STARKVILLE, Miss.—The department of civil and environmental engineering at Mississippi State University has become a named academic school with a cornerstone endowment gift from one of the land-grant institution’s most loyal alumni. The Richard A. Rula School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is named for Richard A. Rula of Ridgeland, a 1970 MSU civil engineering graduate and longtime leader in the state’s construction industry as owner and president of Florence-based Hemphill Construction Company Inc.
“Richard Rula gave the transformative lead gift for the Richard A. Rula Engineering and Science Complex project that will be home to the newly endowed School of Civil and Environmental Engineering named for him,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “His endowment-level support of the school and the new facility in the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering will have a far-reaching, immeasurable impact on our university’s future.”
Approval of the Mississippi Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning to rename the existing academic department in the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering was granted in August. The endowment will be used to enhance the Richard A. Rula School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s national image and reputation, provide for innovative construction technologies, enhance graduate assistantships, and promote faculty excellence.
“This endowment is an opportunity to tremendously further the goals and objectives of civil and environmental engineering at Mississippi State, while making a contribution to education and research in the state of Mississippi,” said Rula, a Vicksburg native. “’I’ve spent decades in industry and want to make a positive impact in my field in my home state, and I believe the endowment for the school and the new facility to house the school will accomplish that long term.”
A lead gift from Rula, along with other private support, also makes possible a new $34 million campus facility currently under construction at the intersection of Hardy Road and Morrill Road on the Starkville campus. The 70,000-square-foot Richard A. Rula Engineering and Science Complex will house civil and environmental engineering and provide classrooms and offices; teaching, research and chemistry labs; and high bay areas. The complex is expected to open later this year, with classes and laboratories operational by fall 2021. The research area in the new structure will help faculty stay on the leading edge of new technologies and support economic development in Mississippi, while training future engineering leaders in key fields to provide clean water, safe roads, proper sanitation and quality buildings.
“The noteworthy support of Richard Rula has been instrumental in promoting the expansion and advancement of civil and environmental programs at Mississippi State and the subsequent national recognition for the Bagley College of Engineering that comes with it,” said Dennis D. Truax, civil and environmental engineering head and holder of the James T. White Endowed Chair. “The Rula endowment will now allow us to take these successes to the next level as we elevate into a school and continue our mission of educating future generations of outstanding professional engineers and creating new knowledge which advances our profession.”
Along with his MSU degree, Rula holds a professional engineering license, is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Associated General Contractors of America for his career accomplishments. He joined Hemphill Construction Company Inc. in 1979 and became owner and president in 1984. The firm is well-recognized for highway construction, utilities, and commercial and industrial site development throughout the southeastern United States. Rula also is the proprietor of Suncoast Infrastructure Inc., a leading trenchless contractor, and Maintenance Systems Inc., which focuses on operations and management of water and wastewater treatment plants.
At MSU, Rula serves the Bulldog Club board, the MSU Foundation board, and the Bagley College dean’s advisory council. His MSU philanthropy includes the Richard A. Rula Professorship in Construction Engineering and Management for a distinguished faculty member and the Richard A. Rula Doctoral Assistantship for a top-caliber graduate student. In athletics, his lead gifts have supported the Rula Tennis Pavilion indoor complex for men’s and women’s practice and the Mize Pavilion’s courts for men’s and women’s basketball practice. He was honored as MSU National Alumnus of the Year in 2019, the Bagley College of Engineering Alumnus of the Year in 2017, and earlier as one of the college’s Distinguished Engineering Fellows.
In the Bagley College, the Richard A. Rula School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is among eight primary academic areas. The unit enrolls some 570 undergraduate and 90 graduate students. Degree programs include a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, both with seven technical options.
U.S. News and World Report ranks the Bagley College’s programs among the top 100 nationwide. The college also ranks among the nation’s leaders in research and development expenditures according to the National Science Foundation. For more on the Bagley College, visit https://www.bagley.msstate.edu/.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.