Distinguished graduates share knowledge with current students

L-R: Max E. Jobe, Jan F. Lewis, Dr. Michael R. Johnson, Tommie S. Cardin, Loston Rowe, Valerie Berney Cripps, Steven H. Bullard and Michael W. Bloesch

The Alumni Fellows program seeks to recognize some of Mississippi State’s most accomplished alumni by showcasing their talents to current students. Since its establishment in 1989 by the MSU Alumni Association, more than 200 graduates have been selected for the lifetime honor.

In addition to bringing one alumnus of MSU’s eight academic colleges back to campus to share professional experiences and provide career guidance, the annual fall-semester event includes a series of meetings and presentations with students and faculty, both in the classroom and informally. The 2016 Alumni Fellows group visited campus Nov. 3-5. The newest class includes:

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Loston Rowe remembers experiences from his time at Mississippi State that strongly affected his life including tutoring younger and international students. As an Alumni Fellow, Rowe will continue the tradition of serving the university’s students. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from MSU in 1984 and 1986, respectively. He said the diverse environment helped him learn to communicate effectively with people from around the world, an important skill in today’s business environment. After MSU, he enrolled at Michigan State University, where he earned a doctoral degree from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences with an emphasis on weed science in 1989. He is a retail accounts manager for DuPont Crop Protection. A native of Aberdeen, Rowe now lives in Eads, Tennessee.

College of Architecture, Art and Design

Valerie “Val” Berney Cripps earned a Master of Fine Arts in electronic visualization from MSU in 1997, and considers mastering the “learning curve of the technology” a memorable accomplishment. She earlier earned her bachelor’s degree in art history and Italian from Indiana University. In her professional career, Cripps has taught doctoral courses on special-effects software, worked as a freelance FX artist, and worked for Disney Feature Animation as an FX animator. Her work has appeared in notable movies, such as “Big Hero 6,” “Life of Pi” and “Spider-Man 3,” among others. She is founder and CEO of Valtopia, a company based out of Los Angeles, where she now lives. She says she is grateful to the College of Architecture, Art and Design for her selection as Alumni Fellow and cites the guidance of longtime MSU art professor Brent Funderbunk as a life-changer. Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Cripps grew-up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

College of Arts and Sciences

During his time at MSU, Tommie S. Cardin served as the Student Association president and considers the experience his greatest accomplishment as an undergraduate. He feels that his involvement in extracurricular activities expanded his academic training to help him obtain the skills necessary to work with others to accomplish shared goals. A number of mentors, he says, helped shape his personal and professional life. In 1983, he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in political science and later worked at Mississippi State as the College of Arts and Sciences development officer, securing private support for the academic unit. He earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi in 1986. For a time, he was an adjunct professor in the Mississippi College School of Law. Presently, he serves as an attorney for the Regulatory and Government Relations Practice Group at Butler Snow, LLP. Since 2013, he has been chair of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board. A Brooksville native, he currently resides in Ridgeland.

College of Business

Jan F. Lewis acknowledges Mississippi State for providing her with the confidence that would serve her throughout her career, citing the faculty of the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy who not only taught technical knowledge, but also provided the confidence to tackle any project. A 1985 summa cum laude graduate with a bachelor’s in professional accountancy, she recalls feeling smart, prepared and unafraid when she entered the workforce. In 2002, she became a tax partner at Haddox Reid Eubank Betts, PLLC, where she started as a staff accountant in 1987. She serves in industries such as healthcare, oil and gas, construction, and real estate. She is also involved with various organizations, including Mississippi State where she serves as an advisory board member for the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy. She lives in her hometown of Jackson.

College of Education

Max E. Jobe served in the United States Army prior to enrolling at Mississippi State. He earned a bachelor’s in industrial education in 1954. Following graduation, he was commissioned into the Mississippi National Guard, where he served 14 years and retired with the rank of captain. After his military career, he earned a Master of Education from Our Lady of the Lake College and a Doctor of Education from the University of Georgia. In a professional capacity, he has worked for various high schools, community and junior colleges, universities, the Maryland State Advisory Council on Vocational and Technical Education, and the United States Office of Education. He spent 25 years with Texas A&M University in Commerce, Texas, where he now holds professor emeritus distinction. He credits MSU for providing the tools needed to be an effective teacher. A native of Corinth, he lives in Kingwood, Texas.

James Worth Bagley College of Engineering

Michael W. “Mike” Bloesch, a 1992 magna cum laude graduate with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering, says he believes every hour of every day at Mississippi State contributed to preparing him for his career. Following graduation, he earned a master’s from the University of Houston in business administration with a focus on finance. He has since held several upper level positions in both the engineering and business fields. He presently serves as president and CEO of Next Wave Energy Partners, LP, a start-up venture he helped found in 2014. He spent 22 years with TPC Group, a company that provides products for chemical and petroleum-based companies around the world. He said he feels fortunate to have had mentors throughout his life who helped him achieve success. In his selection as a 2016 Alumni Fellow, he plans to promote the great education and values that MSU represents. He is a native of Helena, Arkansas, now residing in Sugar Land, Texas.

College of Forest Resources

With both a bachelor’s of forestry and a master’s in forest management with a focus on economics earned in 1977 and 1980, respectively, Dr. Steven H. “Steve” Bullard said he feels MSU gave him a dedication to continuous learning that is essential for success. He also holds a doctorate in forest management-economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He has taught for the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State and held positions with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the Mississippi Forest and Wildlife Research Center, in particular as the Sharp Professor of Forest Economics. Additionally, he has been professor and chair for the Department of Forestry at the University of Kentucky. Presently, he serves as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, as well as the prestigious Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Forestry at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he lives.

College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Michael R. “Mike” Johnson uses the experiences associated with his master’s degree in veterinary medical sciences with an emphasis in catfish aquaculture and immunology in his work as a consultant for international companies involved in markets concerning minerals, water treatment and energy. He credits the master’s program’s relationship with the Fish Disease Research and Diagnostic Center in the Mississippi Delta as the foundation for his success. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental zoology/biology from Ohio University and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University. He also has an MBA from Tulane University. He says his greatest professional accomplishment is his involvement in creating the largest, innovative water-service business in the world. He is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, now living in Mandeville, Louisiana.

More information on the 2016 class of MSU Alumni Fellows can be found at www.alumni.msstate.edu.