New head Bulldog should excite MSU faithful

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

The revolving door to the president’s office at Mississippi State University may be removed now. At least we hope so.

In a unanimous decision, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning announced that Dr. Mark Keenum, current Undersecretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, will serve as the 19th president of MSU, headquartered in Starkville. Reportedly passed over before by the College Board in its secret searches, Keenum has strong ties to Mississippi and Mississippi State. He immediately said the presidency will not be a stepping stone for him. Good. MSU has had five presidents in 11 years. Even if they were all excellent, that’s too many to establish the level of stability needed to provide effective university leadership.

Keenum, 47, knows agriculture, specifically the business of agriculture. He knows how research dollars, public and private, are obtained. His achievements can speed the continuing transformation of the Golden Triangle area into a center for study and teaching.

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It’s also worthy of note that the state’s largest three universities — MSU, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi — will all be led by people with personal histories of achievement on the campuses they serve. Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat earned his undergraduate and law degrees in Oxford and USM President Martha Dunagin Saunders earned her undergraduate degree in Hattiesburg.

Keenum’s presidency will start in January. It should excite and unite the MSU family to have a person so clearly qualified and so clearly dedicated to MSU at the university’s helm.