Naming ceremony held for MSU research center


About 200 former colleagues, friends and family members attended the dedication of the Frank T. (Butch) Withers Jr. Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center held July 10 in Raymond. Withers' family members Jaidyn Laird, Caroline Withers, Shelly Withers and Elizabeth Kilgore, along with Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum (at left) and Vice President of the Division of Agriculture Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Greg Bohach, look on as the new sign is revealed. PHOTO: Scott Corey | MSU Ag Communications

Former colleagues, friends and family members used the words loyal, genuine and humble to describe Frank T. “Butch” Withers Jr. during a naming ceremony in Raymond for the center he helped create.

Mississippi State University’s central Mississippi hub for research and Extension was renamed on July 10 for Withers, who served as head of the center from 1996 until his retirement in 2006.

“It is very fitting that we honor Butch by naming this center for him,” said Gary Jackson, MSU Extension Service director, as he addressed the crowd of about 200. “I had the pleasure of knowing Butch from the time I was a student at MSU. He had a deep love for the cattle industry and Mississippi agriculture. He understood the partnership that is needed to carry out the important research and education mission of the university.”

Withers worked for MSU’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine for 40 years and oversaw the establishment and construction of the current center at Raymond.

“Butch spent many long hours here to ensure this research and Extension center would be a keystone for Mississippi State University in the central part of the state,” said Sherry Surrette, current head of the Frank T. (Butch) Withers Jr. Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center. “As a result of his hard work and vision, we are able to offer extensive programming and relevant research.”

Withers, who passed away Oct. 14, 2012, was remembered not only for his dedication to his work, but also his compassion for people.

“Butch loved people. He loved interacting with people and listening to their stories,” said George Hopper, director of MSU’s Mississippi Agricultural Forestry and Experiment Station. “He was a team player, and he understood this center was critical to the problems facing the citizens of central Mississippi.”

The name change was approved by the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees in March 2013. MSU President Mark E. Keenum officially declared the name change effective July 10.

“Butch Withers understood the importance of our mission of learning, service and research and was always focused on moving Mississippi State University forward,” Keenum said. “No one served our beloved university with more passion or enthusiasm. This is an altogether appropriate way to honor Butch's commitment and accomplishments.”

Senator Perry Lee and Hinds Community College President Clyde Muse also spoke during the ceremony.

“Butch did not know about this, and he would have been shocked down to his toes,” said his wife, Caroline Withers. “I was speechless when Dr. Bohach and Dr. Williams called to tell me that the building would be named in his honor, and that doesn’t happen very often.

“Today has been so wonderful, looking out and seeing all the familiar faces and visiting with everyone that Butch was so proud to work with,” Caroline Withers said.

The facility is located on the Hinds Community College agricultural campus and provides MSU and Alcorn State University employees and clients with well-equipped laboratories, offices and meeting spaces. The center houses MSU and ASU administrators and is the hub for 20 central and southwest county Extension offices and three MAFES research stations, which conduct studies on beef, forages, row crops, small game production, and home and commercial horticulture.

Susan Collins-Smith | MSU Ag Communications

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