By Ida Brown / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
MERIDIAN — Meridian businessman Mike Gipson will make family history this week when he walks across the MSU Riley Center stage to accept his degree during Friday's commencement exercises for Mississippi State University, Meridian campus.
While his father and several other relatives have earned two-year degrees and taken college courses, Gipson will be the first to earn a bachelor's degree. Witnessing and cheering him on during the momentous occasion will be his father, Scott, as well as his grandparents, E.M. "Hoot" and Doris Gipson.
"I just think it's wonderful; it's something we've been trying to get him to do for quite awhile," said Hoot Gipson. "His grandmother has especially been pushing hard for it."
The family's persistence that Gipson complete his degree was not only because the usual perks that come with having a college education: more opportunities, better job security and advanced critical-thinking skills. It also will play an important role in the family's future.
"Just having that degree in today's job market and economy is extremely important," Hoot Gipson said. "But we're also preparing him to take over the company."
The company which the elder Gipson speaks of is Gipson Steel Inc., which he started in July 1976. After working in the steel industry for more than two decades, he started his own company with a few employees, mostly family. Today, the company — which performs medium to heavy structural and miscellaneous steel fabrication, both commercially and industrially — employs 80 people and does projects in the Southeast. Gipson Steel also has completed projects in California, New York, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Aruba, Guatemala, Ghana, Toga and Latvia.
Gipson, who is currently project manager of the company, decided to pursue a degree in technology management at MSU Meridian. In addition to the basic business components, the three-year program also includes technology.
"It's kind of like the old business degree, but it adds the element of computer technology," Gipson said. "I had to take accounting, quality and other courses."
He began taking classes in 2009 while he continued to work full time. Although Gipson was no stranger to the college classroom (he studied engineering at the Starkville campus after completing studies at Meridian Community College and graduating from Lamar School), he admits that it was better the second time around.
"I wasn't focused back then, and after a few years I came back home and started working for the family business," he said. "But this time I was a lot more focused and determined to follow through and get the job done."
His grandfather proudly notes that Gipson earned all A's and B's as a student at MSU Meridian.
"He studied hard and it's paid off," he said.
"I'm extremely proud of him," said Gipson's father Scott, who is president of Gipson Steel Inc. "I like seeing anyone succeed and complete something they have worked hard at and for it to be my son — well ... I'm a proud parent."
Gipson, who is 29, said he is happy to be graduating, but wasn't too sure if he was going to participate in the graduating exercises. His family made the decision a lot easier for him.
"I was told that I was going to walk," he said.
As with any college graduate, the question now for Gipson is, "What's next?"
"I plan to focus more on work for the time being. I've thought about doing the MBA program through the Meridian branch also, but that may be a little bit down the road," he said.
The Gipson Family have been longtime supporters of Mississippi State University. In 2000, Gipson Steel Inc. donated a steel teaching sculpture to MSU's College of Engineering in support of higher education in the state and nation and in support of the steel fabrication industry worldwide. The sculpture is designed for students to learn about steel framing and connections in a “hands-on” application manner. The company is currently providing structural steel for a football practice facility and locker room under construction on the Starkville campus
Now that Gipson has completed his bachelor's degree, his grandfather has decided that 2012 will be the year that he will retire from the company.
"About two weeks ago I was sitting at the house at night, watching TV and reading the paper and I just reached over and told my wife, 'Hon, I'm going to retire next year,'" the company's CEO said. However, he will be close by.
"I'm going to keep my office .... I'll come in when I get good and ready. I won't be an officer of any kind, I'll just be 'Hoot Gipson the individual who just happens to have an office space at Gipson Steel,'" he said.
Still, the elder Gipson said knowing that his grandson is more well-grounded with a degree under his belt will make his transition into retirement much easier.
"It's been a good 35 and I just want the company to move forward — and I believe it will," he said.
Last Updated: 12/14/11