Nusz family engineers passionate impact

Tommy and Terri Nusz can picture the Mississippi State University of tomorrow, and as valuable alumni of the 136-year-old land-grant institution they are doing their part to help it take shape through the university’s ongoing capital campaign.

It is by design that Tommy and Terri support areas for which they feel an emotional connection. The Houston, Texas, couple met as MSU classmates and later married. Over their 31-year union, MSU has become a family tradition as they raised their two children, Meagan and Brant, in the Bulldog fold.

“Our children grew up as part of MSU because we returned to campus often–this is where we made many wonderful memories. They are adults now, and we want our giving to be truly reminiscent of what is important to our entire family at this time in our lives,” said Terri.

A $12.3 million gift from the couple will benefit multiple colleges and areas of the institution as part of Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign. The gift brings the total raised for the endeavor to nearly $418 million, as fundraising moves toward a $600 million goal by 2018.

Like many other graduates, Tommy and Terri support MSU, in part, because they credit Mississippi State with their professional success. The petroleum engineering degree Tommy earned in 1982 gave him a great basis for a successful career in the oil and gas industry. He is CEO and chairman of the board of NYSE-listed Oasis Petroleum, Inc. Tommy co-founded the independent exploration and production company in 2007. He previously served as a vice president for several divisions of Burlington Resources prior to its acquisition by Conoco Phillips.

Fellow class of ’82 graduate Terri Foster Nusz earned a degree in interior design. Terri followed her passion in interior design after college and started a design company. She is originally from Memphis, Tenn.; however she and Tommy affectionately call Mississippi home since they have lived in many places.

The Nusz’s children share their parents’ love of Mississippi State. Son Brant is following in their footsteps as a Bulldog student. He is a junior majoring in business management and marketing. MSU also holds a special allure for their daughter, Meagan. She attended Texas Christian University, and is an accomplished equestrian.

The impact of the Nusz gift, along with many other campaign gifts, will be immeasurable because the benefits will resonate well beyond Mississippi State.

“Alumni and friends should invest in areas of the university that they are personally connected with, passionate about, and want to advance,” said Tommy. “By serving on university boards, I have learned why private gifts are such an important source of revenue. So we try to do our part, increase awareness and encourage others to consider financially supporting MSU.”

As an engineering alumnus, Tommy wants to bolster the reputation of the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, one of about 40 named engineering colleges in the nation. To that end, the gift provides $250,000 for a strategic initiative fund to be utilized by the engineering dean, and $1 million to create the Nusz Engineering Student Excellence Endowment for such areas as study abroad and technology society memberships. Additionally, $1 million will help construct a new engineering and science building to house the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department as it works to maintain a nationally recognized program.

Other designations for engineering include $1.75 million to create the Thomas B. Nusz Endowed Chair. Endowment earnings will provide a salary supplement and support for the holder with a focus on petroleum- and energy-related study. An earlier gift from the couple funded a similar endowed professorship also named for Tommy.

“It is truly an honor for these endowed positions to carry my name,” said Tommy. “This is such a crucial way to be involved at MSU because the advances in research that chair and professorship holders make can impact the energy industry on a global scale.”

The Nusz gift benefits yet another academic college–the College of Education by way of a proposed Partnership School to foster excellence in rural education. The school is a unique opportunity for the education college and the Starkville-Oktibbeha County School system.

The Partnership School would serve as a demonstration model for current students and educators in the state and nation, and a site for research on rural education. The partnership calls for the creation a middle school to serve all sixth- and seventh-grade students from the Starkville-Oktibbeha County area. The $1 million Nusz gift is the first of gifts needed for the school’s construction and will help provide start-up needs. The school will help MSU graduates master effective teaching practices through observations that they can carry to schools statewide.

An opportunity to structure a great learning environment for students, even before they enroll at Mississippi State, is important to the Nusz family. Tommy’s mother, Bette Nusz, is a former teacher, and the gift honors her life’s vocation. She worked toward her secondary education certificate at Mississippi State while the family lived in Starkville.

The Nusz family has a willingness to assist with MSU’s long-term academic goals, and their family gravitates toward support for athletics. A love of State began when Tommy’s dad, Dave Nusz, was as a defensive backfield coach for the Bulldog football team from 1970-1972.

The Nusz’s lifetime support for Mississippi State includes a significant portion for athletics. Their most recent gift continues this tradition. Specifically, $2 million will serve as a lead gift toward construction of a new Olympic sports facility at MSU. Because Meagan competes as part of the U.S. Equestrian team and participated in 2013 Nation’s Cup events in Slovokia and Brazil, the family wants to encourage student achievement in Olympic sports. Also, $300,000 will establish the Meagan Nusz Excellence in Women’s Sports Fund to generate more emphasis in this area, and an additional $1 million will support several sports programs, including baseball, women’s basketball, softball and volleyball.

The Nusz family also shares a bond with the College of Veterinary Medicine. Their gift will create an endowed position known as the Terri Nusz Endowed Equine Professorship. Earnings from the $1 million endowment will provide its faculty holder a salary supplement and support in teaching and research. Terri oversees the family’s various interests in equine sports, including TnT Equine Partners, Amalaya Investments and Oasis Stables, and the family wants to encourage faculty efforts in equine study.

“A focus on equine health is important because of our family’s personal involvement and love for animals,” said Terri. “The MSU-CVM has a great reputation and can further developments in equine health with far-reaching benefits for animals and humans.”

It is with deep appreciation the Nusz family honors the nation’s veterans. Their gift designates $2 million as a cornerstone contribution to build a new facility for the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans. The center is a national leader in providing campus-based veteran resources in support of 2,000 currently enrolled student veterans, service members, dependents and survivors, and it needs a larger base of operations. MSU has been recognized for its veteran-friendly campus most recently as a top-30 institution by U.S. News & World Report.

“We realize what it takes for military personnel and their families to regain a certain quality of life after serving their country. We want to support those who currently serve in the military on our behalf and honor our relatives who previously served to uphold our freedom,” Tommy said.

The Mississippi State master plan includes a proposed site for the facility on the northern central portion of the Starkville campus. MSU hopes to secure an additional $1.5 million for construction and is actively pursuing additional gifts through the capital campaign.

Because of their support through Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign, Tommy and Terri are an inspiring example for other alumni and friends.

“It’s really not the amount you give in support of Mississippi State, but simply all of us sharing a belief that we can preserve our Bulldog traditions and make our university extremely competitive with any higher education institution in the nation,” Tommy said.

For more on Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign, please see the Infinite Impact section of this publication or visit www.infiniteimpactmsu.com.

By Amy Cagle, Photography by Russ Houston