Building dedications recognize Portera and Lee

Mississippi State honored its 16th and 17th presidents in October with public ceremonies dedicating the Malcolm A. Portera High Performance Computing Center and the J. Charles Lee Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building.

During Portera’s tenure from 1998 through 2001, he continually advocated for the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Computational Field Simulation on campus.

Eventually, that facility became the High Performance Computing Collaboratory now named for the veteran administrator in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum said Portera’s emphasis on research, learning and service--MSU’s trifold mission-- made many positive impacts at MSU, and his influence continues to benefit the institution.

“Probably no university president ever hit the ground running faster or harder than Dr. ‘Mac’ Portera did when he came to Mississippi State,” Keenum said. “All of our collective centers that are here at Mississippi State University tie into this wonderful high performance computing laboratory. It is a wonderful asset for the entire state of Mississippi, and it’s right here on our campus.”

Annual research expenditures grew to $160 million under Portera, and faculty salaries increased. Enrollment increased as MSU’s research and development capabilities expanded, and key aerospace and automotive development activities contributed to billions of dollars in capital investment in Mississippi and Alabama.

Portera emphasized his appreciation of having the opportunity to lead at MSU and said his spouse Olivia’s support was instrumental to his success as MSU president.

“This is a celebration about an awfully fine group of people inside and outside who compose the Mississippi State family. They simply want their school to be the best that it can be; Olivia and I just came at the right time to be part of that,” Portera said.

Portera completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MSU. He completed his doctoral degree at the University of Alabama.
The J. Charles Lee Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building is located on Creelman St. between Dorman Hall and McCarthy Gymnasium.

Keenum said Lee made numerous outstanding contributions to Mississippi State during more than a dozen years of service at the university, and his many positive impacts continue to benefit the institution.

“He set access for students and academic excellence as twin priorities,” Keenum said, adding that Lee significantly strengthened Town and Gown relationships with the community and improved appearance and functionality of the campus during his tenure.

“The very building that we are dedicating today was able to be built under his leadership,” Keenum said. “The programs housed here are among the academic jewels of our university.”

Mississippi State is home to the region’s oldest agricultural engineering program and one of the nation’s first in biological engineering. University officials have said the $11 million facility, which opened in 2007, enables the 136-year-old land-grant institution to continue setting benchmarks in these fields.

Lee said during his remarks that the agricultural and biological sciences program highlights the best of the modern land-grant vision.

“The thought of having my name on a facility that will help educate and create a bright future for thousands of students fills me with tremendous pride,” Lee said.
“I am so grateful to so many people who made me who I am,” he added, acknowledging family along with several colleagues and staff, among others. “Thank you for this incredible honor.”