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IHL extends Mark Keenum’s contract

September 1, 2011

For Bulldog Beat 

Mississippi State University President Dr. Mark Keenum received a great vote of confidence from the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning when it voted unanimously to extend his contract for four more years.
The extension follows a careful review that included meetings with stakeholders across each campus. Since Dr. Keenum’s appointment in 2009, Mississippi State University has enjoyed record enrollment and achievements in all facets of the university.
 “Dr. Keenum has proven himself to be a dedicated leader with a vision for the future of Mississippi State University,” said Trustee Robin Robinson of Laurel, president, Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. “He appreciates the role that students, faculty, alumni and the community play in the success of the university and has brought all of them together to help MSU to excel.”
 Dr. Mark E. Keenum became the 19th president of Mississippi State University in January 2009. Very early in his tenure, Dr. Keenum realized that Mississippi and its universities were facing the biggest financial challenges, perhaps, since the Great Depression.  MSU experienced significant budget cuts in FY 10 and FY 11.  Thanks to decisive leadership by President Keenum, Mississippi State took immediate steps to seek out efficiencies and cost savings while protecting core academic functions.  As a result, MSU is on solid financial footing. 
 “Despite very challenging financial times, Dr. Keenum has guided the university with a steady hand and sound decision-making,” said Trustee Ed Blakeslee of Gulfport. “By engaging the campus community and forming a strong team, Dr. Keenum has met the challenges and put the university on a path to an even brighter future.”
 Over the past year, Keenum has led an effort to raise MSU’s involvement and stature in the international arena, seeking to link the university’s strengths in food production, food safety and related areas to the vast needs in other parts of the world.
He met with leaders of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and other international organizations last summer in Rome.  He has been named to the advisory group of the Global Agricultural Development Initiative of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  Earlier this year, MSU established the International Institute on campus. 
“Since becoming president of Mississippi State, Dr. Keenum has exhibited absolutely outstanding leadership in all phases of the university,” said Jim Rouse of Houston, Texas, president of the MSU Development Foundation.  “He has emphasized the recruitment of top quality students, expanded enrollment, increased research activities, and supported record fund raising, all with great success.”\Dr. Keenum’s vision for a 22,000-student university by 2015, along with his hands-on involvement in recruiting and promoting MSU, have helped fuel the record enrollments of the past two years.  This fall’s enrollment will be well over 20,000. Recent fall semester headcount totals were Fall 2010, 19,644; Fall 2009, 18,601; Fall 2008, 17,824.
“Dr. Keenum understands the vital role that our universities play in our state and particularly in our region of the state,” said Trustee C.D. Smith of Meridian. “Mississippi State University is helping students reach their dreams and helping our businesses and economy to grow by providing the workforce and the leaders of the future. We are confident that Mississippi State University will continue to thrive under his leadership.”
“We waited a long time for him, but it has been well worth the wait,” said Trustee Scott Ross. “I think he is the best president Mississippi State has ever had.”
Dr. Keenum’s leadership was the driving force behind the StatePride Faculty Awards and the StatePride annual scholarships that were presented on campus last fall, and are scheduled again for this year.  The StatePride initiative has currently attracted more than $65 million in gifts and pledges toward the $100 million goal.  Of that amount, about $24 million is designated for faculty support and the rest for scholarships.
“MSU is fortunate to have Dr. Mark Keenum as our president,” said Dr. Meghan Millea, president of the MSU Faculty Senate. “He skillfully manages the immediate challenges and opportunities of the university, while maintaining a long-term vision for the institution that respects the university’s history, fosters innovations in research and instruction, and encourages discipline-based service to academic, local, and global communities. He acts with integrity, respect for diversity, and enthusiasm. He has fostered open lines of communication between faculty, students, staff, and administration which contributes to an environment of mutual respect. We can all share in the energy, positive attitude, and pride that Dr. Keenum brings to the campus.” 
A graduate of Mississippi State, Dr. Keenum has had a distinguished career in public service. Keenum served as a member of the Mississippi State University faculty before joining the Washington, D.C., staff of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in 1989 as legislative assistant for Agriculture and Natural Resources. From 1996-2006, he served as Senator Cochran’s chief of staff. He then served for two years as Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Dr. Keenum is not only a great alumnus of Mississippi State, he is also a respected leader who has guided MSU through difficult economic times with a calm, steady hand and an unwavering vision,” said Jerry Toney of Starkville, president of the MSU National Alumni Association. “His abilities have been recognized by the MSU family and his peers, both on the state and national levels. His skills as a leader and communicator have enabled the university to reach record enrollment levels and set the stage for the future growth of our university.”
Dr. Keenum received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Agricultural Economics from Mississippi State. He also earned an associate of arts degree from Northeast Mississippi Community College. A graduate of Corinth High School, he is married to the former Rhonda Newman of Booneville, who is also an MSU graduate. The Keenums have four children.
“I appreciate the confidence of the IHL Board and am committed to continuing to work with them to move our state forward,” said Dr. Keenum. “We faced many challenges when I arrived at Mississippi State in 2009, but our MSU family united to meet those challenges and worked to ensure that we are well-positioned for the future.  I look forward to helping Mississippi State continue to grow and sustain its leadership role in cutting-edge research, community outreach, economic development and educating our future leaders. I love my job and am honored to have this opportunity to serve my alma mater.”
“Dr. Keenum is a committed and visionary leader,” said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I look forward to our continued work together to help our university system continue to excel in serving the needs of our students and our state.”
The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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