By STEVEN NALLEY
When John Cohen was at Mississippi State University, he had the opportunity to see Eudora Welty at a campus venue, but he missed it.
Cohen, now baseball coach at MSU, said he regrets the decision. At the time, he said, he didnât think going to see an author, even a Pulitzer Prize winner like Welty, was âcool.â
âHereâs what I tell my daughters all the time,â Cohen said: ââCoolâ is the enemy. âCoolâ doesnât get you where you want to go in life. What gets you where you want to go in life is taking advantage of every opportunity.â
This advice was part of Cohenâs address at the Oktibbeha County Chapter of the MSU Alumni Associationâs annual MSU Send-Off Party Tuesday on Davis-Wade Stadiumâs Club Level.
Donna Rupp, county chapter president, said she was extremely pleased with the turnout from students. Nearly every alumni chapter across Mississippi and other states has held a send-off party for each of the last seven years for incoming MSU freshmen leaving the chapterâs area, she said.
âItâs really just a way for alumni, incoming students and their parents and friends to gather together and officially send them off to college,â Rupp said. âItâs a way of starting their new life as a Bulldog. I will say, because this is in Starkville, a lot of people who grew up here probably think they know everything about campus, but thereâs a lot of opportunities as (students) they may not know about.â
Shelley Pensworth, admissions counselor at MSU, said she encourages students to become involved in at least one organization outside their academic major. She said several Oktibbeha students in the room might know each other from high school, but there are more than 20,000 students at MSU, creating many opportunities to make new friends.
âThatâs an easy way to make that 20,000 feel a lot smaller,â Pensworth said. âYouâre about to join people from all 82 Mississippi counties, all 49 other states and several foreign countries.â
The first 10 students at the event received cowbells, and MSU Student Health Center Director Robert Cadenhead gave everyone a reminder about ringing them responsibly, complying with NCAA rules at athletic events. Cadenhead then led the winners in ringing their cowbells together.
Rupp said, âIf the bell-ringing was any indication of the studentsâ enthusiasm, weâre going to have another great year.â
Cadenhead found a different measure of the send-offâs success in the t-shirts the chapter gave away and barbecue the chapter fed the students.
âWe ran out of plates and T-shirts,â Cadenhead said.
Jimmy Abraham, associate vice president and executive director of alumni activities, said other chaptersâ send-offs were also succeeding across the state and country.
âWe have had a great turnout of incoming students and their parents attendingÂ these send-off parties,â Abraham said.Â âEveryone who attendsÂ isÂ so grateful toÂ theÂ alumni and friends of Mississippi StateÂ from their area who not onlyÂ organize these parties, but are there to helpÂ students enrollingÂ inÂ whatever way possible.â
One of the students in attendance at the Oktibbeha send-off was Ryan Lawrence, valedictorian at Starkville Christian School. He said it was good to know how excited MSU alumni are to have them as students. He said he had opportunities to attend other schools, but MSU has always felt like home to him.
âI was definitely reminded to take advantage of every opportunity,â Lawrence said. âIâve been trying to get in that mindset. You only go to college once.â
Another attendee, Veronica Leach, was home-schooled, but she said she knew about half of the students in the room, and she saw the send-off as a reunion of sorts.
âIt was really cool,â Leach said. âI like that it just brought us together one last time.â
Leach said she is also looking forward to meeting new people and having new experiences.
âItâs such a big campus,â Leach said. âItâs got so many people, but from what Iâve heard it feels so small, because youâre really connected to everybody.â