Contact: Allison Matthews
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State continued its tradition of commemorating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with the university’s 25th annual Unity Breakfast today [Jan. 21] before kicking off a community-wide “Day of Service.”
About 1,500 students, faculty, staff, community members and elected officials attended the event that featured keynote speaker Marcus L. Thompson, deputy commissioner and chief administrative officer for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum also gave remarks, noting the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. He said minorities are an important part of the university community, including more than 4,000 African-American students and 800 international students who represent over 80 countries.
“At Mississippi State, we’re proud of the fact that we’re growing in our diversity as a campus. Diversity empowers any institution—enriches any institution—and the people within it. And we’re seeing that on our campus, and that brings great pride to me personally,” Keenum said.
Thompson said King’s far-reaching impact continues today.
“This event is also a fitting reminder of Dr. King’s message of service, character and unity, and I’m so proud that Mississippi State University models what it means to serve the community, our state, our nation and our world, which gives our students the experiences they need to grow into the leaders of the future,” Thompson said.
He emphasized the biblical lesson that King advocated that, “if you want to be great, focus your aspirations on service.”
“Money, prestige, power—those things are desirable to many, but should never overtake our passion to improve the situation of all the beautiful people around us,” he said, adding that each person has a unique ability to serve.
“There is a way that only you can change the lives of people around you,” Thompson said. “Students, graduates and even non-graduates, ask yourselves what is your passion in life. What excites you and how can you use your passion to better the lives of others? When you marry those two things as Dr. King married his passion for equality and justice and his desire for everyone to have it, you have the makings of someone great. Everyone here listening to the sound of my voice, you are poised to be someone great.”
Thompson said Mississippi State students gain a “true education,” which emphasizes strength of character in addition to intelligence.
Chief of staff to Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins Jr., Thompson also serves as IHL system diversity officer and is responsible for providing leadership and consultation to develop and implement equity and diversity strategies throughout the public university system. Pastor of Mountain Ridge United Methodist Church in Brandon, he previously served as chief of staff and assistant to the State Superintendent of Education at the Mississippi Department of Education.
Thompson has served as an educator in the Jackson Public and Copiah County school districts. In addition to holding an endorsement to teach in elementary education, he is licensed to teach English, history, mathematics and Spanish. Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in history and Spanish and a Master of Education in elementary education from Mississippi College.
A strong proponent of community and human capital development, he is a member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. Thompson and his wife, LaToya Redd Thompson, are parents of three children—Kaelyn, Jessica and Marcus Jr.
The MSU event was sponsored by the Office of the President, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, Vice President for Student Affairs, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, Center for Student Activities, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Maroon Volunteer Center and others. The event also featured a performance by the university’s Black Voices Gospel Choir, and a special tribute by the men of the Kappa Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Following the program, MSU’s Maroon Volunteer Center, in coordination with Volunteer Starkville, is facilitating MLK Jr. Day of Service activities. More than 500 volunteers dispatched to organizations throughout the community, including Camp Seminole, Christian World Missions, Habitat for Humanity Resale Store, J.L. King Park, McKee Park, Ms. Smith’s Educational Services, Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum, Palmer Home Thrift Store, Starkville Boys and Girls Club, and The Salvation Army, among others. For more, visit www.mlkdaystarkville.com.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.