Mark Keenum will make $800,000 a year, matching University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce as Mississippi’s highest paid president. (Photo: Megan Bean, Mississippi State)

College board ups state’s share of the salary of Mississippi State University’s president

The Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees announced on Thursday it had unanimously voted to renew Mark Keenum’s contract as president of Mississippi State University for another four years to 2025.

Keenum’s salary will remain $800,000 per year, matching University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce as Mississippi’s highest paid college president.

The portion of Keenum’s salary paid for by the state of Mississippi, however, will increase to $400,000. The other half will come from MSU’s Foundation. The state’s universities typically supplement presidents’ salaries through their foundations, which are considered private entities that raise private funds.

Previously, the state of Mississippi paid $300,000 toward Keenum’s salary.

“I appreciate the fact that the Board of Trustees wants to see the strong momentum we have at Mississippi State continue in the years to come,” Keenum said in a press release sent by MSU. “I also appreciate the confidence they have placed in me, and I look forward to continuing to work with them and all of our many stakeholders.”

The vote was taken over a month ago in an executive session at the board’s Sept. 16 regular meeting. Tom Duff, the vice president of the board, made the motion to renew Keenum’s contract.

Duff also moved to include a new provision in Keenum’s contract directing MSU’s Foundation to pay out up to an additional $800,000 in “retention pay” if Keenum remains employed as president through 2025.

“It is wise on the (MSU) Foundation’s part to incentivize stability and continuity in leadership as the institution moves forward,” J. Walt Starr, the IHL board’s president, said in a press release.

IHL’s press release notes that Keenum did not request this additional pay, but the board saw “the wisdom in taking steps to invest in retaining the effective and visionary leadership that Dr. Keenum has brought to MSU.”

Keenum wrote in an Oct. 15 letter to Hines Brannon, the chairman of MSU’s Foundation, that he would like “a majority — if not all” of the additional retention pay to go toward student scholarships, according to MSU’s press release.

“As you know, one of my passions personally is to grow our support of student scholarships,” Keenum wrote. “While I know any possible action on the retention incentive item is several years away, I wanted you to know of my desire to make this investment in our students.”

Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.

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