Kennedy gift to benefit MSU wetland theater, grow endowed chair


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Posted: 10/17/2013


A gift of real estate in Carroll County serves as a lead contribution for Mississippi State University's Carsie Clark and Diane Worthington Young Wetland Education Theater and increases a previously established endowment for the James C. Kennedy Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation.

James C. Kennedy, chairman of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, provided the gift valued at more than $4.7 million. Proceeds from the sale of the land will be used to help complete the theater and provide additional funding for the position Kennedy endowed in 2008 in MSU's College of Forest Resources.

Kennedy is a fervent conservationist of waterfowl and wildlife habitat. His commitment to conservation includes founding his company's Cox Conserves national sustainability program that focuses on reducing waste and energy consumption, as well as conserving water. Kennedy has played key volunteer leadership roles with Ducks Unlimited, and served as president of Wetlands America Trust for 15 years.

"The environment is something we all have in common, and it's important to educate people today on the impact we can have tomorrow," said Kennedy. "As a land owner and frequent visitor to the state, I'm happy to continue my support of the university and look forward to the completion of a wetland education theater for our future generation of waterfowl and wetlands conservationists."

The gift comes as the university publicly debuts Infinite Impact: The Mississippi State University Campaign, a $600 million comprehensive capital campaign, which has raised more than $345 million to date. The effort began in 2010 and will run through 2018.

"This incredibly generous gift from Mr. Kennedy is a prime example of how the Infinite Impact Campaign will shape the future of Mississippi State University," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "These resources will provide outdoor teaching and research laboratories for faculty and students and also provide a showcase for innovative conservation and management practices for the university's visitors."

The Carsie Clark and Diane Worthington Young Wetland Education Theater will be located on open land east of the Landscape Architecture Building and adjacent to Thompson Hall, at the corner of Stone and Bully Boulevards on the university's Starkville campus. A flowing walkway and bridge network will connect numerous covered structures throughout the site. Interpretive signage will illustrate the native plant species and natural wetland, slope and upland settings.

"We are grateful to Mr. Kennedy for his continued support of Mississippi State University through this most recent gift of real estate," said George Hopper, College of Forest Resources' Dean. "The wetland education theater will be a masterpiece on the university campus to showcase functional wetland ecosystems and associated upland communities. Many people are drawn to our state because of our natural resources and the education theater is an important tool in helping us employ best practices to preserve them for future generations."

The wetland education center will be invaluable to expose students in landscape architecture, forestry, wildlife and fisheries to green infrastructure and sustainable applications such as man-made wetlands, Hopper added.

The theater received initial funding in 2010 through a bequest of West Point native and longtime conservationist Carsie Clark Young Sr. Young was president of Clark Vending Co. and served as a director and secretary of both C.C. Clark Inc. and Clark Distributing Co.

Jackson-based landscape architect Robert Poore prepared the design of the wetland education theater with a faculty committee led by Rick Kaminski, holder of the James C. Kennedy Chair, and Sadik Artunc, department head of Landscape Architecture. Construction of the site is expected to begin in Spring 2014.

For more information on the gift, contact Jeff Little, director of development for the College of Forest Resources and The Bulldog Forest at (662) 325-8151 or email

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