Our alumni have become chief executive officers, presidents, vice presidents, faculty members, and leaders in the profession who all share a common heritage –as engineering graduates of Mississippi State University.
In 1991, the College of Engineering named 100 Distinguished Fellows as part of its 100th anniversary celebration for engineering education at Mississippi State. The program was reborn in 1999 with the addition of 10 Distinguished Fellows. Each year eight to 10 esteemed alumni are given this prestigious recognition.
Dr. John D. Davis IV currently practices at the NewSouth NeuroSpine, Mississippi's only comprehensive multispecialty practice focused on spine care, which serves patients from its facility in Flowood, Miss.
Davis graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State with a bachelor's degree in biological engineering in 1988. That fall he began medical school at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, earning his degree in 1992 as a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha. He completed residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and later practiced as an instructor in the Department of Neurosurgery at school of medicine. It was while earning a master's degree in health finance and management, also at Johns Hopkins, that he first envisioned a spine center of excellence—an idea he would bring to fruition upon his return to Mississippi.
Davis is married to his college love and former MSU Homecoming Queen, Lesley Andress Davis. They live near Jackson with their three sons: Jack, Charlie and Will. The family attends First Presbyterian Church of Jackson where Davis serves as a deacon.
Catherine Dunn is deputy director of the Port of New Orleans Development Division, with responsibilities in engineering design; construction and contract administration; technical services; bridge, utility, and facilities maintenance; environmental; cash flow management; utility management; and special projects.
She began her career at the port in 1989 as manager of the Industrial Engineering Department. She was promoted to deputy director for planning and administration in 1996, responsible for the departments of industrial engineering, planning, and environmental engineering. Since then Dunn has served in positions overseeing port maintenance, information technology, general operations, marketing, and special projects. She has been involved with more than $600 million of port capital improvement projects in her 23 year career at the port.
She graduated from Mississippi State in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and has completed graduate studies in both civil and industrial engineering. She serves as an ABET commissioner in industrial engineering. She also serves on the MSU Engineering Advisory Board and previously served on the University of New Orleans Engineering Advisory Council. Dunn is married to Durward B. Dunn III, and they have four children and two grandchildren. All of their children have either graduated from or attended Mississippi State. She is a member of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church of New Orleans.
Charles Belton Holder II has spent most of his life in Louin and Bay Springs, Miss. He is currently CEO of Hol-Mac Corp. and president of Anel Corp. in Winona, Miss.
After graduating from MSU in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Holder worked for Tennessee River Pulp and later, Neco Northern Electrical Products. In 1963 Holder started a partnership called Southern Welding and Machine Co. He later purchased his partners interests to form Hol-Mac Corp. Since that time the business has grown from one to three plants in Bay Springs, adding Anel Corp., in 1996.
Holder was married to the late Joyce Marie. They have four sons who are active in the company; Chuck, Jamie, Jeffrey and Rory. Holder is a member and deacon of the Berean Bible Church. He is also a member of the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Committee at Mississippi State University.
A 1978 graduate in chemical engineering, William "Kenneth" Hughey retired as vice president of nuclear business development after 28 years with Entergy.
Hughey began his career at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn., as a process design engineer. In 1983, Hughey left the chemical industry and began working with what would later become Entergy Nuclear, headquartered in Jackson. In 1987, he led an industry effort quantifying the risk of plant operation through the innovative use of probabilistic risk assessment techniques, earning him the Electric Power Research Institutes' 1992 Technology Transfer Award. In 1999, Entergy executives, including Hughey, established the first company in the U.S. to acquire and operate nuclear power plants in the deregulated power market. He was instrumental in the creation of a virtual engineering office concept, the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and in the formation of NuStart Energy Development Company. His team's efforts earned the 2004 Top Industry Practice award and were a catalyst for starting construction of the first two new nuclear power plants in the U.S. in more than 30 years.
Hughey lives in Clinton, Miss., with his wife of 35 years, Beverly Pope Hughey. The couple has two sons; both of whom graduated from MSU.
Melinda L. McGrath was appointed Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation in January 2012 after a year of filling the dual role of interim executive director and chief engineer.
A civil engineering graduate, she spent the last two decades rising through the ranks at MDOT. She began in the agency's bridge division before managing various construction projects and maintenance operations at the district level. In 2003 she was named assistant chief engineer for field operations. In this role, she planned and administered MDOT's $1 billion Hurricane Katrina Emergency Recovery Program, as well as two design/build contracts of more than $600 million. In 2008, she was promoted deputy executive director and chief engineer over the Office of Highways, overseeing the development and execution of all policies and procedures for Mississippi's 27,642 miles of highways.
McGrath and her husband, Hoyt, live in Clinton. They have three children and one grandchild.
Farley R. Owens III is executive vice president at Trading Technologies International, an industry leading software and services provider in the field of electronic trading.
After earning a bachelor's degree in computer engineering in 1987, Farley began his career working for IBM in Atlanta. He joined IBM's sales and marketing organization as a systems engineer before becoming a marketing representative selling mainframe computers to the telecommunications sector. In 1991, Farley pursued a career in derivatives trading at the Chicago Board of Trade. In 1998, while electronic futures trading was in its infancy, Farley began running the operations for a proprietary trading group that traded mostly electronically. In 2002, he joined Trading Technologies as the executive vice president of product management and marketing, where he has been responsible for the company's product strategy.
Farley has been awarded several patents and Trading Technologies has won numerous awards for its products. He is a native of Metcalfe in the Mississippi Delta and currently lives in Chicago. He is an avid Bulldogs fan and is proud to have his company's software installed at Mississippi State in the Strategic Finance Laboratory at McCool Hall.
Kermit "Earl" Reynolds Jr. is currently executive vice president and chief operating officer of Chaparral Energy in Oklahoma City. He is responsible for management of daily operations of the privately held $3 billion E&P Company with more than 800 employees. The company's operations are focused onshore United States primarily in the Mid‐Continent and Permian basins.
Before joining Chaparral, he led a major international expansion for Ocean Energy and, subsequently, its purchaser Devon Energy. Reynolds led his business unit into high potential exploration areas and successfully grew the value from approximately $3 billion in 2000 to more than $5 billion in 2007. His last role at Devon was senior vice president for strategic development, which allowed him to lead the company's strategic reorganization efforts which resulted in a pure North America resource play strategy.
Reynolds graduated from Mississippi State University in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering. He also holds a master's degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Houston. He is registered as a professional engineer and a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He married Deborah Lane Reynolds in July 2012 and they collectively have five children.
Ray Sweeney is a member of management at FedEx Services in Collierville, Tenn.
Before moving into management, Sweeney was a technical principal, providing technical leadership for customer facing software projects at FedEx. He rebuilt the architecture of online tracking, one of the most visible areas of the FedEx business which today serves more than 40 million unique requests a day. He was then was assigned a key development position in Scanning Technologies where he was instrumental in designing PowerPad, one of the industry's first wireless, handheld scanning devices which led to the automation of critical business processes. As a manager for the FedEx Data Services team, his team has accomplished the complicated launch of new customer facing software and continues to ensure the reliable transport of shipping data, which is integral to FedEx operations and revenue.
Sweeney graduated from Mississippi State in 1995 with a master's degree in computer science. His wife, Angela, graduated from Mississippi State in 1996. His son, Ryan, is currently majoring in chemistry at Mississippi State where he is a member of the Shackouls Honors College. Sweeney and his wife have 3 children: Ryan, Cameron, and Collin.
A 1970 graduate in nuclear engineering, Gerald "Jerry" Thames has now retired four times from professional life, having spent the later part of his career giving back to the country and to others in need.
Following the completion of his bachelor's degree, Thames was commissioned as a lieutenant in field artillery with the U.S. Army. He completed an MBA in 1971 before beginning a career with AT&T Long that would lead to him becoming the general manager of network services for New York and the New England states. Selected as a Sloan Fellow at MIT, he later served as the CEO and president for Data America, British Telecom-North America, Syncordia and Global Telesystems. Later, he again redirected his career becoming managing director of the Lehman Brothers Communications Fund, an early stage, venture capital endeavor focused on IT and communications companies.
In 2002 Thames began a project in Tanzania to educate and transform the lives of HIV affected children and is still in operation. In 2005, he was asked to serve in the Coalitions Provisional Authority to assist in rebuilding and transferring the Iraqi government. As part of his responsibilities he reestablished Iraq's communications, postal and transportation infrastructure. He then continued his government service in Washington, D.C., where he assisted as the counselor to the director of the National Counter Terrorism Center.
A native of Starkville, Miss., who comes from a long line of MSU graduates, Thames contributes much of his success to the discipline and opportunities he received in the college of engineering and at MSU. He is married to Judy Kaye Jordan Thames and has three children and nine grandchildren. He now spends his time with his grandchildren, trekking and traveling.
Gary Warren is the president and CEO of ivWatch, LLC, a medical device company based in Williamsburg, Va.
Before founding ivWatch in 2010, Warren served as a technology evaluator and business consultant to several venture capital firms, and served as CEO of several investor-backed companies in the wireless and Internet security space. He also served as a senior vice president of Symantec Corp., managed a product delivery division, and had responsibility for business development activities, including mergers and acquisitions, strategic investments, and partnerships. During his career, he has been directly involved in more than $150 million of private equity transactions.
Before entering the world of private and public business, Warren held various positions at NASA Langley Research Center ranging from research scientist to program manager for the high-performance computing and communications group. He holds a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master's degree from Mississippi State University in aerospace engineering.