George T. â€śTommyâ€ť Everett III could have gone to Ole Miss, but he instead became one of Mississippi State Universityâ€™s most distinguished alumni.
Everett, a native of Magee, said he had scholarship offers from MSU â€” then known as Mississippi State College â€” the University of Mississippi and Tulane University in the 1940s, and the difference maker was his father, who had attended MSU before him. To this day, Everett said, MSU remains in the family, with two children and two grandchildren attending MSU in the years since.
â€śWe always attended functions such as basketball and football,â€ť Everett said. â€śIt wasnâ€™t much of a selling job on my part.â€ť
MSU recognized Everett as its 2013 National Alumnus of the Year at a ceremonial banquet Friday at the Colvard Student Union, where it also welcomed two new chapters to the Mississippi State Alumni Association and recognized nine more College Alumni of the Year and other honorees.
The new Greater Orlando, Fla. and Greater St. Louis, Mo. chapters bring the association to a total of 95 chapters and contribute to its fifth consecutive year of record-breaking active membership of 43,568. MSU President Mark Keenum said he was grateful to chapter leaders assembled at the banquet for all they had done to build the associationâ€™s strength.
â€śThis past year, we saw our percentage of annual giving from alumni reach over 18 percent,â€ť Keenum said. When I first got here, over four years ago, we were at just 14 percent. That puts us at the top among our peers.â€ť
Keenum reported at the banquet on MSUâ€™s many new initiatives and successes over the past year, including planned and completed new facilities, record numbers of students enrolling and graduating and the StatePride student and faculty support initiative garnering more than $118.3 million in private gifts, exceeding its $100 million goal. He also mentioned MSUâ€™s new scholarships for STAR Students and its partnership with Ole Miss to give new honors scholarships to education students.
â€śThe most important thing you can do as alumni leaders is help us (find) outstanding young students to come to campus,â€ť Keenum said. â€śI canâ€™t emphasize that enough. I love visiting with students; I love going to high schools to meet with students. Many of you have invited me to come to your hometowns, so please, keep doing that.â€ť
Jimmy Abraham, associate vice president and executive director of alumni activities at MSU, said the association is excited about these and other successes and excited to welcome the new Orlando and St. Louis chapters. He said a total of 10 new chapters have joined the association in the past seven years, including its first international chapter, located in South Korea.
â€śI think alumni and friends of MSU have always been passionate about the university and want to give back,â€ť Abraham said. â€śWith the success of the university, the great things that are happening here... (I think) that our alumni and friends feel even more connected to MSU and even more pride, and they want to see it excel.â€ť
Abraham said Everett deserves significant credit for building the association into what it is today. Since graduating from MSU in 1950, he said, Everett served as the associationâ€™s national president in 1973 and as its treasurer from 1979-1992.
â€śHe has literally given his life to MSU,â€ť Abraham said. â€śHe has gone above and beyond, helping MSU in numerous ways.â€ť
Abraham said past alumni of the year include John Stennis, Sonny Montgomery, John Grisham and Richard Holmes. Everett said in a press release that he was humbled to be among these names.
â€śIâ€™ve had a lot of wonderful things happen in my lifetime, but being selected as national alumnus of the year is one of the best,â€ť he said in the release. â€śDuring my involvement at State, Iâ€™ve met so many dedicated people who have done more than I.â€ť
During the ceremony, the association also recognized 2006 graduate Edward A. Sanders of its Washington, D.C. chapter as its Oustanding Young Alumnus and gave Distinguished Service Awards to 1980 graduate Michael W. Criswell of Atlanta, Ga.; 1992 graduate Robert R. Hamlin of Helena, Ala.; and 1978 graduate Brenda L. Smith of Leakesville. MSU also recognized alumni from each of the universityâ€™s eight colleges and the Meridian campus as College Alumni of the Year:
u Agriculture and Life Sciences: Kerrville, Texas resident Donald R. Ford, a 1960 general agriculture graduate.
u Architecture, Art and Design: William L. â€śBillâ€ť Polk III of Atlanta, Ga., a 1984 architecture graduate.
u Arts and Sciences: John D. â€śJackâ€ť Sistrunk Jr. of Madison, a 1949 petroleum geology graduate.
u Bagley College of Engineering: Houston, Texas resident Thomas B. â€śTommyâ€ť Nusz, a 1982 petroleum engineering graduate.
u Business: Paul B. Murphy Jr., also of Houston, Texas, and a 1981 banking and finance graduate.
u Education: Joe A. Haynes of Jackson, a 1983 doctoral graduate in educational leadership.
u Forest Resources: Charles David Barge of Macon, a 1976 forestry graduate who went on to receive a masterâ€™s degree in forestry business in 1977.
u MSU Meridian: Kim S. Benton of Hickory, a 1982 elementary education graduate who went on to receive a masterâ€™s degree in 1986 and a doctorate in 1991.
u Veterinary Medicine: Dr. Rodney A. Christmas of St. Joseph, Mo., a 1993 doctor of veterinary medicine graduate.