John Grisham speaks to incoming students at Mississippi State University's fall convocation on Friday. Grisham, a bestselling author and alumnus of the university, encouraged students to get involved at the university and make friends from different walks of life. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
August 29, 2018 10:24:29 AM
John Grisham doesn't have any regrets about his time at Mississippi State University, but he does have many wishes.
Grisham, a bestselling author and 1977 accounting alumnus of MSU, spoke at the university's fall convocation to welcome the 2019 class of incoming freshmen and transfer students.
During his address, Grisham said he wished he had come to MSU earlier, rather than hopping from school to school with his friends before settling at MSU for three years. He said he wished he had taken the time to get to know more of his professors and fellow students.
"I graduated right here in May of 1977 with two buddies I'd spent two years running with on campus and studying with," Grisham said. "I thought I would see those guys forever. I thought we'd be pals forever, and I haven't seen them since. That's my bad. Friendships take a lot of hard work. It's not a matter of just keeping in touch."
By the same token, Grisham said he wished he'd taken the effort to get to know people who came from different walks of life than he did.
"We all tend to gravitate toward our own tribe, I guess," he said. "The campus was diverse then -- it's even more diverse now. But I never wanted to reach out to people who were that different than me. I wish I had."
Grisham said he found his home at MSU, and with that, guidance for what he wanted to do.
That was a major change, he said, from the student he was upon arrival, drifting aimlessly from college to college with the hope of playing baseball. That particular hope was one he had to give up while at MSU, Grisham said, when his friends staged a "baseball intervention" and informed him his skills weren't quite up to snuff.
"I came here as a kid who was drifting and looking and confused, and I left a few years later with a dream and a plan to make it happen," he said. "I was motivated by ambitious classmates. We pushed each other. I was better when I left here. And you will be too."
MSU's fall convocation welcomed the largest incoming class of students in the university's history. University President Mark Keenum said this year's class includes more than 3,600 freshmen, who bolster one of the highest average class ACT scores at higher than a 25, and 2,100 transfer students.
MSU will also see record overall enrollment this year, Keenum said.
"We have now surpassed for the first time in our university history an enrollment of more than 22,000 students at Mississippi State," he said.
To those students, Grisham said Mississippi State is a special place. He recalled, as an example, a class in 1975 where a Vietnam veteran student argued with a professor who was adamant that the United States should have continued fighting the Vietnam War.
"They got into a serious discussion about the war and all this and we could not believe that a student was going after a teacher," Grisham said. "We just didn't do that in the South -- we were too respectful for that. But it was awesome. It was very obvious to us that the student was going to get the best of him. He kept landing blow after blow after blow and I thought, 'This is what college is all about.'"
To the new students, Grisham offered encouragement to get involved in the array of clubs and student organizations around the university. He encouraged them to get to know each other and make the best of their time at MSU.
"When it's time to graduate, you will look around and say 'I can't believe it's here.'" he said. "So the clock is ticking now to savor the moments. And don't let yourself be put in the position where you ever look back in wishful thinking."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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