Banquet, conference attract over 400

From the time Mississippi State’s first three graduating classes began the university’s alumni association in 1885, many lives have been impacted through lasting connections among Bulldog faithful. Today, the MSU Alumni Association remains strong, spreading its impact throughout 101 chapters and clubs worldwide.

More than 137,000 living alumni share the same love and devotion as the inaugural group of graduates who founded the organization. In February, this loyalty and passion for Mississippi State were reignited during special ceremonies as more than 400 dedicated alumni and friends gathered for the annual awards banquet and leadership conference weekend. The Mill at Mississippi State University Conference Center provided an iconic backdrop as the MSU Alumni Association saluted some of its most outstanding alumni and chapters.

Honored during the February 3 banquet were the university’s 2017 National Alumnus, the college alumni-of-the-year group, the 2016 Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year and the 2016 Distinguished Service Award recipients. The featured speaker for the evening was MSU President Mark E. Keenum, who also participated in the award presentations. Additionally, the 2016 outstanding alumni chapters were recognized.

The following day, Alumni National Board members gathered for their annual business meeting at the Hunter Henry Center, and alumni leaders from around the country attended a conference at The Mill. Participants heard informative presentations by many key university representatives, shared ideas and networked with other chapter leaders.

For a more detailed recap of events, including commemorative videos and photos, visit

Alumni Award Johnson Top Honor

Herbert V. “Herb” Johnson receives the 2017 National Alumnus award from MSU President Mark E. Keenum.

For all his personal and professional achievements, Mississippi State University salutes Herbert V. “Herb” Johnson as the 2017 National Alumnus of the Year. The Houston, Texas, resident is a loyal Bulldog well known for his spirit of service and investment in education.

“We are proud to honor Herb Johnson, on behalf of Mississippi State, for his success as an engineer and an entrepreneur, and for his loyal, lifelong connection with his alma mater,” said Jeff Davis, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. “Of our more than137,000 living alumni, Herb is a distinguished selection for Alumnus of the Year.”

Johnson joins a long list of distinguished national alumnus honorees. The program began at Mississippi State in 1958.

“I am greatly honored to accept this distinguished recognition by Mississippi State University,” said Johnson, who was previously honored as the Bagley College of Engineering’s alumnus for 2014. “The MSU experience reinforced my confidence and gave me a first-rate platform to see and interact with the world, and that has been a significant key in realizing my dreams.”

Johnson grew up in Como, the youngest of nine children born to the farming family of Jessie and Sarah L. Johnson. He developed a love of agriculture, and while in school was a member of the Future Farmers of America, sometimes journeying on field trips to Mississippi State’s Starkville campus. However, the high school senior who was selected most likely to succeed wasn’t particularly interested in agriculture as a longtime career.

Johnson attended Northwest Mississippi Community College before pursuing civil engineering at Mississippi State. He attended MSU with the much-needed financial assistance of the G.I. Bill, having served in the U.S. Army following his time at community college. And, in 1978, Johnson proudly earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State, becoming the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college.
After graduation, Johnson began his career in federal government positions with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It was during this time that he earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from MSU in 1981.

Today, Johnson is president of Houston-based HVJ Associates Inc., one of the largest specialty, minority-owned engineering companies in Texas. He founded the firm in 1985, and HVJ has grown to include all metropolitan areas of Texas. Some landmark projects in HVJ’s extensive portfolio include the 170-mile Grand Parkway in Houston, the AT&T (Cowboys) Stadium in Arlington, and the skyline-altering Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi.

With a desire to share his entrepreneurial journey and personal path to success with others, Johnson published “Engineering Business Success: Essential Lessons in Building a Thriving Business” in 2014. The book was dedicated to his late parents and his son, Herbert V. Johnson II, who studied at the University of Houston. In writing the book, Johnson wanted to inspire, motivate and encourage others to find success and realize that lifelong education is truly a gift.

Beyond the book, Johnson has also memorialized his parents at Mississippi State with a scholarship. Since its inception in 2009, the Jessie and Sarah L. Johnson Scholarship has assisted more than 40 MSU engineering students. The endowment continues to grow through Johnson’s generosity and his desire to assist talented minority students from Mississippi and Texas.

Through his volunteerism, Johnson helps shape Mississippi State. He serves on the boards of the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering and its Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as the university’s MSU Foundation board of directors. As a passionate alumnus, his involvement and philanthropy are leaving a lasting impact at Mississippi State.

Colleges name Alumni of the Year

MSU President Mark E. Keenum (center) is flanked by National Alumnus Herb Johnson and Liz Rooks-Barber. Middle row (L-R): Toxey Haas, Sledge Taylor, Richard Rula and Barry Lipsky. Back row (L-R): Ron Black, national alumni president, Charles Nash, John Richards and Robert Filgo.

For many alumni, the individual colleges in which they concentrated their studies hold strong connections for them. This year, an impressive slate of Bulldogs have been selected as Alumni of the Year honorees for MSU’s eight academic colleges.

William S. “Sledge” Taylor III of Como, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: A 1974 agricultural engineering technology and business graduate, Taylor is owner of Buckeye Farms and president of Como Consolidated Gin Company Inc. He serves as a member of the USDA’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade and as a leader on the National Cotton Council, where he most recently was chairman of the board.

Barry A. Lipsky of Bayport, New York, College of Architecture, Art and Design: Lipsky is president of Lipsky Enterprises Inc. and a 1976 industrial arts education graduate. He was an initial adviser for the university’s building construction science program and serves as chairman of the program’s industry advisory board. He is an academic adviser for both the School of Architecture at the New York State Institute of Technology and the High School Vocational Carpentry Programs of Long Island.

John H. Richards Jr. of Madison, College of Arts and Sciences: A 1956 petroleum geology graduate, Richards is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served four tours in the Pentagon, working in the areas of research, development and finance. He is also a retired senior logistical analyst specializing in safety and configuration management with JAYCOR Corp.

Toxey D. Haas III of West Point, College of Business: A 1982 business management graduate, Haas is founder and CEO of Haas Outdoors Inc. He steers the company as president of Mossy Oak, the leading outdoors and hunting brand in the industry. During the centennial anniversary of the College of Business in 2015, Haas was honored as one of the top 100 alumni in the academic unit’s history.

Charles R. Nash of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, College of Education: A 1974 educational administration doctoral graduate, Nash is vice chancellor for academic affairs and student affairs for the University of Alabama System. Earlier in his career, Nash was associate executive director for the Commission on Colleges at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, dean of the School of Education at Armstrong State University and assistant vice chancellor for academic development for the University of Georgia System.

Richard A. Rula of Ridgeland, James Worth Bagley College of Engineering: A 1970 civil engineering graduate, Rula has been owner and president of Hemphill Construction Co. since 1984. He serves on the Bagley College advisory board and the MSU Foundation board of directors. He was also recognized as the Distinguished Engineering Fellow for the Bagley College in 2013.

Elizabeth “Liz” Rooks-Barber of Ridgeland, College of Forest Resources: Rooks-Barber is vice president and co-founder of Barber and Mann Inc. and a 1987 forestry and wildlife management graduate. She earlier was executive director of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation. A certified wildlife biologist, she is well known as a premier conservationist in the Southeast. She is an adviser for the MSU Bulldog Forest program.

Dr. Robert A. Filgo Jr. of Madison, College of Veterinary Medicine: A 1988 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Filgo is co-founder of All Creatures Animal Care Center, where he continues to practice. Filgo is past president of the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, and he is chairman of the legislative committee for that organization. Early in his career, his peers selected him as the Young Veterinarian of the Year in Mississippi.

Association salutes service award winners

L-R: John H. “Johnny” Baker, John M. Walley Jr. and Sonja Murphy Moseley

The Alumni Association proudly honors several dedicated Bulldogs annually for their many accomplishments with Distinguished Service Awards on behalf of Mississippi State University. The 2016 service recipients are John H. “Johnny” Baker, Sonja Murphy Moseley and John M. Walley Jr.

Baker resides in Columbus, where he owns Baker Insurance Services. For more than 25 years, he has also been a sideline photographer for MSU football. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Mississippi State in 1970 and 1971, respectively.

Baker has presided over three alumni chapters–Noxubee County, Coahoma County and Lowndes County. From 1998 to 2006, he served on the MSU National Board of Directors. He is currently a board member for the Lowndes County chapter, which named him the chapter’s Alumnus of the Year in 2002.

The second 2016 Distinguished Service honoree is Sonja Murphy Moseley of Alpharetta, Georgia, who works as a senior mortgage underwriter for Supreme Lending. She graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Mississippi State in 1995, and she has been volunteering for her alma mater ever since.

In Georgia, Moseley works to make the MSU presence strong. Within the Atlanta chapter, she served as community service chairperson from 2008 to 2012, vice president from 2012 to 2013, president from 2013 to 2015, and immediate past president from 2016 to 2017.

The third Distinguished Service recipient is John M. Walley Jr. of Round Rock, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Mississippi State in 1997, and he currently manages the escalation engineering team at HotSchedules.

Since 2011, Walley has been president of the South Texas chapter, where he helps establish a strong MSU presence in the Lone Star State. He works to ensure Mississippi State is represented at all Austin-area SEC events, and he has been the MSU representative for the Austin SEC Club since 2009. He guides the Austin SEC golf tournament and faithfully hosts game-watch and student send-off parties, often traveling many miles to bring the MSU spirit to Texas.

MSU names Chandler outstanding young alum

The MSU Alumni Association annually salutes the most outstanding young alumnus who excels in his or her personal and professional life, and who is committed to service for the university and in the local community. Grant G. Chandler of Madison, Alabama, joins this group as Outstanding Young Alumnus for 2016.

Chandler is known as a tireless young alumni leader, who is passionate about the success of his university. In his local area, he has served as Huntsville-Decatur vice president in 2013 and 2014, and as president in 2015 and 2016. He enthusiastically leads scholarship initiatives and coordinates send-off parties annually for over 200 incoming students and parents. Additionally, one of his primary initiatives as president was to spearhead the chapter’s inaugural involvement with the Auburn and Alabama alumni associations in the Racing Rivals Triathlon, which built partnerships and raised the visibility of MSU in the state of Alabama.

Chandler graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State in 2007 with his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and later earned his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama–Huntsville in 2012. He worked as an engineer for the United States Army in several capacities before becoming the systems engineering branch chief for the U.S. Army Aviation Systems Project Office. Chandler is a member of the Association of the U.S. Army, the International Council on Systems Engineering and the Army Acquisition Corporation.

Grant G. Chandler

Association salutes outstanding alumni chapters

During banquet ceremonies, special recognition was presented to the MSU Alumni Association’s most outstanding chapters for their achievements and dedication to the university. The association includes 101 chapters and clubs worldwide, and 44 of them were recipients of awards throughout the evening. More than 650 association and chapter events were held on behalf of Mississippi State in 2016, and chapters played an integral role in this accomplishment. Gold, silver and bronze cowbells were given to representatives of the top chapters in each category.

Gold Chapters:
Atlanta, Georgia
Central Mississippi
Panola County

Silver Chapters:
Huntsville-Decatur, Alabama
Lawrence-Jefferson Davis
Oktibbeha County
Tishomingo County

Bronze Chapters:
Houston, Texas
Lincoln County
Mississippi Gulf Coast

Also recognized for achievements in 2016
were those earning the distinction as honor chapters:

Birmingham, Alabama
Bolivar County
Charlotte, North Carolina
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chicago, Illinois
Chickasaw County
Dallas, Texas
Denver, Colorado
East Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Lauderdale County
Lee County
Lowndes County
Memphis, Tennessee
Mobile, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Nashville, Tennessee
Northeast Florida
Northwest Florida
Orlando, Florida
Pine Belt
Saint Louis, Missouri
Simpson County
South Texas
Southwest Mississippi
Tippah County
Union County
Warren County
Washington, D.C.
Yazoo County

Gold Chapter Winner

Silver Chapter Winners

Bronze Chapter

Out-of-State Chapters

In-State Honor Chapters

2017 Leadership Conference

Among the highlights of the February 4 leadership conference at The Mill included the annual business meeting and sessions on enrollment and student recruiting by John Dickerson, MSU assistant vice president for enrollment; and Naron Remillard, director of student recruitment. Other featured sessions were led by John Rush, vice president for development and alumni; David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development; and John Cohen, MSU athletic director. (Photos by Robert Lewis)

  • Naron Remillard, director of student recruitment, speaking at the conference.

  • L-R: Robert Barnes of the Black Alumni Advisory Council and Brig. Gen. Sam Nichols of the National Board were among conference attendees.

  • L-R: Michelle Sherman and Mike Criswell attended on behalf of the Atlanta, Georgia, chapter.

  • L-R: Blaire Wilson and Josh Gilbert attended on behalf of the Atlanta, Georgia, chapter.

  • L-R: Jimmy McPherson, Oktibbeha County chapter, and Bert Clark, Sharkey-Issaquena chapter, will be among incoming National Alumni Board members in July.

  • Anna Chrestman (far right), the association’s graduate assistant, managed the official class ring station, and orientated Patty Roberts of the Leake County chapter about the program.