Mississippi State dedicates Deavenport Hall, honors engineering alumnus and wife

Contact: Amy Cagle

Mary Ann Deavenport cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony for Earnest W. and Mary Ann Deavenport Hall on Friday [Oct. 7] at Mississippi State. Pictured, from left to right, are Resident Hall Association President Nicolas Harris, Starkville First Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Martin Lifer, Earnest W. Deavenport Jr., Mary Ann Deavenport, MSU President Mark E. Keenum, MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt and MSU Student Association President Roxanne Raven. (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—One of Mississippi State’s newest residence halls is carrying the name of one of the university’s most distinguished alumni.

In dedication ceremonies today [Oct. 7] for Deavenport Hall, MSU President Mark E. Keenum expressed the university’s appreciation for Kiawah Island, South Carolina, residents Earnest W. “Earnie” Deavenport Jr., a 1960 chemical engineering graduate, and his wife, Mary Ann, for nearly three decades of philanthropy at the land-grant institution.

"Earnie and Mary Ann Deavenport help keep our university competitive with other public institutions because of their support of endowed faculty chairs and scholarships in their home state," said Keenum. "Deavenport Hall enhances that legacy and spirit of giving as it will benefit our student body for generations to come."

Deavenport Hall is a 350-bed, co-residential facility that houses primarily freshmen and some upperclassmen, featuring a new quad configuration for the latter group. The four-story, state-of-the-art residence hall was designed by McCarty Architects, P.A., and built by Yates Construction on the north side of campus. The building opened as fall semester 2016 convened.  

MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said, “We hope the students who live in this new space will develop a lasting connection to and a love for Mississippi State like that of the Deavenports.”

She continued, “We are grateful for their support and are delighted to recognize their efforts through the naming of our new residence hall as a place where students learn, grow, meet new people, and build lifelong friendships.”

Earnie Deavenport grew up in nearby Macon where his parents were owners of a Western Auto store and garage. His wife, the former Mary Ann Penton, is a University of Southern Mississippi graduate from Bay Springs. The couple met and married while working at Eastman Kodak, where both began their careers. Mary Ann concluded her career with the company to devote time to the couple’s two children, Lisa and Scott.

The Deavenports’ giving began at Mississippi State in the 1990s when they established the Earnest W. and Laura Mae Deavenport Endowed Scholarship for engineering students in memory of Earnie’s parents. Both were residents of Noxubee County.

Additionally, the couple’s support includes the Earnest W. and Mary Ann Deavenport Jr. Chair, an endowed position held by the dean of the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. A second endowed position, the Earnest W. Deavenport Jr. Chair, directs the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, and also benefits from their support. The position was established by the Eastman Chemical Company in honor of Earnie’s lifelong contributions to education and the chemical industry.

“Mary Ann and I are proud of the return on our investments when we see the success of our scholarship recipients and our chair holders making strides in teaching and research. Now this building will enable us to have a stronger legacy at Mississippi State,” said Deavenport, the 2015 National Alumnus and holder of a 2011 honorary Doctor of Science from Mississippi State.

Beyond his MSU degrees, Deavenport earned a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School in 1985, followed by an honorary Doctor of Laws from King College, now King University, in Bristol, Tennessee, in 2000. He also is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

Deavenport’s more than four-decade career with the chemical division of Eastman Kodak Co. included a number of progressive managerial positions. By 1989, he was named group vice president of Eastman Kodak and served in that role until 1994. That year, he became chairman and CEO of Eastman Chemical Company as the result of its spin-off from Kodak. He remained with Eastman Chemical until his retirement in 2002, after which he continued to serve on the boards of several corporations. From 2010 through 2013, he was chairman of the board for Regions Financial Corporation.

At Mississippi State, Deavenport serves as a member of the James Worth Bagley College’s Dean’s Advisory Council and the MSU National Alumni Board. He currently chairs the MSU Foundation board of directors and, by virtue of that position, helps steer the university’s ongoing successful Infinite Impact capital campaign.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.