Peaveys speaking at commencement ceremonies

The Mississippi State alumnus who founded the Peavey Electronics Corp. and the alumna who leads the Meridian-based international business are the university's spring commencement speakers this week.

Nearly 2,400 students are candidates for spring-semester diplomas Friday and Saturday [April 29 and 30].

To be held in Humphrey Coliseum, the first graduation program at 7 p.m. on the 29th features company president and 1965 graduate Mary L. Peavey. The second ceremony at 10 a.m. on the 30th will hear from Hartley Peavey -- her husband -- who, not long after receiving his 1965 degree, launched what now is one of the world's largest musical instrument and professional sound equipment manufacturers.

Also from the East Mississippi region, two other distinguished graduates are being honored during the commencement programs.

Friday night, Dr. Richard Holmes of Columbus, the first African American to attend MSU, will receive an honorary doctorate for contributions to the practice of medicine and the expansion of educational opportunity. He currently practices in Columbus and Meridian.

Saturday morning, Macon native Earnest W. "Earnie" Deavenport, the retired head of Eastman Chemical Co. now residing in Kiawah Island, S.C., will accept an honorary doctorate for contributions in the business and engineering fields.

Graduates of the Bagley College of Engineering, including its Swalm School of Chemical Engineering; and the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, including its School of Human Sciences; Forest Resources; Education; and Veterinary Medicine (master's and doctoral degrees) will participate Friday.

Degrees from the colleges of Arts and Sciences; Architecture, Art and Design; and Business, including its Adkerson School of Accountancy, will be awarded Saturday.

Hartley Peavey is a member of the Mississippi Musicians and Musikmesse International Press Award halls of fame, as well as a selection for the National Literacy Honors and Guy Tozzoli "Peace through Trade" Distinguished Leadership awards and Republican Senatorial Medal of Freedom. The Meridian native also has been listed by BAM magazine as "one of the 100 most influential people in the worldwide music industry."

Mary Peavey, the former Mary Winfred Love of Starkville, is a former president of the Harvard Women's Forum and the first woman to complete the prestigious Owner/President Management Program of that university's Executive Education Division. Before assuming her current duties, the former Miss MSU and homecoming queen founded and managed her own successful commercial real estate business. (For more on the Peaveys and the Peavey Corp., click here.)

Also a Starkville native, Holmes entered MSU in the summer of 1965. He went on to receive a general liberal arts degree in 1969 and a master's in microbiology in 1972. He holds a 1977 doctor of medicine degree from Michigan State University.

Holmes's entry to MSU helped pave the way for an African American student population that today is almost 3,900--20 percent of the total enrollment and a larger proportion of black students than at any other historically white land-grant institution in the nation.

The university named its cultural diversity center in Holmes' honor and, in 2006, selected him national alumnus of the year. He and his wife Judy have endowed a minority scholarship at his alma mater.

Deavenport, a 1960 chemical engineering graduate, retired in 2001 as Eastman's chairman and chief executive officer. He also holds a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an honorary doctor of laws from Kings College.

He has been actively involved for many years with MSU and its Bagley College of Engineering, including current service as a member of the Dean's Advisory Council. Additionally, he serves on the MSU Foundation Board of Directors.

In 2000, Eastman Chemical contributed $1.25 million to create an endowed position at the Swalm School honoring Deavenport for his many contributions to education. He since has helped secure a $375,000 addition to the endowment.

In 2004, Deavenport and his wife gave $2 million to establish the Earnest W., Jr., and Mary Ann Deavenport Chair, whose earnings provide a salary supplement and other support for the Bagley College dean. They also have established a student scholarship in honor of his parents, Earnest, Sr. and Laura Mae Deavenport.

Sammy McDavid | University Relations

Return to Memo

Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: April 25, 2011Facebook Twitter