Bonner named MSU’s new provost, executive vice president

Contact: Harriet Laird

Judith L. “Judy” Bonner

STARKVILLE, Miss.--Judith L. “Judy” Bonner, a longtime senior administrator and former president at the University of Alabama, is the new provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State University.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum made the announcement Thursday [May 19], welcoming Bonner as Mississippi State’s chief academic officer. Her appointment is pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning. She is expected to assume her new role with the university on July 1.

Bonner succeeds Jerome A. “Jerry” Gilbert as MSU’s provost. Gilbert was recently named president of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

A native of Wilcox County, Alabama, Bonner was selected following a national search during which four finalists were interviewed by a university search committee, as well as by faculty, staff, and students in public meetings, said Keenum.

“The national search produced a truly outstanding pool of candidates, but Dr. Bonner was extremely impressive during the process. Her broad range of relevant experience and her demonstrated commitment to academic excellence makes me confident that she will be a strong and visionary leader for our university,” Keenum said.

At the 138-year-old land-grant institution, Bonner will be responsible for all academic policies, integrity of the academic mission, and academic operations of the university. She will provide direct oversight for eight academic colleges and two campuses, as well as many academic and non-academic support units.

“It is truly an honor to be named provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State,” said Bonner. “President Keenum is providing the dynamic and innovative leadership that is resulting in increased national recognition for Mississippi State both as a research powerhouse and a major contributor to the economic development of the state and region. I look forward to joining his team and to working with the outstanding faculty, staff, students and alumni who make up the Bulldog nation.”

The second-ranking university administrator reporting to the president, Bonner will support Keenum in strategic planning, and defining and articulating MSU’s vision and its role in the overall management of the university. She also will work with senior administration to develop budgetary recommendations that affect the teaching, research and service missions of the institution.

Bonner served as UA’s 28th president from 2012 to 2015, having previously served as provost and executive vice president for almost a decade. During this time, Bonner provided bold, visionary leadership during a period of planned, but unprecedented, growth--both in size and quality.

Bonner’s UA career also included positions as professor, department chair, assistant academic vice president, special assistant to the president, dean and interim president. Prior to this, she held faculty appointments in the University of Alabama-Birmingham department of pediatrics and in Ohio State University’s medical dietetics department.

She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UA. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree from Ohio State. Her degrees were in human nutrition, and her research focused on nutritional needs of chronically ill children and eating disorders.   

Among Bonner’s significant UA career accomplishments are:

--Leading a steady increase in enrollment from 19,633 in 2002 to 37,100 in 2015, an 89 percent climb in 13 years.

--Developing a faculty growth plan and adding new staff, facilities and support programs to keep pace with demands of enrollment growth.

--Establishing an Honors College in 2004 and an Early College program for high school students in 2009.

--Increasing the number of online degree programs to 37.

--Upgrading technology to simplify how students satisfy degree requirements and increasing the number of students graduating.  

After completing her service as the UA president in 2015, the UA Board of Trustees created a $1 million endowment to annually bestow the Judy Bonner Presidential Prize on an individual making a significant difference in the undergraduate experience. Also, the UA National Alumni Association in 2016 presented her its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumna Award. 

She is a two-time recipient of the Amanda Grace Taylor Watson Distinctive Image Award for 2007 and 2015 from the Capstone Men and Women, and Omicron Delta Kappa national honor society presented her with the 2015 Living Legend Award.

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