Family’s musical heritage inspires giving

A 2004 chemistry graduate with a passion for music instilled in him by his mother and her siblings, Greg Stowers fondly recalls many memories of his family singing and playing music together. After his uncle passed away in 2016, he decided to extend this family tradition to his alma mater by creating the Ronald “Ronnie” Irvin Bailey Memorial Endowed Music Scholarship in the College of Education.

“Every family has something that keeps them together. For my family, it’s music,” Stowers said. “My mother and her siblings were all involved with music, and my sisters and I have also shared that same love for music. This endowed scholarship is a way to honor our mother and create a lasting legacy to her brother.”

Ronnie, born exactly 11 months after Stowers’ mother, Debra, was a naturally gifted musician. While Debra dreaded piano lessons, Ronnie picked up the skill with ease. Always working on and composing new music, Ronnie also mastered the organ, drums and guitar, and was an exceptional singer. He was an ordained minister of music in Greenville, and through the help of family in Memphis, Tennessee, he put out several CDs that have been picked up across the region.

In addition to his musical talents, Ronnie was also an innovator. His “tinkering spirit” helped him imagine new ways to build and improve innovative creations. That same spirit resulted in the evolution of Staxx guitars, a revolutionary double-necked guitar he patented with plans of manufacturing prior to his death.

Through the newly established scholarship, Stowers and his family hope more students will be inspired by their shared passion. Furthermore, as an endowment, the award will pay tribute to their musical heritage and carry Ronnie’s legacy through future generations of Bulldog students.

“I hope that other young people who come here will get as much joy from music as we have,” Debra said. “Through the good times and the bad times, music is always something that uplifts you. I am excited to see how well this scholarship enriches students’ lives at Mississippi State.”

The Ronald “Ronnie” Irvin Bailey Memorial Endowed Music Scholarship will assist full-time music majors who maintain a 3.0 GPA. Preference will also be given to students from Ronnie’s hometown of Greenville.

“It makes me very proud and excited to see the love and support from the Stowers family that has transpired into this scholarship award because Mississippi State is a family too,” said Richard Blackbourn, dean and professor of the College of Education. “We are very appreciative of this gift and are grateful for all the students this will benefit in the future.”

A native of the Mississippi town of Lena, Stowers currently makes his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he serves as an environmental analytical chemist at Dow Chemical Co. Dow is one of many corporations that match gifts made by their employees to educational institutions, enabling Stowers to double the impact of his gift to MSU. Through his ongoing commitment and utilization of the matching program, he hopes to grow the endowment to one day provide recipients with a full scholarship.

Music isn’t the only area where Stowers helps students succeed. He also finds time to volunteer as a STEM Ambassador. Short for science, technology, engineering, and math, the STEM Ambassadors program connects Dow employees with local schools to mentor students and instill a deeper learning of science.

From investing in scholarship support to contributing his time as a tutor, Stowers’ efforts are helping more students gain a quality education. In reflecting on his time as a student at MSU, Stowers recognizes the importance of giving back and helping to make opportunities for similar student experiences possible.

“My time at Mississippi State was wonderful and gave me all the tools I needed to succeed,” Stowers said. “Being there taught me how to be a responsible adult, how to interact with a diverse group of people, how to study and have fun, and most importantly, how to ring a cowbell. I have always wanted to give back to the college that gave me so much.”

By Addie Mayfield