairy sciences in 2011 and finished the vet program in 2014. During that time, she also completed a number of international placements, including time with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Italy and Vietnam, a One Health summer school program in Uganda, a World Vets project in Nicaragua, and a summer aboard a Navy ship in the South Pacific—all of which inspired her to continue her studies at Mississippi State and complete a master’s in veterinary medical sciences in 2015. “It was such a blessing to be in an environment like Mississippi State University that was so supportive of me pushing the limits of what a vet can do in the public-health world,” Hall explained. “My time at Mississippi State sparked this desire to serve,” she continued. “It became about how to find the best information and the best science to put into the community and drive good policy, decisions and programs to help it succeed.” Now in her final year of the two-year CDC training program, she is stationed with the Minnesota Department of Health. There she works with the state’s Unexplained Deaths and Critical Illness Program to investigate fatalities that have no clear cause. “With emerging health threats, people are getting affected by disease before we even know it exists,” Hall explained. “Since death represents the most severe manifestation of disease, this system allows us to look into unexplained deaths to find rare illnesses or common illnesses that present uncommonly and identify growing threats.” Basically, it’s Hall’s job to expect the unexpected. And it’s this way of thinking that helps her find the reason behind many of Minnesota’s unexplained

deaths and how they might be interconnected— like those related to the habitual use of opioidbased painkillers such as morphine, hydrocodone or oxycodone. Take the case of a middle-aged Minnesota man who died suddenly and at home. He regularly took prescription medication for back pain, and in the two days prior to his death had shown mild indications of feeling ill and began slurring his words. Testing from the medical examiner diagnosed influenza pneumonia and revealed a high level of opioids in his system. In this instance, it was a common illness presenting uncommonly that raised the red flag for Hall and her colleagues. Pneumonia wouldn’t ordinarily be fatal to an otherwise healthy man in his 40s, but Hall said it’s likely his use of opioid painkillers made him more susceptible to the infection or allowed it to become more severe. “By using this unexplained-deaths program we’ve been able to look at the opioid epidemic from the infectious disease standpoint,” Hall said. “We know opioids can impact the immune system and have side effects that make it easier for something like pneumonia to set in. What we’ve seen is that even prescribed levels of these drugs can be deadly if combined with infectious disease. “We’ve seen a good number of cases with such profound infectious disease it was the only thing written on the death certificate,” Hall continued. “With no mention of the very high levels of morphine, these deaths don’t get counted in opioid-related death surveillance, which means the problem could be underestimated.” Hall reports that more than half of the opioidrelated fatalities identified through her work were not captured in the statewide opioid surveillance data. Because Minnesota is low on the list of severity when it comes to states facing an opioid crisis, it’s possible the problem is much greater nationwide. “Ninety-one Americans die each day from an opioid overdose and in 2015, there were over 33,000 deaths related to opioids, more than any year on record,” Hall explained. “Opioids don’t discriminate against the young or the old, men or women, rural or urban. We find it in all areas. “With the number of opioids being prescribed quadrupling in the last decade, it makes for a very complex public health threat that we need to address from a lot of different angles.” n







WOMEN’S BASKETBALL ROYALTY FORGED IN MAROON AND WHITE By Tom Kertscher and Alumnus Staff | Photo by Russ Houston


e earned multiple Southeastern Conference and USA Basketball national coach of the year honors. He coached teams to four WNBA championships and an Olympic gold medal, and holds membership in two national basketball halls of fame. At times he’s been a Comet, a Rebel and a Tiger. But through it all, Van Chancellor’s always been a Bulldog. “I grew up watching Mississippi State basketball,” the Nanih Waiya native said. “Bailey Howell, Red Stroud, Leland Mitchell, Kermit Davis, those were some of the people who fanned my love of the game.” Chancellor played point guard for Bulldog alumnus Gary Hughes from 1958-61 at Louisville High School where he averaged 23 points per game. He then spent two years as, what he calls, “a star bench warmer” at East Central Junior College. He hung up his jersey after transferring to Mississippi State, but couldn’t shrug off his love of the game so easily. Chancellor turned his attention to the coaches’ box and found himself leading boys teams while completing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. But still, it wasn’t his knowledge of the game that landed him a gig at Noxapater High School. “I got my first job because I could teach algebra,” the 1965 Mississippi State graduate admitted. “Then, when I transferred to Horn Lake High School to teach and coach boys basketball, they said I could teach one less class if I would also coach the girls. Coaching beat teaching every time. “So, I kind of fell into coaching girls to get out of the classroom but once I coached it, I fell in love with the women’s game,” Chancellor continued. Just six years later, he found himself leading the Ole Miss Lady Rebels.

“When I went to Ole Miss in 1978, women’s college basketball was just beginning to catch on,” Chancellor recalled. “I never dreamed it would carry me to the places it did and it would enjoy the growth that it has.” In 19 seasons at Ole Miss, Chancellor led the Lady Rebels to four Elite Eight appearances and an SEC Championship. He also was a three-time conference coach of the year and earned the honor nationally in 1992 from the Women’s Basketball News Service. When the WNBA was formed in 1996, he couldn’t resist the opportunity of taking the sport he loved to the next level. “As a coach, you enjoy the wonder and enthusiasm of the young players but when you get that and an athlete with refined skills and knowledge of the game, well, there’s no more fun in coaching,” Chancellor said. “When you get to that upper echelon you coach more, too. Everyone has talented players and you have to study and strategize how best to use your players to beat theirs.” Chancellor was the first coach of the Houston Comets, one of the WNBA’s founding franchises, and saw immediate success. In what is described as the first dynasty of the WNBA, he led his team to win the league’s first four championships—1997-2000. No American professional basketball team had earned four consecutive titles since the Boston Celtics’ finished eight in a row in 1966—and none have accomplished the feat since. With his success in Houston, Chancellor was chosen to lead the U.S. women’s basketball team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he coached household names like Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes to bringing home the gold. “The greatest thrill a boy from Nanih Waiya could have is to be the coach of the ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Our PEOPLE “I’ve known Vic a long time and there was never any doubt in my mind that he would be successful. All sports change and no sport has improved as much as women’s basketball.” ~Van Chancellor Olympic gold medal-winning USA women’s basketball team,” Chancellor said. Now on the 10-year anniversary of his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—at which childhood hero and longtime friend Bailey Howell delivered his introductory remarks—Chancellor said he believes it was more his enthusiasm than his skill that led to his career success. “I don’t know that I was much of a leader, but I had a lot of energy,” the ESPN 3 analyst said. “I worked at the game and studied the game. “And I loved my players,” he continued. “I genuinely cared about them as human beings. They knew that I had their best interests at heart. If you’re going to get after them pretty good, they’ve got to know you’ve got their best interests at heart.” Chancellor said he sees that same care for the players in Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer, who is coming off the most successful women’s basketball season in program history. “I’ve known Vic a long time and there was never any doubt in my mind that he would be successful,” Chancellor said. “All sports change and no sport has improved as much as women’s basketball. “To see an arena filled with fans cheering the ladies, just like you so often see with their male counterparts, always feels good because I know the blood, sweat and tears many have put in over the years to bring the sport to this level,” Chancellor said. “It’s nice to see it appreciated at my alma mater and everywhere it’s played.” n



WRITING THE NEXT CHAPTER IN HISTORY By Bob Carskadon | Photo by Kelly Price

Last season, Mississippi State’s women’s basketball team made history. What began with a record-setting run of victories and finished with an appearance in the national championship game, didn’t just complete the best season in program history–they had the best season in the history of Mississippi State sports, period. And now, head coach Vic Schaefer has to answer one big question: how do you follow that up? “It’s not building the program that’s the hardest thing to do,” Schaefer explained as he pondered the question. “It’s maintaining it. That’s what we’re trying to do now. “What we’ve been preaching to our kids,” he continued, “is that year is over. It’s done. We lost four seniors that won 111 games. They’re not coming back. This senior class will be remembered for what they accomplished this year, not what they did their junior year. This senior class has a chance to surpass the 111 victories. I’ve got four seniors that are a little hungry to do that.” Certainly, this season’s senior class has already made some history of its own. It was senior guard Morgan William–then a junior–who hit one of the biggest shots in basketball at any level when she sank a buzzer-beater against UConn in the Final Four. Senior guard Victoria Vivians is one of the most accomplished athletes to ever play at MSU, regardless of sport, a star

shining so bright that she had a display in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame before she even graduated high school. However, replacing the four seniors from last year’s team involves replacing four of the best the program has ever had. No one brought more heart, energy, passion and determination in Schaefer’s tenure than Dominique Dillingham, and the graduating trio of Ketara Chapel, Breanna Richardson and Chinwe Okorie means he lost three of his four top forwards. How do you replace so much tangible production and intangible inspiration? “If we’re doing our job in recruiting,” Schaefer said, “those kids are here. It doesn’t change my expectation. We’re still going to coach and try to win an SEC Championship…We’re going to keep trying to be the best we can be and keep Mississippi State where it’s supposed to be. That’s our job. Our expectation is to go out and win.” Following up the greatest season in school history will be difficult, but Vivians already knows exactly how to do it–win one more game. “Last year’s team was great and last year’s seniors were great,” she said, “but I feel like we have a new role to play. We can’t play the same role because we didn’t reach the goals that we wanted to reach. This year’s seniors, we have something to strive for that’s even better. We’ve got to try to get first place now instead of second place.” n


Enjoy beautiful pictures of familiar campus scenes that bring back special memories of your time at Mississippi State. The official State calendar has become a Bulldog tradition. With pictures by MSU’s own award-winning photographers, it’s truly a one-of-a-kind treasure. Order online today at or call 662-325-7000.

MSU is an AA/EEO university.



Our PEOPLE Established in 2016 to combine three coastal-county alumni groups—previously Hancock, Harrison-Stone and Jackson— the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the MSU Alumni Association boasts more than 5,000 alumni and friends within its borders. Working together, those Coast Dawgs are leaving a mark on their communities while bolstering the reputation of the Mississippi State family.

Dawgs o Mississinpthe pi

Living up to a legacy of service Every member of Mississippi State University’s faculty, staff and student body quickly learns the three tenets on which the institution was founded—learning, research and service. These words inform the university’s mission and shape the Bulldog family across the globe. They’re also what drive the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the Mississippi State Alumni Association to take an active role in bettering the communities it serves. “We believe it’s important to perform community service because it speaks to the pedigree of the Mississippi State alumni base,” explained Jeffrey Ellis, president of the chapter. “We are a serviceminded university and with that, it became one of the main focuses of our chapter.” Since coastal alumni were unified as one chapter two years ago, the group has engaged in hundreds of hours of community service, seeking unique ways to share their love for Mississippi State and help people see what being a Bulldog is all about. In the past year alone, the group has supported the Salvation Army and Relay for Life, as well as local



food drives and the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, a Gulfport-based children’s museum. Members also helped children build model shrimp boats for the annual Gulf Coast Wooden and Classic Boat Show, hosted by the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. Coast Dawgs also served at the National Veterans Golden Age Games, which were held in Biloxi, and hosted booths at numerous civic events and a Gulf Coast celebration for Mississippi’s bicentennial. “It goes back to family,” Ellis, the 2006 mechanical engineering graduate, said. “That’s the one attribute Mississippi State has always prided itself on—being a close-knit family. And that extends into the local communities long after graduation.” While the group undertakes these activities from altruistic desires, Ellis admits that they never lose sight of recruiting the next generation of Bulldogs. The chapter’s “adopted highway” is strategically placed on highway 67 in north Biloxi, between D’Iberville and St. Patrick Catholic high schools, to ensure those future Dawgs are never far from a Mississippi State influence. n

The Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the MSU Alumni Association is active in both community service and fundraising, using every opportunity to bring Bulldog faithful together for fun, fellowship and worthwhile causes including sponsoring an “adopted” highway in north Biloxi; gathering to watch the Biloxi Shuckers, a Biloxi-based affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team; and volunteering for area charities and events.

DAWGS IN “It’s organizations like the Mississippi State Alumni Association that make it possible for students like me to pursue our dreams.”

~Jacob Alexander (left)

Vancleave – Vancleave High School Mechanical Engineering “It’s a great honor to have received this scholarship. It has helped bring my educational goals into closer reach and allowed me the time to focus more on my studies. Thank you so much!”

~Taylor Ladner (right)

Kiln – Hancock High School Biological Sciences

Putting your money where your mouth is

“I was very appreciative of receiving this scholarship. It was most helpful because it was the last bit I needed to pay for everything.”

~ Ni’Kera Johnson

Gulfport – Gulfport High School Biomedical Engineering

“When I was informed that I’d be receiving this scholarship, I was honestly surprised but truly grateful.”

~ Mary Katherine Marshall Hurley – East Central High School Biomedical Engineering

Since 2016, the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the MSU Alumni Association has offered $23,000 in scholarships to college-bound students across Mississippi’s coastal communities. It’s a point of pride for the chapter members who earn every dollar of scholarship money from fundraisers and donations throughout the year. “We want to show these kids that we want them to succeed in life, and the way we do that is by giving back through this scholarship fund,” explained Joe Abston, scholarship chairman for the chapter. “It’s kind of putting your money where your mouth is. We want them to go to Mississippi State and be successful, so we want to give financial support to get them there.” Abston, who earned accountancy degrees in 1991 and 1992, said the chapter strives to provide as many scholarships as possible each year. That means always looking for ways to fundraise that not only help feed the coffers, but also bring the Coast Dawgs together for fun events. He said hosting the southern-most leg of the Road Dawgs Tour is a reliable big fundraiser, as is the chapter’s annual “drawdown,” a $50 per ticket party that includes food, drinks and friendly competition for door prizes.

“It doesn’t cost us a lot to put on our events because we hustle to get donations and good deals,” Abston explained. “And we are involved in almost everything we can be, trying to make a dollar every way we can.” He added that selling “Coastal STATE of Mind” shirts this year actually earned enough to fund two scholarships. Other than covering the expenses for the various fundraisers and events, all of the chapter proceeds go into funding scholarships. Each award, including the Joe D. Cole Endowed Scholarship, provides $1,000 of support for an entering freshman. Abston said when making recommendations for how the university awards the scholarships, they try to divvy them up across the counties based on how many incoming freshmen each produces. From there, he said, they look for students who have well-rounded resumes, including community service, extracurricular activities and work experience—those who are doing all they can to ensure their futures. “We try to raise as much money as we can and we don’t want to hold on to it,” Abston said. “We want to pass it out to try to help deserving kids—as many as we can. That $1,000 can go a long way.” n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




Send them off in style With membership that covers four, bustling Mississippi counties, the Magnolia State’s Gulf Coast alumni chapter hosts three separate send-off parties each year to celebrate the newest Bulldogs from the area. Spread out across the four counties that constitute the coastal chapter, these parties are both a big celebration to welcome freshmen and transfer students to the Maroon and White family and intimate gatherings for communities to recognize the success of their students. It’s a unique balance that Richard Cannon said is achieved through deliberate planning. “We try to limit the distance students and parents will have to travel for the parties, but the whole chapter pitches in for all of the events,” explained Cannon, who serves as the chapter’s send-off coordinator. “This three-party approach has worked well and they’ve grown each year.” Cannon, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and an MBA in 1986 and 2000, respectively, attributes much of the send-off success to the chapter’s “welcome to the Bulldog family” theme, which focuses on making students and parents feel at ease with the university transition and immediately part of the MSU community. “These parties demonstrate that Mississippi State is a family, and show students and their parents that people in their own communities value MSU, support MSU and support our incoming students,” Cannon said. “It is also an opportunity for the students to meet others from the area who will be attending MSU and might be in the same major or dorm—a familiar face when they get to campus. It’s all about reducing any anxiety students or parents may have.” The set-up for each of the chapter’s three send-off parties is the same. It all starts with chapter members sending personal invitations to the new Bulldogs in their area. At the event, initial introductions serve as an ice breaker then transition into campus representative and alumni speakers who can offer words of wisdom. But Cannon said it’s how they conclude the evening that makes the coastal send-off parties unique. “We usually give away MSU-themed door prizes, and recently, fundraising has allowed us to also give a cowbell to each student,” Cannon said. “We have them all put on the T-shirts the Alumni Association provides and hold their bells for a picture, then lead them in singing the fight song with all the alumni joining in.” n

The Bulldog Starter Kit Next to receiving their acceptance letter, there’s no moment more important to a Bulldog than their move to campus. For most freshmen, it’s the beginning of a new chapter of independence that is both thrilling and scary. One way to help them feel prepared for the transition is a Bulldog Starter Kit, which could include any of a number of items to help new students feel welcomed to the “family” and prepared for the move. Any of the following would make a great personal gift, goodie-bag filler or send-off party door prize.


A Cowbell – These Mississippi State staples are essentially blank canvases awaiting personalization by their new owners. T-Shirts – Practically an unofficial uniform for college students, t-shirts are available in a wide variety of styles to show Maroon and White pride.


Food focused – Fast food, pizza, ramen and canned soup eventually lose their allure. Consider five-ingredient or 30 minute-meal cookbooks for apartment dwellers or microwave-based cooking manuals those in residence halls. Snacks and personal coffee makers are also popular ideas. Dorm necessities – From shower caddies and bed and bath linens to storage bins and lamps, there are always items students need to help make their residence hall experience more comfortable. Look for items that are size conscious or can pull double duty to capitalize on the limited space available. Campus tools – Backpacks and day planners are a must for any organized college student. Basic school supplies, headphones, chargers and a compact, durable umbrella, make great “backpackstuffers” for the college bound. Kits – For those used to living at home, it might be a surprise to find their new



surroundings lacking the first time they need a screwdriver, bandage or needle and thread. Small medical, tool, first aid, sewing, cleaning or laundry kits can be useful to those just leaving the nest. Campus hints and hacks – Quick reference guides to important campus services, local takeout menus, fliers about relevant organizations or activities can go a long way to making incoming students feel prepared. Alumni, especially recent graduates, are specially equipped to provide this kind of insider’s knowledge to newbies. Gift cards – Ever popular and endlessly useful, gift cards are great for letting a student get exactly what fits their taste or needs. Consider Starkville-area bookstores, grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops, many of which are locally-, if not alumni-, owned. Online retailers and digital stores, like iTunes, are also useful.


A taste of home – Help ease homesickness by sending area students off with something reminiscent of home. It could be a popular local snack, a T-shirt or photo.


Looking to make a big splash? Consider offering a meal plan, semester of books, season tickets or Maroon Memories experience as a send-off party door prize.

Embark on an

ADVENTURE with the

MSU Alumni Association

2018 Destinations* Naples to Paestum JUNE 5-13, 2018

London to Dublin JUNE 7-18, 2018

Zürich to Amsterdam JUNE 22-JULY 2, 2018


JULY 11-18, 2018

Northern Canada JULY 23-29, 2018


JULY 23-AUGUST 2, 2018

Chicago to Toronto AUGUST 14-23, 2018

Cape Cod and the Islands AUGUST 19-26, 2018

Prague to Budapest

SEPTEMBER 5-14, 2018


SEPTEMBER 20-28, 2018

Barcelona to Athens OCTOBER 3-14, 2018


The MSU Alumni Association annually sponsors trips across the globe through the Traveling Bulldogs program. Itineraries are booked through 2018. Our program also includes fan travel, featuring trips for select away baseball and football games in 2018! Explore the Alumni Association website for more information at or contact Libba Andrews at 662.325.3479. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Alumni Fellows visited campus in November. From L-R (front row) are: Steven L. “Steve” Pung, Di Ann B. Lewis, MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Drew St. John II and Lourdes Solera. Back Row: Deborah D. “Debbie” Rabinowitz, Joseph M. “Mike” McIlwain, Mary “Libby” Coleman Todd and William O. “Billy” Ball Sr.

ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2017 ALUMNI FELLOWS The Mississippi State University Alumni Fellows program strives to recognize some of the land-grant institution’s most accomplished graduates. The program brings back one alumnus from each of MSU’s eight academic colleges for a special three-day visit. In addition to sharing insight for successful careers and professional experiences with the university community, the fall-semester event includes various presentations, time with students in the classroom and informal gatherings. Since its establishment in 1989 by the Mississippi State Alumni Association, more than 200 graduates have been chosen to receive this lifetime honor. The newest class of Alumni Fellows includes:

COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND LIFE SCIENCES Drew St. John II knows firsthand about Bulldog spirit. He energized fans from 1976-78 as MSU’s mascot. Today,



the former Student Association officer and Interfraternity Council president is as passionate as ever about his university. The 1980 landscape architecture graduate said he feels that Mississippi State developed him for leadership roles. He enjoyed a 28year career as a landscape contractor and in 2007, founded New South Access and Environmental Solutions LLC, which he serves as CEO. The company is a leading global provider of construction mats, hardwood and timber mats, and composite

mats. He is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and has served as the organization’s president. Originally from Hattiesburg, he now lives in Madison.

COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE, ART AND DESIGN A native of Panama, Lourdes Solera acknowledges the impact her parents made on her professional and personal success.

“They were able to provide my siblings and me with a loving home where education was our only responsibility. Our success was their success,” she said. In her industry, Solera is known for her focus on educational projects and historic restoration as she advances the cause of architecture. She joined MC Harry and Associates in Miami, Florida, where she now resides, in 1999 and became a principal architect for the firm in 2012. That same year, she was elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. She earned a bachelor’s of architecture from Mississippi State in 1987 and a master’s of architectural history from the University of Virginia in 1991.

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES For Deborah D. “Debbie” Rabinowitz, one of her greatest accomplishments at Mississippi State was becoming the first female president of the YMCA her senior year. Another passion was her involvement with the university’s debate team. Rabinowitz earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Mississippi State in 1969, followed by a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. She began her career as a social worker in New York, working at a children’s home with neglected and abused children and then mentally ill children at a state children’s psychiatric hospital. She later earned a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from Texas A&M University, where she worked as a psychologist, working for over 25 years until her retirement. A native of Miami, Florida, she lives in Westcliffe, Colorado.

COLLEGE OF BUSINESS Joseph M. “Mike” McIlwain was named one of the College of Business’ top 100 alumni for its centennial anniversary in 2015. He says he has always felt a strong connection with the Bulldog community. “MSU provided a broad exposure to me and helped me gain the confidence I needed to succeed at my next steps in life,” he said. McIlwain graduated with a bachelor’s of professional accountancy from Mississippi State in 1987, then earned his master’s in taxation at the University of Alabama in

1988. Since 2011, he has been president and CEO of PSAV, a company known worldwide for setting the standard for event technology services within the hotel, resort and conference center industry. He earlier was an accountant with both KPMG and Arthur Andersen and served as chief financial officer for Motor Coach Industries. Originally from Pahokee, Florida, he now lives in Kildeer, Illinois.

COLLEGE OF EDUCATION Di Ann B. Lewis earned three Mississippi State University degrees in just six years—a bachelor’s in special education in 1969, graduating cum laude; a master’s in educational psychology in 1972 and a doctoral degree in educational psychology in 1974. Her lifelong devotion to education carries an outstanding resume. Early in her career, she was director of special education, gifted and reading with Lafayette County Schools. Later, she joined Mississippi University for Women as an assistant professor of education with a special appointment to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s task force to complete the plan for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. She is known for an eight-year stint as executive director of Gear Up Mississippi through IHL. A native of Borger, Texas, she grew up in Jackson and now resides in St. Petersburg, Florida.

JAMES WORTH BAGLEY COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING William O. “Billy” Ball Sr. is a 1987 summa cum laude graduate of MSU with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He later received an MBA from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1994. In his career, he said he feels his greatest accomplishment has been working with others to develop industry solutions that have vastly improved the electric power system. He currently serves as the executive vice president and chief transmissions officer for Southern Company Transmission. Ball said he feels Mississippi State prepared him for his achievements as a registered professional engineer, explaining, “My electrical engineering degree and co-op

job experience provided a great foundation for success.” At MSU, Ball has been honored as a Distinguished Engineering Fellow and serves on the Bagley College dean’s advisory board. Originally from Columbia, he lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

COLLEGE OF FOREST RESOURCES Steven L. Pung earned a wood science and technology degree with an industrial engineering concentration from the College of Forest Resources in 1980. Throughout a 37-year career in the forest products area, he has credited his Bulldog connections, both personal and professional, as great resources. He joined Columbia Forest Products in 1995 as a division engineer and enjoyed progressive roles, assuming his current position as vice president of technology and innovation in 2005. One of his greatest career achievements has been the development and commercialization of a bio-based adhesive system to replace formaldehyde-based adhesives in interior composite wood panels. In 2007, he received an Environmental Protection Agency Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, he resides in Oak Island, North Carolina.

COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE Dr. Mary “Libby” Coleman Todd earned a bachelor’s degree in dairy science from Mississippi State in 1995 and earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. She first practiced as a small animal veterinarian and now holds a staff position with Liberty Animal Hospital P.C. in Birmingham. She has obtained specialized training in the field of grief and bereavement, known as thanatology, to help clients through difficult times. She holds membership with both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association, of which she was selected an inaugural participant of the Future Leaders Program. A Birmingham native, Todd now resides in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. For more on the 2017 Class of Alumni Fellows, visit n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU



Affinity plate sales grow

SUPPORT FOR MSU PROGRAMS By Abby Ready Washington, D.C., with efforts currently Mississippi State University leads underway to include North Carolina. all other universities in the number In the future, the Alumni Association of affinity license plates on the road in hopes to add plates for Maryland, South Mississippi and continues to gain ground Carolina and Virginia. in other states. The purchase of MSU car MSU affinity plates are growing in tags by alumni and friends helps expand popularity, and the tag program varies the Bulldog presence across the nation, based on each state’s regulations. By while helping fund priority programs for purchasing an MSU the university. affinity license plate, “In the last 10 “In the last 10 citizens can show Bulldog years, we’ve almost years, we’ve almost pride wherever they reside doubled the amount of MSU affinity doubled the amount and wherever they drive. “MSU was the first plates and averaged of MSU affinity out-of-state university nearly 1,000 tags per year growth,” said plates and averaged plate in Alabama, and just in two years, we Jeff Davis, executive nearly 1,000 tags have more than 2,800 director of the tags there, making us a Alumni Association. per year growth.” top 10 university plate In Mississippi, ~ Jeff Davis in that state,” Davis said. MSU dominates the MSU plates are also affinity plate race increasing on the roadways of Texas. holding the highest number of tags in 60 In that state, 10 percent from each of 82 counties. Since the university’s car affinity plate supports a scholarship tag program began in the early 1990s, fund specifically for Texas residents the effort to dot the roadways with who attend Mississippi State and meet maroon has grown tremendously, and certain criteria. efforts are intensifying within the state’s “Car tags provide great support borders. Mississippi State is working for the university and are great ways on a campaign to target and paint the for alumni and friends to prominently counties in Mississippi that are not display their pride in Mississippi State,” already maroon. Davis said. “We need more individuals to Bulldogs in Mississippi can purchase purchase affinity plates and continue to a collegiate license plate for $53.50 per renew those plates annually and establish year in addition to the standard tag fee at dominance within all Mississippi their local county courthouses. Of this, counties and across the United States.” $32.50 goes directly to Mississippi State To initiate interest for MSU affinity for priority programs. plates in other states, contact Libba “In 2017, 22,314 tags were present in Andrews, the association’s associate the state generating more than $725,000 director, at landrews@alumni. in support toward priority programs at or 662.325.7000. For Mississippi State,” Davis said. more information on the university’s Along with Mississippi, MSU car tag program, visit alumni.msstate. affinity license plates are now available in edu/cartag. n Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and





“ Car tags provide great support for the university and are great ways for MSU alumni and friends to prominently display their pride in Mississippi State.” ~ Jeff Davis







Alumni Association

The MSU Alumni Association proudly hosted tailgates for alumni and friends prior to every home game during the 2017 football season. The tailgates were presented by Renasant Bank for all seven games at Davis Wade Stadium. The Alumni Association traditionally tailgates in The Junction under one to two big-top tents in front of the Leo Seal M-Club. All Bulldog fans are encouraged to stop by for pre-game festivities throughout the season. Bulldog faithful who tailgated with the association enjoyed complimentary food and beverages, music, face painting, pompoms and “beat” stickers. The Alumni Association also sponsored away tailgates at the Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M games. It’s not too early to make plans to visit with the association for the 2018 slate of games.









Spice up your kitchen - Bulldog style! Bring Mississippi flavor into your kitchen with the special Mississippi State University limited edition of A Mississippi Palate – the coffee-table cookbook with 105 Mississippi heritage recipes by acclaimed chef Robert St. John and 66 beautiful watercolors by Wyatt Waters, with his home state as the subject. This special edition features exclusive back cover art of one of the Bully statues in The Junction, with Davis Wade Stadium in the background. Each book is autographed by both chef and artist and accompanied by a signed and numbered print of the Bully statue. Collectively, the chef and artist are commentators and chroniclers of Mississippi culture – one using a cast iron skillet, the other using a #42 da Vinci brush – both armed with a deep love for the beautiful state of Mississippi.

Order yours today at or call 662-325-7000.

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Infinite IMPACT

SCHOLARSHIP ENDOWMENT Honors Family Legacy By Addie Mayfield


athan Cummins always knew he wanted to be a Bulldog. With the encouragement of his parents and the help of a private scholarship, he was able to make that dream come true. Today, Cummins is carrying on that same support and empowering future Bulldog students through the creation of an endowed scholarship in honor of his most inspiring mentors, his parents. “My father graduated from Mississippi State in accounting and I’ve been going to games on campus for at least 30 years. There was never any doubt where I would attend college,” Cummins said. Born in Jackson and reared in Clinton, Cummins earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the MSU Adkerson School of Accountancy in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Following his parents’ footsteps into the field of accounting, he currently serves as partner of May & Company LLP in Vicksburg. “Growing up around parents that were accountants, I had plenty of insight into the field,” Cummins said. “They didn’t push me into accounting, but I knew after taking an accounting class in high school that was what I wanted to do.” Cummins’ father, Rodney, is a 1975 MSU accounting graduate and the owner of CRCCPA PLLC in Clinton. His mother, Debbie, and sister, Stephanie, also earned undergraduate degrees in accounting, both from Mississippi College. Stephanie eventually joined Rodney and Nathan as a fellow Bulldog, earning a masters’ degree from the Adkerson School in 2005. “My parents have always put their

children’s education and success in the forefront,” Cummins said. “They knew its importance and where it could lead us in life.” While pursuing his Master of Taxation at MSU, Cummins received private support for a graduate assistantship from the J. H. Kennedy Jr. Endowed Scholarship. In fulfilling the assistantship by working part time in the accounting department in addition to his studies, he was able to engage with valuable contacts, one of which eventually led to his connection to and sequential career with May & Company. Along with professional preparedness and financial support, this award also gave Cummins a firsthand understanding of the impact such investments can have on a student’s academic experience. Upholding the value of education, first taught to him by his parents, Cummins recently chose to extend similar support through the creation of the Cummins Family Endowed Scholarship. “I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I was growing up,” Cummins said. “I want to offer what support I can so that every student can have a chance to be successful, and to hopefully make a difference in someone’s life.” The Cummins Family Endowed Scholarship will assist full-time undergraduate students enrolled in the Adkerson School of Accountancy. Candidates for the award must have demonstrated academic achievement with a minimum 3.0 GPA, leadership ability and financial need. “My parents valued my education and always encouraged me to do the best that I could,” Cummins said. “I wanted to give back to Mississippi State but I also wanted to honor them and all they did for me. I


wouldn’t be where I am today without their love and support.” For nearly a decade, Cummins has contributed consecutive annual gifts to various areas across the university, including the College of Business, Adkerson School of Accountancy, Jack and Mavis Cristil Scholarship Fund, and athletics, among others. As an endowment, his most recent gift will provide perpetual support for future generations at Mississippi State. “It’s no secret that I’m a proud Bulldog. I’ve always wanted to create something permanent and leave a lasting legacy for my family at Mississippi State,” Cummins said. “I give back to MSU to make sure it continues to maintain the level of excellence it has already achieved.” For more information on creating an endowed scholarship in the Adkerson School, contact Zack Harrington, director of development for the College of Business, at 662.325.3431 or at zharrington@ n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Infinite IMPACT



By Amy Cagle

ountless students could have been impacted by the inspirational teaching of the late Laren Brooks. Now an endowed professorship in the College of Education at Mississippi State University will extend her legacy for future generations. The Dr. Susan McLaren Brooks Endowed Elementary Education Professorship is the first endowed position for the university’s College of Education. Future earnings from the endowment will provide a salary supplement and support for the holder who will mentor promising students on their paths toward rewarding careers in education. As part of the professorship, the holder will serve as a mentor and adviser for education majors receiving the Dr. Susan McLaren Brooks Ph.D. Memorial Scholarship. “This professorship is a milestone that will help Mississippi State make strides in education nationally,” said Richard Blackbourn, College of Education dean. “We are grateful to the Brooks family for the lasting impact the endowed position will have on our college and our students as their achievements will honor the memory of a committed and talented educator.” At the time of her death in 2006, 38-year-old Laren taught at Pecan Park Elementary School in Jackson. She had been a devoted teacher in the Mississippi Public School System for 15 years with future plans for a career in school administration, before losing her life in an automobile accident. The Tupelo native received her undergraduate degree from Millsaps College, a master’s in education from Mississippi College and a doctoral degree from the University of Mississippi. Although she earned academic degrees from other institutions, she was devoted to her father’s alma mater, Mississippi State. Alumnus Tommy Brooks established the scholarship for his daughter along with other family members. An earlier gift from them created the Dr. Susan McLaren Brooks Ph.D. Memorial Scholarship, also in the MSU College of Education. In all, more than 10 students have benefited from the scholarship since its inception.



“Giving to academics is very gratifying, and I have been pleased that so many worthy recipients of Laren’s scholarship have sent us appreciation notes,” Tommy said. “We were happy to establish the professorship and further cement her memory beyond the scholarship, helping Mississippi State impact education for all.” A native of Itawamba County, Tommy Brooks grew up in Tupelo. In 1956, he graduated from MSU with a degree in industrial management through the College of Business. With degree in hand, he began his career with Westinghouse in South Carolina, then worked as a personnel manager for Pennsylvania Tire. In 1966, he

“We are grateful to the

Brooks family for the lasting

impact the endowed position will have on our college

and our students as their

achievements will honor the

memory of a committed and talented educator.”

~ Richard Blackbourn ambitiously founded Tommy Brooks Oil Co. and marked 50 years as president in 2016. He also invested time in state-level politics, serving four terms, from 1972-1988, in the Mississippi House of Representatives, representing the people of District 17. After five decades of day-to-day management of his company, Tommy’s two “hobbies” remain work and Mississippi State. He lives in Tupelo with his wife Peggy. Their support of MSU scholarships began in the late 1990s with the Tommy and Peggy Brooks Endowed Scholarship in the College of Business. For many years, he has passionately supported MSU athletics and student-athletes through the Bulldog Club. An MSU connection is also shared between Tommy and his other daughters.


Youngest daughter Lee Brooks Murphree of Tupelo graduated from MSU in 1994 with an accounting degree, and eldest daughter Lyn Brooks Taylor of Tupelo graduated from MSU in 1986 with a home economics degree and in 1988 with a master’s in teaching. Additionally, Lyn’s daughter, Rebecca Brooks Brown, is a junior criminology major at Mississippi State. Family members said they eagerly anticipate the inspiring work of the individual who will fill this professorship as they demonstrate a dedication to positively impacting the world through education, much like the position’s namesake. “I believe the professorship would have given Laren a sense of fulfillment for a life devoted to education,” Lee said. She continued, “Lauren was proud to be a teacher in Mississippi. She loved children and embraced them, always working to ensure they were learning under her watch despite any struggles they had.” The endowments for the professorship and the scholarship can be increased with additional contributions in remembrance of Laren Brooks and her steadfast belief in education. For more on supporting the College of Education, contact Trish Cunetto, the college’s director of development, at 662.325.6762 or at tcunetto@foundation. n


through scholarships By Addie Mayfield

Raised on a family farm in Monroe County near Prairie to a father who was an ardent farmer and a mother who prioritized education, the Rowe siblings recall a wholesome upbringing driven by faith and hard work, and seasoned with a love for Mississippi State University. Although their parents, James Robert Rowe and Betty Rowe, never attended Mississippi State University, they made sure all of their children did— an act which inspired the Rowe siblings to honor their parents through the creation of an endowed scholarship. “In the late 1950s, during a time of segregation, my mom and dad were not allowed to attend Mississippi State, so instead, they sent all six of their kids there,” said Loston Rowe, the second of the Rowe siblings to graduate from MSU, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) in 1984 and 1986, respectively. The Tennessee resident, who was recognized as CALS’s Alumni Fellow in 2016, continued, “My siblings and I are proud MSU alums who bleed maroon and white because of the tireless efforts of our parents.” Loston, along with his siblings, James Darnell Rowe, a 1980 and 1987 graduate, of Stafford, Virginia; Demetric Rowe of Atlanta, Georgia; Lisa Rogers, class of 1988, of Grand Blanc, Michigan; Candais Hale, a graduate of 1991 and 1994, of Arlington, Texas; and Rita Jackson, a graduate of 1996 and 2001, of Lakeland, Tennessee, established the James Robert and Betty Rowe Endowed Scholarship in CALS earlier this year. Serving as a tribute to their agricultural upbringing, the gift also demonstrates their parents’ legacy of investing in higher education. “We wanted to honor them for all the inspiration and support they gave us and decided the best way to do that was to continue their legacy by giving back to other students in hopes that they will gain a quality education and achieve the career successes that we’ve enjoyed,” Loston said. The scholarship will assist full-time students

James Robert Rowe and Betty Rowe pictured with their children (standing l-r) Candais Hale, Loston Rowe, Lisa Rogers, James Darnell Rowe, Demetric Rowe and Rita Jackson. Photo by David Ammon.

in CALS who have demonstrated academic achievement and financial need. The award will also give preference to students from Monroe County, as well as members of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resource and Related Sciences (MANRRS). In addition to the multi-year commitment for the endowment, the Rowe siblings have also contributed an outright gift for an annual scholarship in their parents’ names. The James Robert and Betty Rowe Annual Scholarship will provide immediate support while the endowment grows to maturity. Dianna Wilson, a junior majoring in food science nutrition and health promotion from Norfolk, Virginia, is the inaugural recipient of the annual award. A first-generation college student, she is an active leader in and out of the classroom and currently serves as vice president of the MSU chapter of MANRRS. “Receiving the Rowes’ scholarship has immensely impacted my student experience at MSU,” Wilson said. “Scholarship awards are very important to students, not just for the obvious financial reasons but also for the encouragement. It shows that someone believes in them and wants them to succeed.” The James Robert and Betty Rowe Annual and Endowed Scholarships will continue to enable ambitious scholars, like Wilson, to pursue unsurpassed education and training in a developing industry without the added stress of financial burdens. Like the Rowe siblings, MSU alumni and friends alike have

the opportunity to grow the university’s commitment to outstanding educational experiences, and in turn, bolster growth in our state and the world beyond. “In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, we preach a lot about building the next generation of leaders, particularly those coming up through the agricultural industry, and we appreciate the Rowes putting this scholarship in place to help with our efforts,” said Scott Willard, associate dean and professor in the college. “This award is a very special way to not only honor James and Betty but also to support our students and build a legacy of giving for the next generation.” After attending MSU, all six Rowe children went on to successful careers in various disciplines and geographies. Despite their wideranging interests, the siblings maintain their inherent Bulldog roots and the values instilled in them by their parents. “In taking on the role of a mother, I was unable to continue my own education, so we decided to get behind our children to try to push them to do their best and be whatever God wanted them to be,” Betty said. “My prayer has always been that they would have positions in the world that would help someone else along the way and they have all succeeded at that.” For more information on establishing scholarships in CALS, contact Jud Skelton, director of development for the college, at 662.325.0643 or jud.skelton@foundation. n ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU




B part of th tradition! ALUMNI.MSSTATE.EDU


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9/28/15 3:22 PM

For additional information, please contact

Pat Lane at (662) 341-7920 or (662) 323-8700 |

Visit for additional disclaimers. Š August 2016, The Mill. All rights reserved.

STATE ments Emily Burns, a sophomore animal and dairy science major from West Memphis, Arkansas, spent two weeks in Thailand to gain handson experience working with animals with the studyabroad organization Loop Abroad. She was part of a team that volunteered at a dog shelter and spent a week working directly with rescued elephants at a sanctuary. B. Michael Thorne, an emeritus professor, has published his first novel, “Murder in Memory,” a psychological thriller. Prior to his retirement, he taught psychology at Mississippi State for 40 years. Michael R. Nadorff, an assistant professor of psychology who oversees the university’s Sleep, Suicide and Aging Laboratory, is a 2017 recipient of the Art Spielman Early Career Distinguished

Achievement Award from the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine. Lakiesha Williams, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Eric Hill, director of the MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, were named by the Mississippi Business Journal to the “Top in Tech” list. Both MSU alumni, Williams earned a doctorate in biomedical engineering in 2006, while Hill completed a bachelor’s in industrial engineering in 2012. Sophomore Jalyn R. Wallin of Double Springs, Alabama, is a 2017 selection for a $2,000 scholarship from the Associated Builders and Contractors Mississippi Chapter, which annually provides scholarships to building construction students at Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Teen Vogue featured the residence hall room of freshmen Maggie Farmer, of Dumas, Arkansas, and Lydia Gratwich, of Atlanta, Georgia, in its “decorating ideas” section. Their Moseley Hall room was selected to “leave you with some serious décor inspo.” Researchers from Mississippi State’s High Voltage Laboratory were featured on the Science Channel show “Strange Evidence,” discussing and demonstrating the effects of a lightning strike. Beginning in the summer of 2018, Mississippi State will offer a new master’s degree designed primarily to benefit working music educators through the nationally accredited Department of Music. The 32-hour curriculum includes 14 hours of core courses, eight hours in the chosen concentration and 10 hours of electives. Checky Herrington, MSU’s marketing research analyst, was honored as one of the newest inductees into the Southern Public Relations Federation’s Hall of Fame. A native of Louisville, he has more than three decades of experience in public relations, marketing and brand-strategy development.

Officials and engineers tasked with preventing the release of radioactive material during debris removal from the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan visited Mississippi State University to learn about the university’s expertise in evaluating components of radioactive containment systems. MSU’s Institute for Clean Energy Technology is the international leader in evaluating the performance of highefficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems used in nuclear power plants.

Two Mississippi State University upperclassmen have been selected to participate in the prestigious Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program. Morgan Cain, a junior biochemistry/pre-dental major from Carthage, and Graham Murphree, a senior biological sciences/pre-dental major from Little Rock, Arkansas, each are receiving $35,000 per year to attend dental school. Awards are based on available funding.

Bagley College of Engineering alumnus Clay Walden is the new executive director of the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at MSU, succeeding Roger King, who retired in June. Walden most recently served as director of CAVS Extension in Canton. Glenn Dennis has been named director of that unit. Trey Martindale is the new head of Mississippi State’s instructional systems and workforce development department. He succeeds Connie M. Forde, who retired from the College of Education unit earlier this year. Mississippi State University came in at No. 48 in Money’s “Best Colleges in the South” rankings and was listed as the best college in Mississippi in Money’s ranking of the best colleges in every state. Two distance degree programs offered by Mississippi State’s College of Education are among the nation’s best. The university’s bachelor’s in education is ranked 22nd overall for 2017 by College Choice.Net. At the same time, Great Value Colleges ranks at No. 11 the undergraduate degree offering in elementary education/early childhood education.



Mississippi State is part of a new, $1.2 million research collaboration sponsored by the National Science Foundation in which a colorful tropical butterfly is helping researchers investigate genetics and evolution. Scientists at the land-grant university join the University of Puerto Rico—Rio Piedras in the study.

For more current achievements of Mississippi State faculty, staff and students, visit


Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center announced its new leader and welcomed another to the team. Leah F. Kemp was promoted to CSTC director in July, while Thomas R. Gregory III officially began his new role as the center’s community planner at the start of the fall semester.

Mississippi State University is receiving a national award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. The MSU raingarden, funded by a $20,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, has been honored in the society’s student collaboration category. MSU team members accepted the award at the society’s annual meeting and expo in Los Angeles. Mississippi State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering Lei Chen is among 37 researchers selected to receive the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities. It provides $5,000 in seed money for research by junior faculty at ORAU member institutions. He also will receive a matching $5,000 contribution from MSU. Dr. John E. Harkness, a retired member of the College of Veterinary Medicine, received the 2017 Bennett J. Cohen Award. A major recognition of the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, the Cohen Award is given for exceptional service and significant contributions in the promotion of animal care in research, testing and educational programs. Interior-design juniors Mary Campbell Gray of West Point, Samantha Sullivan of Jackson, Tennessee, and Natalie Watson of Starkville are receiving scholarships from the North Carolinabased WithIt Foundation in the amount of $1,500, $2,500 and $3,000, respectively.

Neeraj Rai, a Mississippi State assistant professor of chemical engineering, is one of only 59 scientists in the U.S. selected for a prestigious early career research award, along with $750,000 in research funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Mississippi State University has partnered with Delta Health Alliance to assist 400 lowincome students with money for school and financial education. MSU and Delta Health Alliance will provide a total of $1.15 million to assist low-income students through the MSU/DHA Delta DREAMS Savings Grant. Mississippi State University students now are eligible for the prestigious Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s merit-based scholarship providing $10,000 each to outstanding college juniors and seniors. MSU joins 35 other top research universities nationwide and is the only university in Mississippi taking part in the program. Associate director of the university’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Loren W. “Wes” Burger is among three selections for a 2017 National Quail Symposium Award of Excellence, a career tribute from the Tennessee-based National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative and Bobwhite Technical Committee. Jeff Adkerson, director of Mississippi State’s PGA Golf Management program, is the 2017 recipient of the Professional Golfers’ Association National Horton Smith Award, recognizing outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education. The two-time MSU alumnus has received the Gulf States PGA’s Horton Smith Award four times.

The award-winning veteran journalist who leads Mississippi State’s public affairs office is receiving another accolade. Sidney L. “Sid” Salter, also the university’s chief communication officer, is among this year’s selections for an MSTop50 award. MSU President Mark E. Keenum was listed in the inaugural class of honorees as part of the 2016 MSTop50. Eric Moyen now heads the university’s Department of Educational Leadership. Offering a variety of graduate degree programs, the department’s programs prepare administrators, teachers and other professionals for leadership roles in various educational settings. Jay McCurdy, a turfgrass specialist at Mississippi State University, is the latest young professional recognized by the Crop Science Society of America for making

significant contributions to the field within seven years of completing a final academic degree. Dongmao Zhang, an associate professor of chemistry, recently joined a group of researchers from around the world cited by name in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. The others work at major institutions of higher learning in China, England, Germany and India. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program selected David Shaw, MSU’s vice president for research and economic development, for its prestigious U.S.-France International Education Administrators Program. Peter L. Corrigan, a senior higher education administrator from western New York is the new leader of Mississippi State’s Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures. ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


STATE ments


McGee, Jenkins and Harrington assume new development roles The MSU Foundation has welcomed a new development officer for the university’s Division of Student Affairs and placed two veteran team members in fundraising roles for athletics and the business college. Starkville native Casey McGee has begun her new duties as assistant director of development for the Division of Student Affairs. The division is a major university unit comprised of 21 departments engaging students through programs, services, facilities and activities designed to promote active citizenship, learning, well-being and success. McGee received her MSU bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations in 2015. Most recently, McGee was assistant coordinator of chapter and


recruitment programs, working as a liaison between the Alumni Association and the Office of Admissions and Scholarships. She joined the Alumni Association from A2H Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee, where she served as marketing coordinator. Also beginning a new role is Rob Jenkins who became associate athletic director for development. Jenkins will serve as a liaison between MSU Athletics and the MSU Foundation as he works to secure major gifts for both organizations. He earlier amassed fundraising experience in several MSU colleges, including arts and sciences, education, and most recently, business. Jenkins is a 1992 business administration graduate from Starkville who joined the MSU Foundation fundraising staff in 2006. Before that, he was at AmSouth Bank and held positions in sales with Sanderson Plumbing Products Inc. Succeeding Jenkins as lead College of Business fundraiser is Zack Harrington who has served as the academic unit’s



assistant director of development since mid-2014. He will assume primary fundraising responsibilities for the college and its Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy. A Hattiesburg native, Harrington holds two degrees from MSU, a 2009 bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis in real estate mortgage finance, and a 2010 master’s in sport administration. Before his MSU career, Harrington worked as a sales/marketing representative with SERVPRO Cleanup Services. He received awards for top direct sales volume




for his accomplishments. For a complete list of MSU Foundation personnel, visit


2018-2019 ALUMNI DELEGATE OFFICERS Alumni Delegates serve as links between the nearly 140-year-old land-grant institution and its almost 140,000 living graduates. Founded in 1980, their purpose is to improve the understanding of the role of the Alumni Association. Incoming officers for 2018-2019 include: Andrew Martin, a senior communication major from Slidell, Louisiana, president; Melanie Brumfield, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, vice president of education; Osvaldo “Ozzie” Ballesteros Garcia, a sophomore medical technology major from Kosciusko, vice president of public relations; and Drew Burnham, a junior biological sciences major from Hattiesburg, secretary.



Level fields of play: Bobby Shows’ life and ministry through sports By James O Preston, Jr.

Everything about Bobby Shows was big. From his smile and personality, to his physical presence, Bobby Shows cut a figure larger than life. Growing up in Mississippi, he learned the value of God, family, community, a sense of humor and a good hook shot. Bobby hoped to live up to his status as a major recruit for the 1960 Mississippi State Bulldogs. However, before he could do that, he had to get right with God. In the end, he and his teammates won more than championships.


Print and digital copies available at

Giving + Getting the most from your assets When most people think about making a charitable gift, they think of giving cash. While we welcome gifts of any kind to help support Mississippi State University, there are many ways you can benefit through making a gift of other assets to us.

• • • • •

You can avoid paying capital gains tax if you give appreciated assets. You will receive a charitable deduction for your gift which can lower your tax bill. You can make a gift today while preserving your cash for immediate or future needs. You and your family can receive benefits such as lifetime income. You may be able to make greater gifts than you ever thought possible.

For more information on how you can give and get the most from your assets, contact the MSU Foundation Office of Planned Giving. MSU is an AA/EEO university.

Wes Gordon, Director of Planned Giving (662) 325-3707 |

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STATE ments

Tuition Winner BLACK ALUMNI ADVISORY COUNCIL The MSU Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Advisory Council gathered on campus in November for their fall meeting. Back row (L-R) are: Harvest Collier 72, ‘74, ‘77, Collierville, Tennessee; Robert Barnes ’72, Jackson, chair; Clinton Vaughn ‘80, Memphis, Tennessee; Jeff Davis, Alumni Association executive director; Carl Nichols ’92, Jackson; Anthony Dixon ‘98, Clarksdale; Kenneth Miller ‘75, Arlington, Virginia; and Leon Adams ‘75, Grand Blanc, Michigan. Seated are: Shirley Collier ‘72, Collierville, Tennessee; Connie Raines ’85, Atlanta, Georgia; Rocheryl Ware ’98 of Clinton; Eileen Carr-Tabb ’85, Starkville; LaFawn Gilliam ’73, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Mississippi State University Alumni Association announced Eryn Sanders of Belden as the recipient of the eighth annual tuition drawing. For the upcoming spring 2018 semester at Mississippi State, Sanders will be awarded 12 credit hours of ‘free’ tuition. Sanders’ name was drawn from 461 submitted in November as part of the Tuition Drawing program sponsored by the MSU Alumni Delegates. The program has become a proud tradition for the organization because it serves as a way for them to positively influence the college experience of fellow students. Started in 2013, the program is available each fall and spring semester to parents of Mississippi underclassmen who are enrolled full time. Beyond the cost of tuition, the excess funds from the sale of tickets support scholarships and association programs.

NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS The MSU Alumni Association National Board of Directors gathered on campus in October for their annual fall board meeting. The group includes, seated, l-r: Tyler McMurray, president, MSU Student Association; Brad Reeves, national president; Sherri Carr Bevis, national first vice president; and Celeste Carty, MS South 2. Back row: Jackie Ford, former national Alumni Association president; Riley Nelson, MS Central 3 director; William Bowlin, MS North 2 director; Brent Fountain, president, Holland Faculty Senate; Jimmy McPherson, MS North 3; Bert Clark, MS



Central 1; Jeff Davis, executive director; Fred Nichols, MS Central 3; Todd Bennett, MS North 1; and Patrick White, Out-of-State 1. Middle row: Carol Moss Read,

MS North 3; Danny Hossley, Texas director; Lynn Burwell, MS South 3; Edward Sanders, At-Large director; Stephanie Williford, Outof-State 3; Terri Russell, Alabama

director; Theressia McAlpin, MS Central 3; Andrea Frank, MS Central 2; Ron Black, immediate former national president; and Matt Mahan, MS North 2.



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 ALUMNI.MSSTATE.EDU/CARTAG.



STATE ments

1970s James Teaford (B.S. forestry, ’72) has published “10 Square Chains: An Ecological Potpourri of Nature Notes,” a thought-provoking e-book about nature and its mysteries.

(B.S. finance, ’80) is now executive vice president, chief retail and operations officer; and Luke Yeatman (B.S. accounting, ’07) is now chief financial officer.


Michael Cravens, Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Spencer Pope, TMW Sales Engineer, Robert Taylor, TMW Chief Operating Officer, and Donnie Woodruff, TMW Director of Sales, standing in front of the forklift displayed on South Lawn of the White House.

Louisville-based Taylor Machine Works was chosen to represent Mississippi at the White House’s Made in America event in Washington, D.C. One of its “Taylor Big Red” high capacity lift trucks was displayed on the South Lawn with other products produced in the United States. The company was founded in 1927 by W.A. Taylor Sr. and continued to thrive under the leadership of his son, W.A. “Bill” Taylor Jr., who attended MSU. It is now led by its third generation of Taylors including CEO William A. “Lex” Taylor III (B.S. general business, ’77) and president and chief operations officer Robert D. Taylor (B.S. business administration, ’90). BankFirst Financial Services’ board of directors approved new titles for four Mississippi State alumni. Madisonbased Ron Allen (B.S. agricultural economics, ’77) is now executive vice president, chief credit officer. Based at the company’s Columbus headquarters, Marcus Mallory (B.S. banking and finance, ’89) is now executive vice president, chief banking officer; Jim McAlexander



Mark W. Gibson (B.S. forestry, ’81; M.S. forest ecology, ’85) is a forester, national resources manager and base environmental department director with the Navy in Pensacola, Florida. He retired from the Navy Reserve as a captain in 2015 after serving for 39 years, including two tours as a unit commanding officer and three senior staff tours at the Pentagon. L-R: Rep. Gregg Harper stands with Gibson congratulating him on his retirement from the Navy.

Terry Abel (B.S. nuclear engineering, ’82; M.S. mechanical engineering, ’83) was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest honor the agency presents to non-government individuals. This award recognizes his work as the education chair for the Huntsville National Space Club, which has reached more than 34,000 students through almost $464,000 in scholarships. John Scott (B.S. accounting, ’82) has been elected to the board of directors of HORNE LLP, an accounting firm based in Starkville. Teresa Palacios Smith (B.A. communication, ’83) is now vice president for diversity and inclusion at HSF Affiliates LLC, which operates the real estate brokerage franchise networks of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Real Living Real Estate and Prudential Real Estate.

Mississippi State alumni now hold the top two executive positions at McNeese State University in Louisiana. Daryl Burckel (Ph.D. accounting, ’86) was named the president of the university in July, while Mitchell Adrian (Ph.D. management, ’96) provost and vice president for academic affairs and enrollment management. In addition to their shared Bulldog lineage, both are also McNeese state alumni. Editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat Jim Prince (B.B.A. general business administration, ’87) received the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence, the state’s highest editorial writing award, from the Mississippi Press Association. His winning entry “Change of venue injustice” criticizes a judge’s decision to grant a change of venue for three former county employees accused in an overtime scandal. Doug Wert (B.B.A. marketing/progolf, ’89) was named PGA Junior League regional manager for the Mid-Atlantic, tristate and western New York sections of PGA of America. He is director of gold at Cider Ridge Golf Club in Oxford, Alabama.

1990s Bobby Waldrup (B.S., M.S. professional accountancy, ’90, ’92) was named associate dean for academics at Loyola University’s Sellinger School of Business. With more than 20 years of experience in higher education and expertise in forensic accounting and financial fraud, he is a professor of accounting and former chair of the department of accounting

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Cindy Simpson (B.S. interior design, ’96) has been named to the board of directors for Gensler, the world’s largest architectural design firm. With more than 15 years of experience with the company, she serves as principal and co-managing director of its Dallas, Texas, office and was recognized as one of the 500 Most Powerful Business Leaders in Dallas and Fort Worth for 2017. Tim Basel (B.B.A. marketing, ’98) was named Professional of the Year by the Gulf States PGA. He is the head golf professional at Reunion Golf and Country Club in Madison.


Richard Rhett (B.S. mechanical engineering, ’08) and Juli Rhett appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a show that strives to connect entrepreneurs with investors. Founders of Sierra Madre Research, the couple appeared on the show with the company’s innovative hammock tents and earned a deal from Richard Branson, who agreed to give them $175,000 for 15 percent of the company.


Richard and Juli Rhett pitch their business on the set of the TV series “Shark Tank.” (Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC)

2000s Drew Mattox (B.S. accounting, ’02) was named a partner at EKS&H, the largest, nationally recognized Colorado-based audit, tax, technology and business-consulting firm. With 12 years of public accounting experience, he co-leads the organization’s automotive niche. Greg Bufkin (B.B.A. ’02) and his wife, Andrea, have founded El Roi Ministries to help meet the needs of the families of individuals in treatment for addiction. Sheena Reeves (B.S., Ph.D. chemical engineering, ’06, ’11) was named part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers “35 under 35 list,” which recognizes the accomplishments of young professionals from a range of chemical engineering specialties. She is a professor at Jackson State University. Lauren Black (B.S. marketing, business information systems, ’07; MBA, ’08) was named to the inaugural Forbes list of “America’s Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors.” She is a certified financial planner at Philips Financial and a financial adviser with Raymond James Financial Services of Starkville.

Eight Mississippi State alumni received the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship, valued at $30,000 per year for medical training at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. They are Richton native Leah Burch (B.S. medical technology, ’12), Lily Fran McCrory (B.S. biological sciences, ’17) of Lexington, Jenni Kate Miles (B.S. biological sciences, ’17) of Kosciusko, Jordan Jackson (B.S. biochemistry, ’17) of Wheeler, Hannah Whitlock (B.S. biological sciences, ’17) of Pontotoc, Haley Hobart (B.S. biochemistry, ’17) of Hollandale; Jaslyn Langford (B.S. biological sciences, ’17) of Calhoun City, and Haley Jenkins (B.S. microbiology, ’17) of Starkville. Aaron Ferguson (B.S. geosciences, ’14) earned the prestigious Milken Educator Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize, for excellence as a science and business teacher in the Academy of Business at Oxnard’s Pacifica High School in California. He is the second Mississippi State graduate to receive this honor in recent years. Linda Merry (B.S. geosciences, ’16) participated in Miami University’s Earth Expeditions Louisvillein Belize during which she studied coral reefs, manatees, howler monkeys, jaguars and other wildlife while learning about sustainable communities in the country. She is a technical assistant at Berkshire Community College of Massachusetts.

BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS Elizabeth “Libby” Blades Bailey, Sept. 25, 2017, to Elisha Blades Bailey (’07) and Matt Bailey of Jackson. Tatum Grace Berkery, Sept. 18, 2017, to Thomas Berkery (’06) and Jana Berkery (‘05) of Starkville. Lyla Joyce Sanford, August 16, 2017, to Janna Sanford (’10 ’16) and Sean Sanford (’11) of Starkville, MS.



Forever MAROON Frances Collier Abernathy (Friend) 96, Booneville – She became part of the Mississippi State family through her husband and later saw her sons through to graduation from the university, showing her love for Maroon and White as an ardent supporter of Bulldog athletics. – June 8, 2017

Bar, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and Bronze German Armed Forces Parachutist Badge. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Student Veterans of America. He was a self-employed land manager, registered forester and certified pipefitter and welder, and an advocate for all veterans. — July 6, 2017

Richard Turner Bowie (B.A. social work, ’78) 62, Madison – A member of Kappa Sigma, he took a job with the state of Mississippi as a probation and parole officer for Hinds and Madison counties after his graduation. Following his retirement in 2005, he worked for Buffalo Peak Outfitters and, in 2015, he accepted a position as the pre-trial diversion director with the Hinds County District Attorney. – Sept. 6, 2017

Carolyn Chandler-Williams (M.S. secondary education, ’73; Ph.D. secondary education, ’75) 70, Starkville – After earning a bachelor’s at Mississippi Valley State University, she began teaching at Mary Holmes College. She then came to Mississippi State University, where she became one of the first African-American students to earn a master’s in secondary education and a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. She then spent 17 years on the faculty at Mississippi State. Later, she moved to Tyler, Texas, where she was vice president of development and institutional advancement at Jarvis Christian College. She later moved to Albany, Georgia, as director of public service and continuing education at Albany State University. In 2002, she moved to Conway, Arkansas, where she served as associate dean of the College of Education, as well as assistant to the dean at the University of Central Arkansas, where she excelled at obtaining grants for the university. She was a member of Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society and served as president of the Mid-South Educational Research Association. She was also inducted into the Starkville Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame in 1991 and named Woman of the Year by the Mississippi Jaycees in 1989. She was recognized as an Outstanding Educator, Consortium of Doctors in 1991 and State Merit Outstanding Educator in Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappa. – Sept. 4, 2017

Wallace Burch (B.B.A. marketing, ’14) 25, Horn Lake – A native of Nashville, Tennessee, he graduated from DeSoto Central High School in 2010. Following his graduation from Mississippi State, he graduated from the Naval Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as an ensign with Class 05-15E. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, he was awarded the Commodore’s List with Distinction for superior performance during training and was selected for the Strike Training Pipeline in Meridian. He completed intermediate jet training in March. – Oct. 1, 2017 William Bucy Bynum (B.S. agronomy, ’56; M.S. soils, ’59) 82, Williamsburg, Virginia – A retiree of the Federal Highway Administration, he was active in the Walnut Hills Baptist Church and performed several volunteer assignments with the Jamestown Foundation and Faith In Action. – Aug. 17, 2017 Leslie C. Campbell (B.S. marketing, ’54) 85, Hoschton, Georgia – He served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 until 1958 and in the Naval Reserve for 10 years. He worked as a broadcaster for WROB in West Point, WCBI in Columbus and WSUH in Oxford. He was a professor at the University of Tennessee, Martin and Arkansas College before serving as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn until 1992. – Oct. 20, 2017 Michael Jason Campbell (B.S. forestry, ’09) 41, Sturgis – An Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division, he was a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. His decorations and citations include Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle



Brent Benjamine Cobb (B.B.A. marketing, ’98; MBA, ’99) 41, Ridgeland – An Eagle Scout, he joined Sigma Chi while at Mississippi State. Following his graduation, he worked for Miller Transporters, where he most recently served as vice president of safety and quality. He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Madison where he served as a deacon and was an active supporter of children’s activities. – Sept. 29, 2017 Justin Cobb (B.B.A. general business, ’98) 43, Meridian – An Eagle Scout, he began his collegiate studies at MSU where he was a member of Sigma Chi, serving as pledge class president, rush chairman, pro consul and a member of the ethics committee. He

was elected Mr. Mississippi State University in 1996. As an undergraduate, he completed internships in Washington, D.C., with Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Chip Pickering. He later obtained a law degree from the University of Mississippi and began practicing law with his father at Cobb Law Firm in Meridian. He was elected Lauderdale County Prosecuting Attorney in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007, 2011 and 2015. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant as the 10th Circuit District Court judge in 2015 and ran unopposed in the 2016 general election, serving in that position until his unexpected death on his 43rd birthday. He was active as chairman of the board for Miller Transporters and a member of the Mississippi Bar Association, the Optimist’s Club, and the local Boys and Girls Club board of directors. He also served as vice president and president of the Lauderdale County Bar Association. – Sept. 9, 2017 Joe Clement Douglass (B.S. animal science, ’55) 83, Columbus – He was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity, Alpha Zeta Honorary Agriculture Fraternity and the agriculture judging team, as well as ROTC. He served in the Air Force and the reserves until 1967 when he was honorably discharged as a captain. He owned Douglas Farms in Lowndes County. – July 26, 2017 Pamela Suzanne Ellis (B.S., M.S. elementary education, ’92, ’93) 46, Madison – Following her graduation from Mississippi State, she spent a number of years in the classroom before joining the Partnerships for a Healthy Mississippi, where she spent the last 18 years. She was a sustaining member of the Junior League of Jackson, a volunteer in the nursery of Pinelake Church of Madison and participated in many philanthropic endeavors. – Sept. 16, 2017 Jared Entrekin (Attended) 26, Natchez – A native of Madison, he graduated from Madison Central High School in 2009. At Mississippi State, he was a member of the Famous Maroon Band and president and co-founder of the wake boarding and ski team. He also represented the university as Bully, the university’s costumed mascot. – Sept. 7, 2017 Richard D. Eubanks (B.S. business, ’62) 76, Pensacola, Florida – He served as a Green Beret with the 20th Special Forces Group in Mobile, Alabama, and after earning a master’s from Tulane University, was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.

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He served around the world for 28 years as an environmental health director. – Aug. 25, 2017 Lady Martha Barnard Garner (B.S., M.S. education, ’61, ’62) 98, Lake Wales, Florida – Born in Anguilla, she entered Mississippi State as a full-time student at age 39 and became a member of Phi Kappa Phi. She taught in Melbourne, Florida, and was the first guidance counselor at Cocoa Beach High School. – Oct. 2, 2017 Martha J. “Bunkey” Burgoyne Harper (B.S. education, ’52) 86, Birmingham, Alabama – She served as president of Chi Omega and the Panhellenic Council. She was a loving wife of 64 years and liked to say “I followed Jack all over the world and parts of Texas.” – Jan. 11, 2017 Anse Bond “A.B.” Howard Jr. (B.S. education, ’50) 96, Louisville – As a sophomore, he played on the only Mississippi State University football team to earn an Southeastern Conference championship. He also ran track for the Bulldogs. A member of ROTC, he did not finish his Mississippi State career as he was called up for WWII as a first lieutenant. He was wounded in France in December of 1944. Once home, he went on to become coach on staff and later head coach for football, track and basketball at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, where he retired as athletic director. – Sept. 28, 2017 Emma Cornelia “Connie” Jackson (Staff) 87, Starkville – After starting as a stenographer in the dairy science department, she spent the next 45 years working for the Mississippi State Extension Service, serving as administrative assistant to three different directors before her retirement. While at Mississippi State she earned a service award from Epsilon Sigma Phi, a meritorious support award and a distinguished staff award. She was a member of Morgantown Baptist Chapel where she taught Sunday school. – June 14, 2017 William Richard Jeffries III (B.S. geosciences, ’55) 82, Huntsville, Alabama – A distinguished ROTC graduate, he was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. He served 22 years in the Air Force as a meteorologist. A Vietnam veteran, he retired as a lieutenant colonel and was then employed by Computer Science Corporation, which supported NASA. He was also an active member of the First Baptist Church. – May 24, 2016 Billy Harvey Johnson (B.S., M.S., Ph.D. aerospace engineering, ’67, ’68, ’71) 73, Columbus – He worked with the U.S. Army

Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station for 30 years as a research hydraulic engineer. After retiring, he was selected for the unit’s Gallery of Distinguished Employees. He went on to found an engineering consulting firm in Columbus. – Sept. 17, 2017 Jack Louis Jordan (Faculty) 65, Orange Beach, Alabama – He earned a bachelor’s from Vanderbilt University, a master’s from George Washington University and a doctoral degree from the University of Virginia. He also attended the Goethe-Institut in Munich, Germany, as well as the Sorbonne University in Paris. He was a distinguished professor of French at the university of Missouri and Mississippi State University for more than 25 years. He also served as head of the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures at Mississippi State for seven years. – May 25, 2017 Stanley Keene (B.S. public policy and administration, ’55 ) 85, Columbus, Georgia – A native of Meridian, he played Bulldog football and baseball while at Mississippi State. Following his graduation, he went to work for an insurance company in New York before joining the Milford Redevelopment Agency in Connecticut. In 1971, he joined the Columbus (GA) Housing Authority where he was named director in 1993. Through his work, he helped build the city’s first Child Advocacy Center and oversaw the renewal of many public housing developments. He retired in 2001 and was active in United Way, Historic Columbus, Columbus Hospice and the Rotary Club, among other organizations. – July 29, 2017 Dorothy Ann Kerr (Staff) 66, Rolling Fork – She retired as a secretary for the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Issaquena County, where she was a member of the Church of God of Prophecy. – June 18, 2017 Mary Eleanor Davis Land (B.S. business, ’60) 78, Tupelo – She was a majorette at Mississippi State, a member of the homecoming court and selected as a “Beauty” in the 1958 “Reveille.” She was a flight attendant for Braniff Airways, having worked for five major airlines during her career before retiring from Alaska Airlines in 2005. She also worked as the manager of the press room for the Apollo missions at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She later handled press releases as a member of Sen. John Tower’s staff in Washington, D.C. – July 6, 2017

Webb Pruitt Lee (B.S. agriculture, ’48) 95, Louisville – In his early career, he was a salesman for Taylor Machine Works’ Agricultural Division. He owned and operated Lee Tractor and Equipment Company for 25 years. He was a decorated B-17 bomber pilot based in England with the 8th Air Force during WWII. He survived 29 bombing missions over Germany, including the crash of his heavily damaged bomber during his final outing. – March 14, 2017 Hampton S. Little Jr. (B.S. marketing, ’56) 83, Nashville, Tennessee – He worked for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., before moving to Nashville to practice law in 1968. His private practice focused on developing professional corporations and their employment benefits plans. He formed more than 600 professional corporations in the MidSouth, along with their pension, profit-sharing and estate plans. He was a lecturer at the Vanderbilt Law School and practiced in U.S. tax court, the U.S. Court of Appeals and federal district courts. He also served as chairman of the audit committee of the Tennessee Bar Association, was a member of the Nashville Estate Planning Council and was listed in the “Best Lawyers in America.” He retired from the firm Little, House and Griffith. He was in the Navy prior to going to law school and was promoted to lieutenant commander in charge of a Naval reserve unit in Nashville in the 1970s. – July 7, 2017 Royce Benford Luke, Sr. (Ph.D education, ’69; Retired Faculty) 84, Gautier – He taught and was a school administrator for 40 years. He was an assistant professor at Mississippi State University for five years. He spent 30 years with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College serving the last five as the chief administrator of the Jackson County campus. He served one session in the Mississippi Legislature and was a field representative for three years—first for the late Rep. Larkin Smith and then Sen. Trent Lott. He was a member of Gautier First United Methodist Church, Jackson County Port Authority, Gautier Volunteer Fire Department Finance Committee, Mid-South Academy of Economists, Mississippi Faculty Association, Friends of Gautier Library, the Masonic Lodge, and served on the boards of the Jackson County Civic Action Committee, Citizens National Bank and Jackson County Supervisors District 5. He was a charter member of the Gautier Rotary Club and served as an expert witness ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Forever MAROON in numerous cases for attorneys along the Gulf Coast. He attended East Central Community College and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi. – February 17, 2017 Claudene Johns Massey (Staff) 79, Starkville – She retired as secretary to the director of the Mississippi State University Extension Service after 35 years. She previously worked for Security State Bank and Kroger. She was an active member of Friendship Baptist Church in Sturgis. – Sept. 12, 2017 Lyle E. Nelson (Faculty) 96, Starkville – He disrupted his education to serve in the Army during WWII before returning to North Dakota Agricultural College to earn a bachelor’s in agriculture. He later earned a doctoral degree from Cornell. Following time on the faculty at Mississippi State, he joined Cornell on a project in the Philippines meant to develop rice framing to help feed the country’s growing population. He continued to participate in similar projects in the Philippines and India sponsored by Cornell, Mississippi State and the federal government. He had a career spanning 35 years as a researcher and professor of soil science in the agronomy department at MSU. He was a benefactor of the Starkville-MSU Symphony, the Starkville Public Library, Palmer Home and MSU. – July 27, 2017 Carolyn Vinson Nespoli (B.S. landscape architecture, ’77) 63, Rossville, Tennessee – She was a charter member of the Beta Mu Chapter of the Tri-Delta Sorority. A longtime member of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, she was active in the church choir, Daughters of the King and the Thursday Morning Bible Study. She was also a member of Carnival Memphis, Grand Krewe of Ra Met and was queen of Ra Met in 2011. – May 31, 2017 Brennan Maurice O’Keefe (B.S. computer engineering, ’94) 47, St. Louis, Missouri – A native of Gulfport, he was a computer programmer. – Sept. 8, 2017 Frank Palmer (B. S. civil engineering, ’66), 73, Vicksburg – At Mississippi State he was a member of SAE Fraternity and ROTC. Upon graduating from MSU, he began work with the Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg and New Orleans. He was a veteran of the Mississippi National Guard. – Oct. 30, 2017 Johnnye Mae Harris Pass (Staff) 81, Holly Springs – She worked for the Mississippi State University Extension Service for 30



years, retiring as a home economist in 1990. She earned a master’s from the Mississippi University for Women and was president of the National Council of Negro Women, an executive with the hospitality department of the northern Mississippi jurisdiction, received the Bishop’s Award at headquarter jurisdiction, Missionary of the Year for 2010 and Women of Excellence Award in 2010. – June 4, 2017 Willie Earl Peavey (B.S. industrial management, ’54) 90, New Orleans, Louisiana – A native of Lawrence County, he served in the U.S. Army in WWII and was called back from his studies at Mississippi State to serve in the Korean War as well. He retired for Halliburton after 36 years. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, where he was a deacon and served in various ministries. – Oct. 20, 2017 Kerry Polk (B.S. music education, ’78) 61, Austin, Texas – A musician and songwriter, the Jackson native spent more than 25 years as a piano teacher in Austin, Texas. She was a prominent fixture in the city’s music scene and was often heard on KUTX. Her song “65 Ford Fairlane” was featured on NPR’s CarTalk and she released two CDs of her own work. – Oct. 1, 2017 Robert “Bobby” Carroll Shows Jr. (B.S. social studies education, ’63; M.S. guidance education, ’64) 75, Brookhaven – He played on three Southeastern Conference championship teams at Mississippi State and was part of the “Game of Change” team in the NCAA Tournament in 1963. An ordained minister, he was director of activities in Southern Baptist churches in Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri. He was also on staff with the Missouri Baptist Convention. He was the founder and director of Sports Crusaders Ministry and worked as a basketball coach and referee. – Sept. 3, 2017 Howard Carl Tanner (B.S. mechanical engineering, ’61) 78, Tallahassee, Florida – He graduated from Mississippi State as an ROTC distinguished military graduate and served as an active-duty artillery officer in the 3rd Armor Division, Germany, the 82nd Airborne, Dominican Republic, the 1st Infantry Division, Vietnam, and in MAC organizations in the Ready Reserves, retiring in 1998. He received an MBA from the University of Houston and worked as an engineer and consultant with several petrochemical and paper companies, SAP and IBM. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, Clan Douglas of

America, the St. Andrew Society of Tallahassee and the Presbyterian Church. – Feb. 22, 2017 Rita Worrell Tanksley (Staff) 66, Kosciusko – She retired from the Mississippi State University Extension Service as an agent with the Early Childhood Division. She earned a bachelor’s from Delta State, a master’s from Florida International and a doctoral degree from Florida State University. – Sept. 6, 2017 Thomas Elliott Thoms Jr. (B.S. chemical engineering, ’69) 71, Hattiesburg – He began his career as a chemical engineer with Hercules Inc. in Georgia where he became a member of a leadership team and served as a junior achievement adviser. After several company transfers he settled in Hattiesburg where he coached church league basketball and baseball, while also fulfilling his dream of creating the Family Fun Video Game business. He earned a master’s in counseling psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi and for the next 26 years taught at Pearl River Community College. – Nov. 2, 2017 William “Bill” Thoms (B.S. accounting, ’49) 90, Indialantic, Florida – A WWII veteran, he retired in 1989 after more than 30 years with the U.S. Department of Defense Contract Audit Agency. He served in managerial positions in various offices throughout the Southeastern United States. He was also a volunteer on the board of the multi-billion-dollar Space Coast Credit Union for more than 40 years. On the board, he held various positions including secretary, treasurer and chairman. – July 5, 2017 Christopher Lee West (B.B.A. business, ’91) 51, Cumming, Georgia – A native of Magee, he made a career in the global telecommunications field, emphasizing his skills in business development and account management. – Sept. 26, 2017 Noel Estel Wilson Jr. (B.S. management, ’53) 88, Greenwood – He joined the Army Air Corps at 17 and served in WWII for three years before returning home and enrolling at Mississippi State. He was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force through ROTC. After graduating from pilot training, he began a military career that spanned the next 25 years. He earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Medal of Honor. Following his retirement, he worked at NBC Bank of Starkville as personnel director and

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began doctoral studies at Mississippi State, where he also taught and was director of the Small Business Development center prior to his civilian retirement in 1995. He was active with the Boy Scouts, having earned the Silver Beaver Award, the highest civilian award given by the organization. He was in the first master gardener class in Oktibbeha County and served as president of the group for many years. He was inducted into the Mississippi Trap Association Hall of Fame in 2012 and coached in the 4-H shooting sports program. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Starkville Rotarians and was an active member of the Presbyterian church. – Feb. 5, 2017 John D. York (B.S., animal husbandry, ’59) 85, Cary, North Carolina – He was a native of Coffeeville and was retired from Valent Chemical Company. – June 2, 2017

REMEMBERING JOHN ROBERT ARNOLD John Robert Arnold (B.S. agriculture, ’44) 94, Starkville – He was active in ROTC and a member of the football team while at Mississippi State. Following his graduation, he joined his family’s dairy and farm, which raised cotton and cattle. In the 1960s, he turned to manufacturing and under the brand names of Howard Furniture, Herschede Hall Clocks and Motor Guide, produced family-room furniture; floor, wall and mantel clocks; and electric trolling motors. These companies merged under the umbrella of Arnold Industries in 1973. He also formed Dodge City Enterprises, which included a Chrysler dealership, several barbecue restaurants and an appliance retail business. He helped launch a bus ministry at the First United Methodist Church of Starkville and later formed a tour bus business called Starkville Buses, which continued until his retirement in 2014. He was active in many organizations including the Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts of America, the Rotary Club and United Way. He was also the president of Sessums Community Club. – Aug. 23, 2017

IN MEMORY OF HORACE H. HARNED JR. Horace H. Harned Jr. (B.S. geosciences, ’42), 96, Starkville – A lifelong resident of Oktibbeha County, he was a member of Kappa Sigma, ROTC, Blue Key, ODK and Dudy Noble’s cross-country team while at State. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force and served for four years during WWII. Following an honorable discharge with the rank of captain, he returned to Mississippi to manage Meadowoods Plantation before beginning his own dairy operation, where he also developed a herd of beef cattle. He was recognized by the Starkville Chamber of Commerce with the Outstanding Dairyman and Outstanding Beef Producer awards. In 1951, he was elected to fill an unexpired term in the Mississippi Senate representing Oktibbeha and Choctaw counties. The following year, he authored the Mississippi Right to Work law. As a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1960-80, he chaired the Universities and Colleges Committee for 12 years and the Select Committee on Higher Education from 197273. He was highly influential in the establishment of the School of Architecture and College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State, as well as the establishment of the dental school in Jackson and the School of Nursing at Mississippi University for Women. He was also heavily involved in the process of getting Humphrey Coliseum, Allen Hall, Bost Extension Center, Herzer Hall, Clay Lyle Entomology Lab, the Cobb Institute of Archaeology and the Raspet Flight Laboratory for Mississippi State, as well as academic buildings for other colleges and universities in the state. A member of Faith Baptist Church, he was active in civil and professional clubs, including Rotary International, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Forty and Eight, Farm Bureau Association, the 14th Air Force Association and the Oktoc Community Club. – July 2, 2017

In Memory of H.L. “SONNY” MERIDETH JR. H.L. “Sonny” Merideth Jr. (B.S. accounting, ’53) 86, Gulf Breeze, Florida – An attorney from Greenville, he served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1960-92. He was chairman of the County Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Economic Development, the Judiciary “A” Committee, Special Gaming Commission Subcommittee and the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He played a role in passing the Education Reform Act of 1982 and Four-Lane Highway Construction Program in 1987. He was also influential in forming the state’s law on casino gambling. Upon his graduation from Mississippi State, he earned an ROTC PHOTO: AP commission as a second lieutenant, going on to serve in the Korean Conflict. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. Following his discharge, he enrolled in law school and subsequently opened a law practice in Greenville, where he was later joined by James Robertshaw to form a practice that still exists under another name. He received numerous honors throughout his career, including Mississippi Elected Official of the Year in 1983 from the Mississippi chapter of the American Society of Public Administrators; Outstanding Orator in 1977 by his fellow legislators; and Outstanding Legislator in 1975 by the Mississippi State Bar. He was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Bar Association, the Mississippi Bar Association, and the Washington County Bar Association, as well as a fellow of the International Society of Barristers. – Sept. 5, 2017 ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU


Back ST O R Y

WITH FRED CURRY I was born at the University of Mississippi hospital in Jackson, but don’t hold that against me. When I realized where I was I cried like a baby and got out of there as quickly as I could. I grew up in rural Hinds County working on farms with my family and that led to my first connection to Mississippi State University. As a teenager, I helped individuals haul hay off of the Extension Service’s Brown Loam Branch Experiment Station. I often wondered why they would raise good hay to basically just give it away, but they were growing it for research. That’s when I began to appreciate the notion of gaining knowledge and sharing it. After taking pre-engineering courses at Hinds Junior College, I transferred to Mississippi State University in 1978 to study agriculture and civil engineering. It was hard, not only because our engineering program is tough but also because, beyond textbooks, it was hard to access resources. People working together and sharing information is important, so other students and I set out to help by establishing the MSU Society of Black Engineers. Some people thought it was just about black students but it was more than that. There was a special need to make mentors available to us, and the administration worked with us to bring in speakers—both black and white—to share information. It felt good to see the program working. After I left Mississippi State in 1980, I wanted to put my college classes into action. I went to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an engineering technician helping farmers with various projects, and in my free time I helped build Kingdom Halls across the state. I wanted to share my knowledge to help people better themselves, and that’s something I’ve kept with me while working at the post office. I returned to Mississippi State in 1987 as a postal employee. At that time, it was still located in the YMCA building. It wasn’t built to be a post office, but we made it work and enjoyed the location. It was centrally located and put us at the heart of things where we could vicariously be part of what



LEFT: In this photo from the 1970s, Fred Curry bowls a frame at the bowling alley in the student union. RIGHT: Curry (left) and Postmaster Ken Oglesbee help Ty Abernathy, the last customer on the last day of the Mississippi State post office’s operation in the YMCA Building.

was going on. For me it was special because, as a student, I had a mailbox there— Box 2066. Like many students, my post office box was my lifeline to home. Through the years boxes were not only in the YMCA but in the Union and basement of Lee Hall, too. That’s a unique service for students. We’re one of the only college campuses to have a federal post office, which is why Mississippi State has its own zip code— 39762. And, thanks to Postmaster Ken Oglesbee, I’ll bet we’re the only one to have a cowbell people ring for service. Times change and so does how we communicate, but that doesn’t mean the mail is obsolete, like some people say. At our new location, we have 5,929 post office boxes and received more than 1 million pieces of mail last year. From letters to parcels, every piece of mail we handle is important to someone and shares something vital, whether it’s advertising to bring customers to a local business, a research grant proposal, Edam cheese, season tickets or an acceptance letter letting someone know they’re about to be a Bulldog. n Fred Curry is a native of Raymond. In 1978, he helped found and served as president of what is now Mississippi State’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. He is in his 40th year as a federal employee, including 22 years with the post office at Mississippi State University—one of only a few college campuses to have its own federal post office. He is married to Debra Curry, who recently retired from the university’s financial aid office. Check out to read about one of Curry’s most memorable mail moments.


Back STORY Alumnus Fall 2017 Janet Martin (’80, ’84): This image is from Central Duplicating, which was located in the basement of Lee Hall. Central Duplicating was not only a printing facility but also an office supply store for the university. In the background is William Ray, pressman. I started in 1974 working summers and then through college. Little did I know that this was the start of my career path. I learned this trade, coupled with my marketing degree and have been in printing and advertising since I left the university. Scott Lipsey (Staff): The press operator in the photo is William Ray. In 1984 Central Duplicating became Printing Services and moved from Lee Hall to what was Auxiliary Plaza on the corner of Hwy. 12 and Russell Street. I started working for Printing Services in May of 1985. The printing press was a Heidelberg KORD. It was moved from Lee Hall to Auxiliary Plaza and again when the University tore down Auxiliary Plaza and the office was relocated to Hwy. 182 in the old Goose Hollow building. In 2010 the University closed down Printing Services and the press was sold. It still ran well.

In this photo pulled from the University Archives a student stoops to check his Mississippi State University post office box. Help us identify this student or share your memories of receiving mail on campus by contacting us. Please include your major(s) and graduation year(s) as some responses may be published in print or online with the next issue.

Alumnus Magazine P.O. Box 5325 Mississippi State, MS 39762






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


Sisterly bond

inspires solutions for

hereditary disease Renita Horton understands the toll sickle cell disease can have on patients and their families. Now, the Mississippi State assistant professor is using that knowledge to fuel her research into the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States.

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ALUMNUS Winter 2017 - Mississippi State University  
ALUMNUS Winter 2017 - Mississippi State University  

Mississippi State University's Alumni Publication - Winter 2017 (Vol. 94, No. 3)