SDN Staff Reports
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum will become the latest state celebrity to be roasted in an annual benefit for the Mississippi Press Association’s Education Foundation.
Keenum will be the 22nd honoree at the MPAEF roast, joining the ranks of such luminaries to receive barbs, witticisms and adulation as late comedian and entertainer Jerry Clower, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, Gov. Haley Barbour, former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore and, most recently, Mississippi Economic Council CEO Blake Wilson.
Keenum became MSU’s 19th president in 2009 after previously serving as undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2006 to 2008. Prior to his USDA service, he worked as chief of staff for Cochran from 1996 to 2006 after previously working as Cochran’s legislative assistant for agriculture and natural resources from 1989 to 1996.
Keenum — who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from MSU — worked as a marketing specialist for the MSU Extension Service and as an assistant professor in agricultural economics before beginning his public service career. He and his wife, the former Rhonda Newman, have four children.
The roast is being held as part of MPA’s annual Midwinter Conference in Jackson and is set for Jan. 20 at the downtown Marriott Hotel, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and followed by dinner at 7 p.m.
Though held as part of the MPA conference, the roast of Keenum is open to the public. Tickets cost $80 apiece or $600 for a table of eight and may be purchased by calling the MPA offices at (601) 981-3060 or visiting the MPA website at http://www.mspress.org  for online orders.
Proceeds from the roast benefit the MPA Education Foundation, which provides scholarships for college journalism majors, provides resources grants for state higher learning institutions, sponsors paid internships for journalism students and coordinates student journalism conferences and workshops.