Mississippi State University’s new music building, once complete, will include dedicated spaces named for influential alumni, educators and supporters of the university. The Dr. Jackie Edwards-Henry Piano Studio, Dr. Clinton H. Graves Jr. Student Piano Practice Room, and Frank G. and Heather H. Williams Student Practice Room are named with gifts for separate excellence endowments benefiting the College of Education’s Department of Music to enhance the facility.

With construction underway, the new 37,000-square-foot music building is slated for completion in fall 2021. The facility has been a longtime university goal and will allow the music department and choral program to be housed in one location for growth, enabling the band program to maximize its existing building.

The Dr. Jackie Edwards-Henry Piano Studio honors its namesake, a 30-year faculty member and longtime professor of piano and piano pedagogy. Edwards-Henry earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance and pedagogy from William Jewell College and University of Illinois, respectively, and received a Ph.D. in piano pedagogy from University of Oklahoma. She pursued additional piano study in Bordeaux, France, as the recipient of a Rotary Scholarship. The naming of the Edwards-Henry studio is possible with a gift from Dr. E. Stanly Godbold Jr. and his wife, Jeannie, of Starkville.

Godbold is a professor emeritus of history at MSU. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in history from Duke University, as well as a Master of Divinity in theology from Southern Methodist University. His wife, a fellow educator and alumnus of Wisconsin’s Carthage College, is a retired preschool teacher. The couple’s friendship with Edwards-Henry began two decades ago when they took an adult piano class under her instruction. Through their gift, the Godbolds hope to honor Edwards-Henry’s talent and dedicated service to the university, her students and her profession.

The Dr. Clinton H. Graves Jr. Student Piano Practice Room was established by a similar gift from MSU alumni couple Daniel M. “Danny” Thomas Jr. and Leigh Graves Thomas of Flowood. Danny earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1984, and Leigh earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture in 1986. Bearing the name of Leigh’s father, the room serves as a memorial to the late MSU professor emeritus and his lifelong love for music and piano.

Growing up, Graves participated in piano competitions and continued to play throughout his life. After serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, he graduated from Mississippi State in 1950 and spent his 40-year career teaching and conducting research at his alma mater.

Although his profession was in plant pathology, Graves was an avid supporter of the Department of Music and actively promoted the construction of a new music building on campus. Before his death in 2016, Graves established a scholarship for piano students in the Department of Music in memory of his wife, Nancy Kirby Graves, and in honor of his daughter, Leigh. The following year, the Thomases gifted the Graves family’s antique pump organ to the department. A wedding gift given by Graves’ father to his mother in 1915, the organ will be displayed in the new building as another tribute to the Graves family.

The third of the recently designated rooms comes through a gift from its namesakes, Frank and Heather Williams of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Frank is a 1987 MSU chemical engineering graduate and third-generation Bulldog. Heather, an alumna of Texas A&M, shares her husband’s love for Mississippi State. The couple’s son John became a fourth-generation Bulldog alumnus after graduating with a music education degree in 2019. The endowment further extends their family’s legacy at the university.

Additional opportunities exist within the new music building to name select features, including classrooms, offices, studios and performance halls, among other areas with endowment-level gifts. Such contributions provide adaptive support for the building’s furniture, fixtures and equipment, as well as future maintenance and upkeep.

For more information on naming opportunities, endowments and other ways to support MSU’s Department of Music, contact Trish Cunetto, director of development for the College of Education, at (662) 325-6762 or tcunetto@foundation.msstate.edu.