One-on-One With MSU President Mark Keenum

Mark and Rhonda Keenum and their four children

Gene's Page spoke one-on-one with new Mississippi State University president Mark Keenum during halftime of the Mississippi State/Vanderbilt men's basketball game.

It has to be exciting for you to walk into Humphrey Coliseum and be able to talk to almost 10,000 MSU fans at Saturday's basketball game.
Mark Keenum "Rhonda and I were just thrilled. We have actually been looking forward to (Saturday) night for sometime now. Being in the Hump with 10,000 excited Mississippi State fans, it just warms my soul to be there and be a part of that. We are just so excited and honored to be here. As I told the crowd tonight, we are here to work with all of our alumni, our fanbase, our students, our faculty and our staff to make this great university even greater. That is what our goal is."

You are an MSU guy. Now, you are leaving your home each morning to go to your other home. I know it's your job, but it must have been special for you to step foot in the MSU presidential office for the first time?
"It is just a wonderful feeling when you get out of bed and look out your window and you are looking at Mississippi State University. You walk out your front door, go to your office and you are on campus. You are here. You are part of this environment. You know everything you do you are doing to help something that you love. It is a great feeling that is hard to describe. I am so honored, humbled and overjoyed to be here.

"We have a lot of really great things ahead of us. We have the best graduation rate of any public university in Mississippi. We have the best retention rate which means we are keeping our students when they come here. And we are going to continue growing our student enrollment. That is a very high priority for me.

"We already have the best and brightest students. And we are going to keep getting those bright, talented student from within Mississippi because any student who comes to Mississippi State can be anything that they want to be in their life. They can get that right here at Mississippi State University.

"We have some tough economic challenges, but we have a very generous Bulldog family that has demonstrated their support for this university for years. And we will be looking toward them for continued support for this great school, and they will do it because we are a family. And I am very confident that our family base will help this university through these difficult times."

Not only are you getting the brightest and most talented students to come to Mississippi State, but you have a young athletic director, Greg Byrne, who is bringing in some the brightest and most talented coaches including John Cohen, Dan Mullen and Jenny Hazelwood. What are your thoughts about that?
"I couldn't be more happier with Greg Byrne and what that young man has done during his tenure as our athletic director. He has managed several major searches for coaches in a very classy way. And we have gotten several outstanding leaders to come here and lead our young men and women to become successful on the playing field.

"In fact, I spoke (Saturday) morning to a group of football recruits that are visiting here on campus. And they are some of the finest recruits in all the southeast and we have them right here at Mississippi State. I told those young men and their parents that we are not only committed to making sure they have the best resources, the best coaches to help them on the playing field, but we are also going to make sure that they are successful in the classroom because, in the end, that is what matters the most. And we have an excellent Templeton Athletic Academic Center on our campus that will help provide them the resources they will need to become successful in their lives."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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