Mark E. Keenum, Ph.D.
Chair, FFAR Board of Directors
Mississippi State University
Dr. Mark Everett Keenum became Mississippi State University’s (MSU) 19th president on January 5, 2009 and he has guided his alma mater to unprecedented heights — including record student enrollment growth, major renovations and new construction and the $1 billion Infinite Impact capital campaign, the largest campaign goal ever for an educational institution in Mississippi. His passion for international engagement and transformative research and service during his 12-year tenure has positioned Mississippi State as a global leader across a range of disciplines.
As the state’s leading research university, MSU is a Carnegie Foundation R1-Very High Research Activity Doctoral University and is ranked by the National Science Foundation as a “Top 100” research university. The university has been ranked in the nation’s top 5 percent for agricultural research for more than two decades. Mississippi State’s research and development expenditures account for more than half of all expenditures in the state. This research activity is playing an ever-increasing role in Mississippi’s overall economic development efforts.
Keenum is a former president of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and he continues to serve on the SEC’s Content Committee, which oversees the ESPN-SEC Network. He is also chair of the College Football Playoff’s (CFP) Board of Managers. The CFP determines the national champion of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Additionally, he serves on the Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees and is chair of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD).
In 2020, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, District III (CASE), recognized him with its Chief Executive Leadership Award. He has also been honored by the Ulysses S. Grant Association with the John Y. Simon Award of Merit and has been recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal as one of the state’s top chief executive officers and by Y’all Politics as one of the “Most Influential Mississippians.”
Keenum began his professional life at MSU as a faculty member with the Extension Service and the Department of Agricultural Economics and he continues to teach a leadership class to students in MSU’s Shackouls Honors College every fall. He went on to serve as chief of staff to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in Washington, D.C. and was under secretary of the US Department of Agriculture prior to returning home to Mississippi State.
A graduate of Corinth High School, Keenum earned an Associate in Arts degree from Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville and was a member of the Northeast Tigers football team. He holds a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics from Mississippi State. He is married to the former Rhonda Newman of Booneville, also an MSU graduate. They have four children: Rett, Mary Phillips, Katie and Torie.