Keenums to lead city Christmas parade Monday

Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum, university first lady Rhonda Keenum and their four children are this year's grand marshals of the Starkville Community Christmas Parade.

Set to launch at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28, the parade will begin along Russell Street, turn at Montgomery Street toward University Drive and continue west down Main Street.

"Christmas in Candyland" is the 2011 theme. Also featured during the event will be MSU's Famous Maroon Band and cheerleaders, along with a host of floats, walking groups and other representatives of various local businesses and organizations.

According to Mark Keenum, the family is looking forward to the parade, which has been a local tradition for many years.

"Since returning to Starkville, we have enjoyed being involved in activities to support the community," he said. "Starkville is not only a wonderful home for our great university; it is also a wonderful place to raise a family. Being a part of the Christmas parade will be a special memory for our entire family."

Keenum became the 19th chief executive of Mississippi's largest institution of higher learning in January 2009, following a distinguished public service career. After completing bachelor's and master's degrees at MSU, he joined the university faculty in 1984 as a marketing specialist with the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service.

Two years later, he accepted a position as a research associate with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. In 1988, he received a doctorate in agricultural economics and joined the faculty of that department as an assistant professor and economist.

In 1989, Keenum joined the Washington, D.C., staff of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran as legislative assistant for agriculture and natural resources. He later worked as Cochran's chief of staff for 10 years before being named undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rhonda Keenum, an MSU alumna, is a founding partner of The WIT Group, a Washington public affairs firm specializing in strategic counsel, government relations and communication services.

A Booneville native, she formerly served as director of the White House's Office of Public Liaison and deputy assistant to the president during the George W. Bush administration. She also is a former undersecretary of commerce for the International Trade Administration.

The four Keenum children include 7-year-old triplets Rett, Mary Philips and Katie, and 5-year-old Torie.

Allison Matthews | University Relations

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