MSU President Keenum Addresses CCC Phi Theta Kappa Chapter
CLARKSDALE — Mississippi State University President, Dr. Mark Everett Keenum took time from his busy schedule Monday afternoon while visiting Clarksdale to speak with students in Coahoma Community College’s Alpha Omicron Pi Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society on the heels of their induction ceremony last week that welcomed 20 new members.
Keenum brought with him a message about the future … a future in which he hoped that CCC student would be an intricate part of.
“The challenges of our future are huge, and you are going to play a big part in how that future turns out,” said Keenum. “Our population will increase in the next 20 years by another 2.5 billion people, and we are going to have to have to feed them, educate them, provide health care for them, and it’s quite possible that you could address one of these critical challenges that we face.”
The MSU president shared his own educational path with the CCC audience, of how he too attended a Mississippi community college. Most would assume that Keenum ascended to his esteemed position by being a scholar at every level of his educational experience, but the story he shared wasn’t what many would’ve believed.
“I attended Northeast Mississippi Community College on a football scholarship, and looking back, I wished that I would have focused more on my studies back then,” Keenum told that crowd. “I was not like you, I was not a member of Phi Theta Kappa. I was happy to do the minimum that I could to earn a ‘gentleman’s C’ and move on. You have already grounded yourselves in a great foundation, Phi Beta Kappa is something that you will be for the rest of your lives and carries with it a tremendous amount of prestige.”
Keenum confessed that his settlement for mediocrity in the classroom was only uprooted when he met his eventual bride on the same NEMCC campus. He confessed that she was his polar opposite when it came to their educational outlook, but would turn out to be his saving grace.
“I had quite a few other outside influences that were distracting me from my school work, that was until a met a young lady who was everything I was not,” he said. “She was the Homecoming Queen, the Phi Theta Kappa president and the vice president of the entire student body … she was literally, everything I was not. 35 years later, we are still married and she is the mother of our four children.”
Keenum expressed the importance of choosing those you choose to associate yourself with; about the influences they can have on your success and your failure. He credited his choosing of his wife as one of the best decisions he ever made and that her influence changed him for the better.
“None of us get to where we are in life without help, no matter how smart you are or how gifted you may be,” he said. “Of all the decisions that you make, the choice of who your life partner will be is probably the most important you could make.”
Keenum went on to relate the significance of the advancements that have occurred during the last 20 years, especially in technology. About how (Keenum) wasn’t even introduced to the Internet until 1993, while working in Washington, DC — and how “slow and clunky” (the Internet) was when it was first installed on his computer.
“I hated it, and now — I couldn’t imagine my life without it,” he said. “Now we each have these (and he pulled out his smart phone). And, it’s easy to see how much inventions like these have changed mankind. Just imagine the advancements that will arrive during the next 20 years … I would have never imagined that (my smart phone) would fit in my pocket and have a GPS built into it. What will the next 20 years bring? And, your ability to compete and be a part of those advancements is directly dependent on your education.”
Speaking not only as an ambassador for Mississippi State University, Keenum told the crowd of how proud he was that MSU was the most diverse college in the state of Mississippi, as well as the largest and most comprehensive. He gave CCC students an open invitation to visit his campus, and also an open invitation to come by while there and speak with him personally.
He left the group with a final thought, a personal outlook that you could tell he firmly believed in. A philosophy grounded in the greater good, and the belief that good things will happen to good people.
“I would challenge you to live your life honestly, your opportunities are held in your own hands,” Keenum said. “You have to apply yourself, and work hard and be an honest person. People need to see that in you, that you are honest and that you treat everyone you meet with respect. And, if you do that, people will see that honesty in you. They will see that you are pure of heart and they will want to help you.
“Never think yourself to be better than anyone else, and never think of yourself as less than anyone else. The Lord put us on this earth to respect each other, and if you do that, I promise the world will open to you.”