Class Notes


Sam BakerAt 95 years old, Leonard S. “Sam” Baker (B.S. civil engineering, ‘43) of Scottsdale, Arizona, has published his first book, “The Silly Adventures of Petunia and Herman the Worm,” a children’s book based on his vivid imagination and the large green worms he watched in his family’s garden as a child in Clarksdale. An Eagle Scout, he joined the Marine Corps following his graduation from MSU. He served in the South Pacific during WWII. He later worked with what is now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before joining Brookhaven National Laboratories and, following his retirement, becoming one of the world’s first GPS salesmen.



James Trimble Jr. (B.S. petroleum engineering, ‘72) was appointed chairman of the board of directors at Crestone Peak Resources in Denver, Colorado. He joined the board in 2016 and has more than 45 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. He previously served as interim CEO and president of Stone Energy, as well as a member of its board of directors. He was also president and CEO of PDC Energy Inc.

Merle SmithMerle Smith (B.S. electrical engineering, ’75) has been named to the board of Alabama Veterans Memorial Park. He serves as volunteer coordinator for its annual veteran recognition events and work projects. Smith retired from Alabama Power in 2015 with 39 years of service as a supervisor in the Power Delivery Distribution Department.

Fredie Videt CarmichaelMississippi State Sen. Fredie Videt Carmichael (B.S. social studies education, ‘79; M.Ed., school administration, ‘85) was awarded the Conservation Legislator of the Year award 2017, by Don Underwood of the Mississippi Association of Conservation Districts for his efforts at promoting healthy land use and assisting the district to get out its message of land conservation and wise land usage.

Lex TaylorAthony WilsonWilliam A. “Lex” Taylor III (B.S. business administration, ‘77) and Anthony Wilson (B.S. electrical engineering, ‘87) have been elected to the Mississippi Economic Council’s board of directors.

Taylor, who is the president and chairman of the board for The Taylor Group Inc., will serve as MEC’s 2019-20 chair. He is also chairman of the board for the Business and Industry Political Education Committee and a board member of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the MSU College of Business Advisory Board, Winston Medical Foundation and the Mississippi State University Foundation, which he serves as treasurer.

Wilson, who is chairman, president and CEO of Mississippi Power, will serve as MEC’s 2020-21 chair. He serves as chairman of MEC’s M.B. Swayze Foundation. He is also vice chair of the Gulf Coast Business Council board of directors and a director of the boards for the Mississippi Energy Institute and the Mississippi State University Foundation.



Christopher Cox (B.S. civil engineering, ’81) is now senior project manager for the Tulsa, Oklahoma, office of Dewberry, a professional services firm. He works with the transportation group with a focus on municipal roadway and utility projects. He previously spent 25 years with the City of Tulsa, most recently serving as transportation rehabilitation manager.

Kermit DavisThe son of legendary MSU basketball head coach Kermit Davis Sr. and a former Bulldog basketball standout Kermit Davis Jr. (B.S. business administration, ’82) is now head coach of the Ole Miss men’s basketball program. A native of Leakesville, he previously served as head coach at Middle Tennessee, leading the Blue Raiders to conference championships and NCAA Tournament runs.

Bruce BlaseBruce Blaise (BBA, ‘83) is now CEO of The Kenan Advantage Group. Based in Canton, Ohio, it is North America’s largest bulk transportation and logistics company serving the petroleum, chemicals, food and industrial gases industries.

Travis MooreTravis B. Moore (B.S. ag economics, ‘84, BBA banking and finance, ’84; M.Agr., ag economics, ’86) has been appointed to serve on the advisory board of Virginia College in Biloxi. The regional president of the Citizens Bank in Biloxi, he also serves on the boards of directors for the Mississippi Better Business Bureau and the Kiwanis LaMsTn District Foundation, is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Gulfport, and was selected as one of the “Leaders in Finance” by the Mississippi Business Journal in 2015.

John HillJohn Hill (BPA accounting, ‘86) was named to the Forbes 2018 Best-In-State Wealth Advisors List, which highlights more than 2,000 top-performing professionals across the country. He is founder and managing partner of WealthPartners in Ridgeland. He is a certified financial planner and member of the MSU Finance and Economic Advisory Board.

Jo Ann Streiff HeroldJo Ann Streiff Herold (B.A. communication, ’87) was recognized by the American Marketing Association of Atlanta for exceptional marketing and community efforts at the American Marketing Association awards. She is chief marketing officer for the Honey Baked Ham Co. and previously held executive positions for Arby’s Restaurant Group and Interface Inc.

Tyrone KeysFormer Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tyrone Keys (attended), a member of the Super Bowl XX winning Bears who clenched the victory following the 1985 NFL season, was honored by the Mississippi Senate with the presentation of Senate Concurrent Resolution 574 at the Mississippi Capitol for his community benevolence and football success. Keys played six seasons with Chicago and later with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers. In high school Keys was a member of the Callaway High School Chargers in Jackson, who in 1975 won all 12 of their regular season games and won the Big 8 Conference Championship. Keys was a standout defensive tackle at Mississippi State for four years and made a last-minute tackle in 1980 of Alabama’s quarterback that caused a fumble, giving Mississippi State a 6-3 victory over then No. 1 ranked Alabama.



Damon S. Feltman (BBA business information systems, ’91) was promoted to brigadier general at a ceremony at Mississippi State’s Center for America’s Veterans. The deputy director of training programs management in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon, he manages training and education policy affecting 1.1 million guardsmen and reservists. He received his commission through MSU’s Air Force ROTC and throughout his military career has earned the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.

Debbie MilneDebra Lynn Milne (B.S. home economics, ’94; M.S. food science, nutrition and health promotion, ‘12) of Greenville, South Carolina, earned gold in her age bracket at the USA Cycling National Championships in Augusta, Georgia. A board-certified sports dietitian, she is part of the Papa John’s Trek Racing team and has accumulated more than 180 wins, including four Masters National Championship Road titles.

Timothy DucanTimothy Duncan (B.S. petroleum engineering, ‘95) rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange May 30. He is president and CEO of Talos Energy Inc., an independent oil and gas company based in Houston Texas. He is a member of the Mississippi State University Foundation board of directors.

Kenneth Graham (M.S. geoscience, ‘95) was named head of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He had led the National Weather Service’s office serving New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In that position, he helped establish two command centers after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and led efforts in forecasting impacts of hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Isaac in 2017. He previously led Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts as the systems operations division chief at the service’s Southern Region headquarters in Texas. He began his career as a broadcast meteorologist with WCBI in Columbus.

Robert MillerRobert D. “Bob” Miller (M.S. physical education, ’98) was promoted to director, budgets, in the Office of the Vice President for Strategic Enrollment at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In this new role, he oversees financial and business operations for the Division of Strategic Enrollment.



Joshua R. Moore (B.S. poultry science, ‘00) was named vice president of operations at Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. He will oversee all of the company’s production and processing facilities in Ohio and Kentucky.

Brittney RyeGov. Phil Bryant appointed Brittney Rye (B.S., M.S. elementary education, ’00, ‘02) to the Mississippi State Board of Education. A kindergarten teacher at Suddeth Elementary, she will serve as a school teacher representative on the board. Her nine-year appointment began July 1.

John Mark Cain (B.S. elementary education, ’02; M.A. history, ’06) was named superintendent of the Lauderdale County School District. With 15 years of education experience, he previously served as deputy superintendent for Scott County. He holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Mississippi.

Kimberly NealKimberly Neal (B.A. English, political science, ’02) was elected to the board of directors for the Baltimore chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. She is general counsel and grant relations officer for the Children’s Guild, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming how America educates and cares for children. She previously worked as a business litigator in Maryland and the District of Columbia and currently serves on the BBB Maryland Foundation board and the Junior League of Baltimore’s Community Resource Board.

Peter C. Smiley Jr. (Ph.D. forest resources, ’02) and Christian Lenhart edited “Ecological Restoration in the Midwest: Past, Present, and Future” from Bur Oak Books. He is a research ecologist for the USDA-ARS soil drainage research unit in Columbus, Ohio, and is co-founder, past president and at-large representative of the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration.

Gary McKenzieGary McKenzie (MBA, ‘03) is now regional vice president of GEICO’s Southeast operations in Macon, Georgia. He previously served as assistant vice president of underwriting at the company’s Fredericksburg, Virginia, regional office. He is the first graduate of GEICO’s Emerging Leaders Program to be named a regional vice president.

Michelle JohnsotonMichelle Johnston (Ph.D. community college leadership, ‘06) is now president of the College of Coastal Georgia. Since 2014, she had served as president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Ohio. She also has 10 years of faculty experience and 20 years as an administrator at the University of Montevallo (Alabama), University of Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State.

Austin GoldingAustin Golding (B.S. physical education, ’09) was named to the “40 Under 40” by Waterways Journal Weekly. A third-generation mariner, he is president of Golding Barge Line having started working onboard the company’s vessels immediately following his graduation from Mississippi State. He is a member of the board for the American Waterways Operators and is a member of the Warren County/Vicksburg Port Commission. He has also served as a member of the board of directors for the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce.

Jason HurstJason Hurst (Ph.D. community college leadership, ‘09) is now president of Cleveland Community College in North Carolina. He previously served as senior director of workforce development for the Alabama Community College System.



Nathan Upchurch (B.A. political science, ‘11) was named chief of staff for Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. The Kosciusko native previously served as Hosemann’s legislative director.

Tommy PayneTommy Payne (BBA risk management, insurance, financial planning, ’12; BBA management of construction and land development, ’12) earned the Certified Commercial Investment Member designation from the CCIM Institute during a ceremony in Tampa, Florida. He currently serves as president of the Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors and is a member of the 2018 class of Leadership Mississippi Association of Realtors.

Joanna KingJoanna King (B.S. agribusiness, ‘15) was recognized with the President’s Volunteer Service Award from Winrock International. She was recognized for more than 120 hours of volunteer work in Senegal with the Farmer-to-Farmer for Agriculture Education and Training Program and a Senegalese association of farmers.

Danielle Alexandra PhillipsDanielle Alexandra Phillips (B.S. interdisciplinary studies, ‘15) became the first African-American student honored in Washington, D.C., by the Baronial Order of the Magna Charta, who are descendants of 24 Barons of England connected to the original Magna Carta of 1215. Recipients of this scholarship are chosen annually based on their achievement of the highest constitutional law scores at a top American law school. She is a second-year law student at Washington & Lee Law School in Virginia. She serves as vice chair of her school’s Executive Moot Court Board and competed in the Hispanic National Bar Association Moot Court Competition in San Francisco where she won first place for oral advocacy over students from 29 other schools. Fluent in Spanish, she will study abroad as a law intern in the U.S. territory of Guam.

Anna Warren (B.S. educational psychology, ’15) has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to Senegal from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Beginning this fall she will spend nine months in Senegal to teach English as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

Marleigh McCrimmon (MBA ‘17) was appointed event coordinator at Reunion Golf and Country Club in Madison. A native of Greenwood, she previously served as marketing and community liaison for Whole Foods Market and was assistant catering director for Jackson’s Manship Wood Fired Kitchen.



Jagger Allen Clayton, April 23 to Kevin Clayton (’06) and Alison Clayton (’15) of New Albany.