John Grisham to new Bulldogs: ‘I found my home here at State’

MSU accounting alumnus and best-selling author John Grisham speaks to new MSU students Tuesday [Aug. 28] during Fall Convocation at Humphrey Coliseum. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—From weeknight games at Dudy Noble Field to classes in McCool Hall, Mississippi State accounting alumnus John Grisham remembers his college years in the 70s like they were yesterday. After all, once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.

“I loved the big lecture halls, and I came to enjoy the professors. For the first time, after being at several schools, I was on a real campus with a diverse student body, different professors from around the world, big time sports, all of the activities that a big college can bring, and I really fell in love with State,” said Grisham, a world-renowned, best-selling author who shared advice with first-year freshmen and transfer students at MSU’s fifth Fall Convocation.

Grisham’s “Calico Joe” is this year’s selection for Maroon Edition, MSU’s 10th common reading program.

In reflecting on his college career, Grisham said he has a lot of things he wished he would have done while an MSU student. However, he has no regrets. He encouraged his fellow Bulldogs to cultivate friendships with diverse people including their professors, and to become involved on campus in the “thousands of clubs and organizations all doing something to make life better.”

“I came here as a kid who was drifting, looking, confused, and I left here later as a young man with a dream and a plan to make it happen. I was taught by great teachers and motivated by ambitious classmates. I was ready when I left here, and you will be, too,” Grisham said.

“When it’s time to graduate, you will look around and say ‘I can’t believe it’s here.’ So, the clock is ticking now to savor the moments. And don’t let yourself be put in the position where you ever look back in wishful thinking,” Grisham emphasized.

Prior to Grisham’s address, MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Provost and Executive Vice President Judy Bonner, Robert Holland Faculty Senate President Randy Follett, along with Student Association President Mayah Emerson and Vice President Jake Manning, officially welcomed the university’s newest members of the Bulldog family.

Emerson also led the students as they recited the University Honor Code in unison, and each student received a Fall Convocation coin to commemorate the special occasion.

Keenum, one of the country’s most highly-respected university presidents who holds three degrees from Mississippi State, encouraged his fellow Bulldog family members to embrace this institution that will provide them with a valuable academic education and life experience.

“We want to provide you with a great education, but we also want to prepare you to be a good person, to be positive role models in your communities, to help those in need,” Keenum said. “That’s what Mississippi State is about – we’re here to help people.”

“You’ve got world-class faculty, administrators and fellow students that are here to help you, and I hope you take it upon yourself to help them as well. We want you to succeed,” Keenum added.

Bonner echoed Keenum’s sentiments and told students they will have opportunities to become involved in learning activities that will supplement and reinforce concepts and skills from their classes at the state’s leading university.

Study abroad, undergraduate research, service learning, student leadership, internships and co-oping all are ways to augment classroom learning and aid in a student’s overall education, Bonner said.

“Your journey to completing college will include so much more than just going to class,” she said. “You will be growing intellectually, gaining life skills that will aid you as you become a leader in your profession and in civic life.”

At the ceremony’s conclusion, MSU’s State Singers—directed by Associate Professor of Music and Choral Activities Director Gary Packwood—led the new students in the singing of the alma mater, “Maroon and White.” Musical accompaniment was provided by the Famous Maroon Band conducted by MSU alumna Elva Kaye Lance, now in her 16th year as director of bands.

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