Former MSU President Malcolm Portera encourages spring graduates at MSU-Meridian to embrace change

Contact: Lisa SollieMalcolm Portera, 16th president of Mississippi State University addresses the overflow crowd at MSU-Meridian’s 2019 spring commencement ceremonies held at the MSU Riley Center in downtown Meridian. (Photo by Jason Dyess)

MERIDIAN, Miss.—Malcolm Portera, Mississippi State’s leader from 1998-2001, encouraged new graduates at MSU-Meridian’s Thursday [May 2] commencement to anticipate change.

“Embrace change, never fear it, and learn to use the tools that are available to you to make things easier and better,” he said.    

The former university president and MSU alumnus acknowledged that, for many, commencement is among the most important achievements of a lifetime.

“For my parents, Mississippi State University and a degree was the key to the future for their children. For some of you, the degree you’ve earned may also be the most important thing that happens for your entire family,” Portera said. 

“Mark Twain once said, ‘The two most important days are when you are born and when you find out why.’ Today, in this theater, is the why,” he added.

During his tenure as MSU’s chief executive, Portera worked to expand MSU’s research and development capabilities and its role in economic development. He was a champion of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Computational Field Simulation, founded at the university in 1990.

In 2014, MSU honored him with the formal naming and dedication of the Malcolm A. Portera High Performance Computing Collaboratory, formerly the ERC, located in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park in Starkville.

After his presidency, Portera went on to serve as the chancellor of the University of Alabama System until 2012. He currently serves as vice president and secretary of The Riley Foundation, a local philanthropic foundation created to improve the quality of life for the people of Meridian and Lauderdale County.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum praised Portera, and said the university is thriving and having great success in serving the state, nation and world.

“Much of the success that we are joined together to celebrate today is due in large part to the leadership of great men like Dr. Portera,” Keenum said. “The decisions he made while president, and the foundation that he laid then for us to build on, have led our university to great heights.”

Addressing graduates, Keenum stressed that regardless of the challenges they encounter in life, they can be change agents and leaders if they will remember three timeless values.

“Armed with this outstanding valuable degree from Mississippi State, you must also aspire to always live a life of integrity, have a good work ethic and be respectful, kind and considerate of others,” Keenum said.

Administrative director and head of campus, Terry Dale Cruse applauded graduates and said the Class of 2019 represents a distinguished group of new alumni who will make a significant impact on the region.

MSU-Meridian’s spring 2019 class of 120 graduates includes 32 honor graduates, including eight Riley Scholars. Sarah Dover of Meridian and Katie Gilmore of Walnut Grove also earned the distinction of being named Stephen D. Lee Scholars for maintaining an overall 4.0 grade-point average throughout their college careers.

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