Dr. Mark E. Keenum
Mississippi State University
Dr. Mark Everett Keenum became Mississippi State’s 19th president on Jan. 5, 2009, following a distinguished public service career.
Dr. Keenum has guided Mississippi State to unprecedented heights during his seven-year tenure. The university has experienced record enrollment growth to more than 20,000 students. The freshman class of fall 2015 was more than 3,400, and the average ACT score remained at the record level of 24. During 2014-15, Mississippi State awarded more than 4,222 degrees at all levels, exceeding 4,000 for the fourth year in a row. Since January 2009, the university has raised more than $535 million in private support and has completed or initiated capital improvements totaling almost $600 million.
The campus has expanded and improved on Keenum’s watch. Major renovations of historic Lee Hall and Davis Wade Stadium were completed by August 2014, and a new Fresh Foods concept dining facility and a major classroom addition to the Wise Center were completed in 2015. Construction of a new classroom building with built-in parking will be finished in 2016, along with two new residence halls and a new home for the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans. An expansion of Mitchell Memorial Library began in summer 2015. A new Meat Science Lab and a major renovation of the historic YMCA Building are in advanced planning stages.
Mississippi State has strengthened its role as the flagship research university in the state. The most recent research success has been MSU’s designation as the Federal Aviation Administration’s National Center of Excellence in Unmanned Aerial Systems and Boeing’s decision to locate a composite research center at MSU’s Raspet Flight Lab in summer 2015.
The Carnegie Foundation classifies MSU as a university with “very high research activity,” the only such designation in Mississippi and one of 108 in the country. Dr. Keenum travels frequently to Washington, D.C., meeting with Congressional leaders and federal agency heads to pursue research opportunities and broaden the university’s influence on the national level. He has also worked closely with state leaders in support of higher education in Mississippi.
Keenum serves as vice-chairman of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges’ Executive Council. SACS-COC is the recognized regional accrediting body in the 11 U.S. Southern states and in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees.
He also is a member of the American Public Land-Grant Universities Board of Directors. Based in Washington, D.C., the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research and advocacy organization of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state university systems with member campuses in all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
In 2015, Keenum was named to the College Football Playoff’s (CFP) Board of Managers and elected vice president of the Southeastern Conference. He remains a member of the SEC Executive Committee and continues to serve on the SEC’s Content Committee that oversees the SEC Network.
A graduate of Mississippi State University with degrees in agricultural economics, Dr. Keenum began his career at MSU as a faculty member with the Extension Service and the Department of Agricultural Economics. He went on to serve as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in Washington, DC and was Under Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture prior to returning home to Mississippi State.
He graduated from Corinth (MS) High School and earned an associate of arts degree from Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville and was a member of the Northeast Tigers football team.
Dr. Keenum is married to the former Rhonda Newman of Booneville, also an MSU graduate. They have four children: Rett, Mary Phillips, Katie and Torie.