MSU honors national alumnus, other alumni at banquet Friday

Contact: Amy Cagle

MSU's 2015 National Alumnus of the Year Earnest W. "Earnie" Deavenport Jr.
MSU's 2015 National Alumnus of the Year Earnest W. "Earnie" Deavenport Jr.
Photo by: Russ Houston

STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State will recognize 1960 chemical engineering graduate Earnest W. "Earnie" Deavenport Jr. of Kiawah Island, South Carolina, as its national alumnus of the year during the Friday [Feb. 6] MSU Alumni Association 2015 awards banquet.

"We are proud to salute Earnie Deavenport on behalf of Mississippi State University for his success as an entrepreneur and for his loyal lifelong connection with his alma mater," said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. "Of our nearly 130,000 living alumni, Earnie is a distinguished selection for Alumnus of the Year."

Macon native Deavenport earned a Master of Science in Management degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. In 2000, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from King College in Bristol, Tennessee. Then in 2011, Deavenport received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Mississippi State for lifelong contributions in the business and engineering fields.

Deavenport began his career with the chemical division of Eastman Kodak Co. in Kingsport, Tennessee. A number of managerial positions would follow before he was named president of the firm's Carolina Eastman Division in 1982. Three years later, he became assistant general manager of the chemical division and vice president of Eastman Kodak. By 1989, Deavenport was named Group Vice President of Eastman Kodak and would serve in that role until 1994.

That year, Deavenport became chairman of the board and CEO of Eastman Chemical Co. as the result of its spin-off from Kodak to form a publically held company. Deavenport would take Eastman Chemical global and achieve international recognition as a tireless industry leader until his retirement in 2002.

Following retirement, Deavenport continued to serve on the boards of both Eastman Kodak Co. and Eastman Chemical Co. From 2010 through 2013, he added another role to his extensive resume, as he became Chairman of the Board for Regions Financial Corp.

Since 1962, Deavenport has been married to the former Mary Ann Penton of Bay Springs. The two met while working at Eastman Kodak. They have two children, Lisa and Scott, and four grandchildren.

Along with the national alumnus recognition of Deavenport, each of MSU's eight academic colleges will honor a graduate for outstanding personal, professional and community achievements.

The new MSU alumni-of-the-year group includes (by hometown):

FLORA--Debra J. West, College of Education. A 2007 doctoral graduate in community college leadership, she is deputy executive director for programs and accountability with the Mississippi Community College Board.

GREENWOOD--Fred E. Carl Jr., College of Architecture, Art, and Design. Carl attended MSU and was a 2009 selection for an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Carl founded Viking Range Corp., where he served as chairman and CEO. He also is the founder and chairman of C3 Design Inc.

HOUSTON, Texas--Mike M. McDaniel, James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. A 1979 mechanical engineering graduate, he is the owner of M3 Resources LLC, as well as Saber Power Systems.

JACKSON--James A. "Jim" Coggin, College of Business. A 1964 general business graduate, he retired in 2007 as president and chief administrative officer of Saks Inc.

MUSCLE SHOALS, Alabama--Elton R. Coley, College of Forest Resources. Leader of a forestry consulting business, he received a 1974 bachelor's degree in forestry and a 1975 master's in business administration.

RIDGELAND--Malcolm B. Lightsey Sr., College of Arts and Sciences. The retired president and CEO of SunTech Inc., he received bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics in 1961 and 1963, respectively.

TUNICA--Richard B. "Dick" Flowers Sr., College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. A 1956 agriculture graduate, he owns Flowers Foundation Inc.

TUPELO--Dr. Stephen K. King and Dr. Glenn S. Thomas, College of Veterinary Medicine. King operates the Tupelo Small Animal Hospital P.A., while Thomas is co-owner of Tupelo Small Animal Hospital P.A. Both are 1988 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduates.

Other graduates to be given special recognition at the banquet for service to the alumni association during 2014 will include (by hometown):

BROOKHAVEN--Gary A. Blair, a 1981 business and agriculture graduate receiving the Distinguished Service Award. He currently works as vice president and branch manager for Southern AgCredit ACA.

WASHINGTON, D.C. --Betty Grace Millard Terpstra, a 1976 social work graduate receiving the Distinguished Service Award. She is owner of Terpstra Associates, a lobbying and public affairs firm.

MOBILE, ALABAMA--Stephanie M. Williford receiving the Distinguished Service Award. She completed both a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in counselor education in 1972 and is currently a senior regional leader for Primerica Financial Services.

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA--Ashley Pallotta Williams receiving the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. She is a 2004 aerospace engineering alumna who later earned an MBA at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. She is a lead systems engineer for the EMARSS reconnaissance aircraft in the Program Executive Office of Aviation for the U.S. Army.

Other highlights of the awards banquet will include the announcement of individual chapters recognized for their achievements during the 2014 calendar year.

The 2015 alumni awards banquet will be simulcast live via the Internet, beginning at 6 p.m. on Feb. 6. For a broadcast link and more on the MSU Alumni Association, visit

Post event photos of honorees will be available. Media representatives may contact or telephone 662-325-1006 for assistance.

MSU is Mississippi's flagship research university, available online at,, and

Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 12:00 am