Today I had an opportunity to get to know Rhonda Keenum, wife of Mississippi State University president, Mark Keenum.
I’ve become their biggest fan, and I’m an Ole Miss girl!
Rhonda spoke to the Starkville Woman’s Club today and she mesmerized us. Since I’m program chairman, I got lots of kudos. But more than that, she let us know up front how approachable, how devoted, she is to our state and our university.
I predict that this is a woman who will make a difference in Starkville and help Mark take Mississippi State to the next level.
Rhonda is founder/partner of two key public relations firms, Keenum & Associates and The WIT Group.She did a whole lot of other stuff but perhaps her job as director of the Office of Public Liaison and Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush may have been the most challenging. She managed presidential events at the White House in and around Washington, D.C., reporting directly to Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
Woah. That’s heavy. She had a close relationship with Rove.
“I had to tell Karl that I was pregnant(the second time) and hoped to continue in my job,” she said. “I couldn’t find the right words, so I just blurted out ‘I got knocked up’.” Next she had to tell the president. Hopefully, she found a more tactful message.
Prior to her appointment at the White House, Rhonda served as the acting Under secretary for Commerce for International Trade Administration. There she focused on creating a better economic environment for American business at home and abroad.
Are you impressed yet? I was.
Before entering the public relations arena, Rhonda was administrative assistant and press secretary for Congressman Roger Wicker (R-MS); served as Director of Surrogate Scheduling for the Republican National Committee Victory 2000 effort; and played key roles in both the 1996 Dole for President and 1992 Bush-Quayle campaigns. (Rhonda, I supported Dole and the Bush Quayle ticket. Can I be your friend?)
Rhonda is a native of Booneville, Mississippi and a graduate of Mississippi State University. She never had time to have a family until she woke up one morning at age 42 and decided time was running out. She had suffered several miscarriages and nothing was happening. She and Mark began the adoption process, but also entered a program of invitro-fertilization. It worked and she gave birth to tripletts: Katie, Rett and Mary Phillips); and low and behold baby sister, Victoria, showed up on her own without any help!
I had no idea the roll she has played in international commerce, presidential politics and more important, how she has conquered menopause with four children under the age of five! Now in her late forties, her friends are having grandchildren, while she is still carpooling preschoolers.
Rhonda doesn’t take herself too seriously and gets a kick out of her life today. Sitting on the bed this morning, taking a conference call, she glanced at her bedside table. There were 13 books – but the two I remember most went like this: “Dealing with Toddlers” and “Conquering Menapause.”
Now, how many people would be reading those books at the same time?
What a wonderful lady.
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