Association announces Alumni Fellows selections

The MSU Alumni Association recently named its 2015 class of Alumni Fellows, a distinction these honorees will carry for life. These individuals, representing each academic college, returned to campus in October to meet with students, faculty and staff members as part of the program that began more than 25 years ago.

The Alumni Fellows program seeks to recognize Mississippi State University’s most distinguished alumni by showcasing their talents and accomplishments in their respective careers. The program annually brings outstanding graduates from the university’s academic colleges to campus to share extensive and real-world professional experiences and provide career guidance to students. Their interactions enrich the MSU experience through formal classroom programs and smaller groups.

“We are proud to continue this tradition of bringing high-caliber alumni back to campus as role models for our students and for our faculty,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association.

“Each individual Alumni Fellow brings a wealth of experience in his or her field to share with students and faculty across the university.”

From L-R: (Top row) Joel A. Carroll, Dr. Jefferson D. Grady, M. Todd Jarvis (Middle) Laurie R. Williams, MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Ruth J. Cook (Bottom) Dr. Thomas R. Byrd, Celia Thomason Knighton, Kenneth B. Robinson, Dr. Karen G. Collins

The 2015 class of Alumni Fellows includes (by college):

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

M. Todd Jarvis of Atlanta, Georgia, received a Bachelor of Science in agricultural engineering technology and business from Mississippi State in 1989. He is chief operating officer of Chateau Energy Solutions and a certified energy manager. His extensive management experience includes responsibility within both publicly traded firms and privately funded businesses.

College of Architecture, Art and Design

Joel A. “Tony” Carroll of Tupelo received a Bachelor of Science in industrial arts education in 1975. Carroll is vice president and construction manager of Sanderson Construction Company Inc. in Amory. He has been honored as Mississippi’s Construction Man of the Year and is a past president of Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors.

College of Arts and Sciences

Laurie R. Williams of Madison earned a Bachelor of Science in communication/mass media in 1979 from Mississippi State, where she served as the first female Student Association president. She then furthered her education at the University of Mississippi where she received her law degree in 1985. Williams has been a defense litigation attorney for 30 years. She is a shareholder and senior litigator for Copeland, Cook, Taylor, and Bush, P.A. and has been honored as one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women.

College of Business

Kenneth “Ken” B. Robinson of Mason, Ohio, earned a Bachelor of Science in finance from Mississippi State in 1977 and an MBA in finance from the University of Memphis in 1981. He serves as vice president of global diversity and inclusion for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio, and leads the company’s global audit, enterprise risk and compliance efforts.

College of Education

Celia Thomason Knighton of Rosedale received a Bachelor of Science in special education from MSU in 1972. She received a master’s degree in administration from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in public affairs from Baruch College. She was principal of Career Technical High School, the largest such high school in New York state and was the first female appointed as superintendent of that state’s Germantown School District. At the time of her retirement, Knighton was the superintendent of schools for the state of New York.

James Worth Bagley College of Engineering

Dr. Thomas R. “Tommy” Byrd of Florence received a Bachelor of Science in biological engineering from MSU in 1981 and a Doctor of Dental Medicine in 1988 from the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry. Two years later, he opened Florence Dental Practice. At MSU, his honors include Distinguished Engineering Fellow for the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, and he remains active with the Alumni Association’s national board of directors.

College of Forest Resources

Ruth J. Cook of Seminary graduated with a Bachelor of Science in forestry in 1982. She is a registered forester in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. She currently serves as the director of government affairs and forest certification for the Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC. She has been honored as one of Mississippi’s 50 leading Business Women for her accomplishments.

College of Veterinary Medicine

Drs. Jefferson D. “Jeff” Grady and Karen G. Collins of Cincinnati, Ohio, received their Doctors of Veterinary Medicine from MSU in 1990. The classmates are now married with their own veterinary practices. Grady assumed ownership of his family’s practice, Grady Veterinary Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Collins owns Companion Care Animal Hospital in Fairfield, Ohio.

For detailed biographies on the 2015 selections and other information about Alumni Association programs, visit