By STEVEN NALLEY
Heather Webb may have gotten her Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi, but she is more than happy to celebrate Mississippi State University’s birthday.
An assistant professor in kinesiology at MSU, Webb said she had worked at MSU for the past five years. As a result, she said, MSU had her support — but the free birthday cake at the Junction Thursday didn’t hurt.
“I enjoy State. It’s a good school, it does a lot of good things for the state, and they’ve been good to me, so I’ll gladly be good to them,” Webb said. “(MSU’s birthday) is a nice chance to get out in the sunlight, enjoy free food, talk to college students and enjoy the nice sunny weather.”
The MSU Alumni Association commemorated the 135th anniversary of MSU’s founding with a birthday party in the Junction Thursday, bringing hundreds of faculty, students and community members together.
Jimmy Abraham, associate vice president and executive director of alumni activities at MSU, said the Mississippi legislature created the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi, later renamed MSU, on Feb. 28, 1878. This is the eighth year for the alumni association to celebrate this founding date as MSU’s birthday, he said.
“The Alumni Association decided (eight years ago) that we needed to promote and celebrate MSU’s birthday, for this is such a significant day,” Abraham said. “MSU has done so much for so many, and there is no better way to say ‘Thank you’ than to celebrate our birthday with a giant party.”
The party was large enough for two tents and four different birthday cakes — one traditional, white, rectangular birthday cake and three maroon ones in the shape of the letters “M,” “S,” and “U.” The “U” cake, served first along with the traditional one, was nearly gone within 30 minutes of the party starting.
Michael Richardson, alumni association chapter programs coordinator, said he was pleased with the number of guests who attended the outdoor program despite the weather, which, while sunny, was also cold and breezy with a wind chill in the low 40s. He said he was also glad the celebration saw none of the intermittent rain seen earlier in the week.
“We were a little bit nervous, but it was perfect,” Richardson said. “We had plenty of Bulldogs that came out, not only faculty and staff, but also members of the community that came out. We’re really proud.”
Gage Ray, a freshman majoring in accounting, said he volunteered at the party to serve free hamburgers to guests at the recommendation of an MSU Alumni Delegate friend. He said both his parents graduated from MSU, and he loved the campus on his first visit. He said the turnout for the party showed one of the reasons he loved MSU.
“It just shows how long this university’s been here and what a great influence it is for Starkville, especially in the last 10 years,” Ray said. “It’s just grown with the town around it.”
Sanjaris Johnson, a sophomore majoring in secondary education, said he came to MSU from Canton, and he was the first member of his family to attend college.
“When I came here to tour the university, I guess you could say it was a people’s university,” Johnson said. “Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.”
Johnson said he enjoyed the party, including the music from the Big Poppa Strang Band. This band has performed at the past three MSU birthday parties, and Richardson said it’s because the band’s members shared a passion for MSU.
“They’re local. The members of Big Poppa Strang are also members of the faculty and staff with the university,” Richardson said. “It works out perfectly that we’re using MSU people to entertain MSU people.”