Background Image Alternative Text: MSU President Mark E. Keenum addresses spring graduates in Humphrey Coliseum.

Keenum commends Mississippi State grads’ abilities to adapt, overcome challenges as nearly 2,900 celebrate commencement

Contact: Allison Matthews

Graduates wearing masks sit in MSU's Humphrey Coliseum during spring commencement ceremonies.
Mississippi State graduates participate in commencement ceremonies Thursday [April 29] at Humphrey Coliseum. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—As Mississippi State marks the end of one of the most challenging and unusual academic years in history, nearly 2,900 graduates are celebrating their milestone accomplishments while MSU President Mark E. Keenum is commending their abilities to adapt and overcome challenges. 

“We’ve made it through this most challenging of years together,” Keenum said at commencement ceremonies in Humphrey Coliseum Thursday and Friday [April 29-30]. “You have worked long and hard to get here, and all of us at this great university are very proud of you.”

Keenum said a college degree is more important than ever and will help graduates succeed in a world undergoing unprecedented change.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum wears graduation regalia and gives commencement remarks.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum addresses Mississippi State graduates, praising them for “integrity, a great work ethic, and being kind and considerate to others.” (Photo by Beth Wynn)

“As you go forward, all of you in life, I hope you will always continue to uphold the core values that we revere here at Mississippi State. That’s what a Mississippi State Bulldog is known for—integrity, a great work ethic, and being kind and considerate to others. That’s what people admire about Mississippi State graduates,” Keenum said.

He described courage as another imperative trait and thanked the frontline heroes who have courageously been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You must have courage to stay focused on your future. And you must have courage to support your family and friends,” Keenum said. He also emphasized the values of diversity and personal faith.

Keenum is a three-time MSU graduate with degrees in agricultural economics. The former Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has guided the university to unprecedented heights, and his interest in international food security has strengthened the university’s contributions to global economic sustainability. He has led MSU to record growth in enrollment, capital improvements and fundraising.

Mississippi State alumnus Richard A. Rula, left, and MSU President Mark E. Keenum hold a large framed diploma during MSU commencement ceremonies Friday [April 30]
Mississippi State alumnus Richard A. Rula, left, receives an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree for lifetime achievements and longtime major support of university programs during MSU commencement ceremonies Friday [April 30]. Pictured with MSU President Mark E. Keenum, the 1970 civil engineering graduate serves as president of Richland-based Hemphill Construction Company, one of the Southeast’s leading multi-faceted contractors. He also has served on the boards of the MSU Foundation and the Bulldog Club, among others. (Photo by Megan Bean)

MSU alumnus Richard A. Rula was honored during the Friday [April 30] afternoon ceremony with an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree for lifetime achievements and longtime major support of university programs. Rula earned a 1970 civil engineering degree from MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering and currently serves as president of Richland-based Hemphill Construction Company, one of the Southeast’s leading multi-faceted contractors. He has served on the boards of the MSU Foundation and the Bulldog Club, among others.

Rula was recognized as one of the Bagley college’s Distinguished Engineering Fellows in 2006 and its Alumnus of the Year in 2017. In 2019, he was named the university’s National Alumnus of the Year. Rula and his wife Sherry provided the lead gift for MSU’s new Engineering and Science Complex, which is nearing completion and will be named in his honor. They also have endowed the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, which will be officially named the Richard A. Rula School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Rulas’ generous support also has had a major impact on the MSU student-athlete experience. They provided the lead gift for the Rula Tennis Pavilion, the new indoor complex for MSU men’s and women’s tennis teams, and also have supported the Mize Pavilion’s courts for MSU men’s and women’s basketball.

The spring commencement ceremonies also marked the first time MSU graduates have worn custom regalia, featuring maroon and white university seals and inverted maroon pleats on each sleeve for undergraduates and other distinguishing details for master’s and doctoral-level graduates.

Archived graduation videos are available at https://www.registrar.msstate.edu/students/graduation.

MSU-Meridian will celebrate commencement on Monday [May 3] at the MSU Riley Center at 11 a.m. MSU-Meridian information may be found at meridian.msstate.edu.

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