Cleveland honored as MSU’s National Alumnus of the Year

Contact: Addie Mayfield

Portrait of Randy J. Cleveland
Randy J. Cleveland (Photo submitted)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University is honoring Randy J. Cleveland with its highest alumni honor. In a campus ceremony on April 29, the longtime Fort Worth, Texas, resident will be recognized formally as the university’s 2022 National Alumnus.

A 1983 petroleum engineering graduate and Newton County native, Cleveland was a successful leader in the oil and gas industry for more than 35 years. He began his career with Exxon in 1984 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he held a variety of technical and planning assignments for the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast region. His progressive career positioned him at the helm of operations across the company, enabling him to lead at locations throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Following the merger of Exxon and Mobil in 1999, Cleveland held the role of operations manager for the company in Aberdeen, Scotland, and later served in London, England, as the joint interest manager for the U.K. and the Netherlands, before returning to Houston, Texas, to manage the company’s U.S. production business. After coordinating the merger of XTO Energy, Inc. into ExxonMobil Corp. in 2010, he became president of XTO headquartered in Fort Worth. He was named Vice President Americas for ExxonMobil Production Co. in 2016 and served in that role until his retirement in 2019.

At MSU, Cleveland has a strong history of support and service. He is a member of the MSU Foundation board of directors, where he leads the fundraising committee as chairman, and also serves on the dean’s advisory council for the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. He earlier was recognized as the Bagley College Alumnus of the Year in 2019 and as one of the college’s Distinguished Engineering Fellows in 2008.

“We are proud to salute Randy Cleveland on behalf of Mississippi State University for his success in industry and for his loyal lifelong connection with his alma mater. He is an excellent role model for current and future generations of the Bulldog family, and his outstanding professional and personal achievements serve as a primary example of the success MSU inspires each of its graduates to attain,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. “Of more than 155,000 living alumni, Randy is a distinguished selection for this honor.”

Along with Cleveland, a host of other outstanding alumni will be recognized by the MSU Alumni Association at the annual awards event. Individual academic college selections for alumni of the year for 2022 include (by city of residence):

ABERDEEN—Regina L. Sanford, College of Education. A 1991 education graduate, she is the retired assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for St. Tammany Parish Schools.

COLLIERVILLE, Tennessee—Dr. Mark A. Akin, College of Veterinary Medicine. The 1986 veterinary medicine graduate is owner of Akin Veterinary Services, an equine ambulatory practice.

FRANKLIN, Tennessee—Dr. Allen K. Sills, James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. The 1986 biological engineering graduate is chief medical officer for the National Football Association and professor of neurological surgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

FLORA—Curtis R. Hopkins, College of Forest Resources. Executive secretary for the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, he is a 1971 forestry graduate who also earned a master’s in wildlife ecology from the university in 1973.

GREENWOOD—Dr. A. Randle “Randy” White, College of Arts and Sciences. The 1966 chemistry and pre-medicine graduate is the founder and managing member of Delta Hills Nephrology Associates, PLLC.

NEW YORK, New York—Angela Roberts Cavaluzzi, AIA, College of Architecture, Art and Design. A 1982 architecture graduate, she is president of Hudson Yards Development Corporation.

PERKINSTON—Daniel B. “Dan” Batson, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. President and CEO of Greenforest Nursery, Inc., he is a two-time MSU graduate who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture in 1980 and 1982, respectively.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona—Don Whitmire Jr., College of Business. A 1978 accounting graduate, he is Vice President and Controller - Financial Reporting at Freeport-McMoRan, Inc.

Additionally, the association annually honors the university’s outstanding young alumnus or alumna. Receiving this honor is Walker Price of Germantown, Tennessee, a sales and marketing professional for Airheads/Mentos. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from MSU in 2011. 

Rounding out the award selections are two distinguished service recipients for their endeavors in 2021: Creath Edens Townsend of Mobile, Alabama, a 1985 elementary education major; and the late Joe Abston of Pascagoula, a two-time MSU accounting graduate who earned a 1991 bachelor’s degree and 1992 master’s degree, and served as manager of finance and administration for the Jackson Port Authority. Abston’s wife and fellow MSU graduate, Missy, will accept the award on his behalf during the awards event.

More details on the awards ceremony and honorees will be available in the coming weeks. For more on the association, visit

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022 - 8:00 am