Foundation names officers,
incoming members for 2017

As Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign crosses the $730 million mark, the largest fundraising endeavor in school history continues to be driven toward a $1 billion goal by the MSU Foundation and its volunteer board of directors. In its 55th year, the MSU Foundation is being led by Earnest W. “Earnie” Deavenport of Kiawah Island, South Carolina, who enters his second term in 2017 as board chair.

Deavenport is joined by returning officers D. Hines Brannan Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia, as vice chair, and William A. “Lex” Taylor III of Louisville as treasurer. The three alumni began new one-year terms in January.

Mississippi-native Deavenport earned a chemical engineering degree in 1960, and was awarded a 2011 honorary Doctor of Science in the fields of business and engineering, both from MSU. He is the retired chairman and CEO of Kingsport, Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical Company.

Brannan is a 1970 industrial engineering graduate, who earned an MBA the following year. He is a retired managing director of Accenture. Taylor is chairman and CEO of The Taylor Group Inc. and president of Taylor Machine Works Inc. He earned a general business administration degree from MSU in 1977.

Other leadership for the 47-member board includes John P. Rush, MSU vice president for development and alumni, who serves as president and CEO; David Easley, executive director of finance, who serves as chief financial officer; and Jack McCarty, executive director of development, who serves as secretary. All three are MSU graduates.

New board members who began three-year terms are Mississippi residents Robert P. “Bob” Bowen of Holly Springs, Thomas G. Hixon Sr. of Ridgeland and Gregory C. “Gregg” Rader of Columbus.

A 1963 history and political science graduate of Mississippi State, Bowen is a retired partner for mid-south audit practice with Arthur Andersen & Company. Hixon is chairman of Phoenix Development Company LLC and a 1967 accounting graduate, while Rader is CEO of Columbus

Recycling Corporation and a 1984 petroleum engineering graduate.

Board members may be reappointed after vacating the board for at least a year. Beginning new three-year terms, those incoming returning members include:

John N. “Nutie” Dowdle of Columbus. A 1965 marketing graduate, Dowdle serves as chairman of the board for Dowdle Enterprises.

Jan L. Gwin of Memphis, Tennessee. A 1971 banking and finance graduate, he is managing director of Raymond James & Associates.

Herbert V. “Herb” Johnson of Houston, Texas. Johnson received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering in 1978 and 1981, respectively, and he is president of HVJ Associates Inc.

Linda F. Parker of Bolton. Parker is the retired secretary of Sunbelt Wholesale Supply and a longtime friend of the university.

Richard H. Puckett Sr. of Flowood. A 1977 general business administration graduate, Puckett is chairman and CEO of Puckett Machinery Company.

Richard A. Rula of Ridgeland. A 1970 civil engineering graduate, Rula is president of Hemphill Construction Company Inc.

Michael W. “Mike” Sanders of Cleveland. A 1964 physical education graduate, Sanders is the retired president and CEO of Jimmy Sanders Inc.

Also returning to the board, by virtue of position, are Ronald E. “Ron” Black of Meridian and Wilbert G. “Mickey” Holliman Jr. of Belden. Black continues as MSU Alumni Association president, while Holliman is president of the university’s Bulldog Club for a second year.

Black holds a 1980 bachelor’s degree in marketing and is director of human resources for Southern Pipe & Supply Co. Inc. Holliman earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management in 1960 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in May. He is retired chairman and CEO of Furniture Brands International.

Chartered in 1962, the MSU Foundation administers most of the campus-based fundraising activities and endowment funds. In fiscal year 2016, the organization marked its third-consecutive giving year of over $100 million recorded for Mississippi State.

For more information on the work of the MSU Foundation and access to the university’s Guide to Giving, visit or follow the MSU Foundation on Twitter @MSU_Foundation.