From left: Michael Schulz, Sam Lawrence, Mary Prater, Celeste Carpenter Cox, Rick Cox, Art Doty
Memorial scholarship creates meaningful union at MSU
By: Addie Mayfield
A recent commemorative event honoring the late Mississippi State University alumnus Thomas R. “Tom” Lawrence, united members of the Will D. Carpenter family of Chesterfield, Missouri and leadership from Nashville, Tennessee-based Cumberland Pharmaceuticals for the first time since their collective establishment of an endowed scholarship in Lawrence’s memory.
Texas-born Lawrence was raised in the Mississippi towns of Cleveland, Jackson and Ruleville, and graduated from MSU in 1961 with a degree in history. He was the owner of Capital Consultants and founder of Front Porch Press LLC. A natural born businessman, Lawrence was involved in many entrepreneurial ventures throughout his lifetime, including the 1999 establishment of Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. Later that year, Lawrence began looking for a scientist with product development skills and regulatory knowledge to serve on Cumberland’s board of directors when a mutual acquaintance recommended Carpenter for the position.
Carpenter, a fellow alumnus, earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the MSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1952. A native of Moorhead, Carpenter went on to earn masters and doctoral degrees in plant physiology from Purdue University. In 2003, he was named MSU’s National Alumnus of the Year and later was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science in 2005.
Following his education, Carpenter moved to St. Louis, Missouri to pursue a career with the Monsanto Co., where he met his wife Hellen, a Dallas-native and graduate of William Woods College. He spent 34-years with the company, before retiring in 1992 as vice president and general manager of its new products division.
Despite shared roots in their Mississippi Delta hometowns and at Mississippi State, Lawrence and Carpenter had never met. However, following their initial meeting, an esteemed business relationship and cherished friendship formed. Carpenter joined Lawrence as a charter board member for Cumberland, and the two continued working together in various undertakings over the years. In 2014, Lawrence published his third book at Front Porch Press– will d…a life in science, a biography he authored about Carpenter’s career achievements.
Additionally, Lawrence’s and Carpenter’s shared love for MSU was passed on to the next generation. Lawrence’s three children, Sam Lawrence and John Lawrence of Auburn, Alabama and Mary Prater of Opelika, Alabama, as well as Carpenter’s daughter, Celeste Carpenter Cox of Chesterfield, Missouri, all followed their fathers’ footsteps and joined the Bulldog family.
“Tom became one of dad’s most cherished friends,” said Cox. “For many years, right up until the time of Tom’s passing last March, the two talked multiple times a week and dad valued those conversations and the counsel they occasionally offered each other.”
Cox graduated in 1986 from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She served as a representative for her family during the commemorative event because Carpenter was unable to travel to due to health issues.
“My father was terribly disappointed that he and my mother couldn’t attend. If it could have been at all possible, wild horses couldn’t have kept dad away,” Cox said, admitting that she was thankful for the opportunity to return to MSU. “I love coming back to my alma mater and this gave me a great excuse to visit.”
Before Lawrence’s passing last spring, a $50,000 gift from Carpenter established the Thomas Lawrence Promise Endowed Scholarship at MSU. An additional $50,000 commitment from Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, in recognition of Lawrence’s dedication and contributions to the company, increased the scholarship fund to $100,000. The collective endowment will support the MSU Promise Awards Program, which benefits students from Mississippi families with crucial financial need.
“Because Tom loved the state of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, my father could think of no better way to pay tribute to him than to establish a scholarship to this institution in his name,” said Cox. “Dad felt that nothing would have pleased Tom more than to play some part in helping a student to have the opportunity to be educated at the school they dearly loved.”
The Thomas Lawrence Promise Endowed Scholarship may assist with the cost of tuition, fees, meals and housing for recipients. Candidates for the award will be Mississippi residents entering MSU as full-time freshmen or community college transfer students with a minimum of 48 transferrable hours. Recipients may qualify for the award for up to four years. The Carpenter family and Cumberland Pharmaceuticals look forward to awarding inaugural recipients in the fall 2019 semester.
“Before Tom’s passing, I asked if he had a message to share with Cumberland’s sales organization, given his outstanding career in sales. Without hesitation, he said ‘never give up, never ever give up’, and I believe he would pass that same advice to his scholarship recipients as well,” said A.J. Kazimi, Cumberland’s CEO and founder.
Since 2006, the MSU Promise Program has helped bridge the gap between the cost of tuition and fees after financial aid. The program also provides academic counseling, course-progress monitoring and networking opportunities to ensure students’ continued success. For more information on the program, visit http://www.sfa.msstate.edu/types-of-aid/promise-program/.
An open fund in the MSU Foundation, the Thomas Lawrence Promise Endowed Scholarship can benefit from additional contributions. For more information on how to support the scholarship, contact Jud Skelton, director of development, at 662-325-0643 or firstname.lastname@example.org