Alumni couple help students find their path

Alumni couple help students find their path

John and Kathleen Ash

Mississippi State University alumni John and Kathleen Ash are grateful for the support they received during their time on campus. Today, the Tomball, Texas couple is paying it forward with a gift that ensures similar support for current and future Bulldog engineering students.  

John and Kathleen are both 2006 graduates of the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. John earned a degree in mechanical engineering and worked as a facilities engineer for Mobile Bay with ExxonMobil U.S. Production Company before becoming a senior mechanical engineer for Waldemar S. Nelson and Co.  

Kathleen, a chemical engineering major, has over 17 years of broad experience in the oil and gas business across both upstream and downstream roles in areas including flowing gas, shipping, production, operations, project development, asset transactions and portfolio planning. She currently serves as president and CEO of Denbury Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil. 

“I didn’t really know anything about the oil and gas industry,” said Kathleen, who credits her student co-op experience with her deepened knowledge and interest in the area she ultimately chose for her career path.  

Knowing first-hand the impact such learning experiences can have on a student’s life inspired the couple to create an endowment to support similar opportunities. 

“We wanted to provide support for college students to be able to go to conferences or hear from guest speakers or get more involved in areas that grow their education and experience of the industry,” said Kathleen. 

The Kathleen and John Ash Excellence Endowment in the Dave. C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering will do just that. Specifically, the fund will support student activities directly related to the promotion and enhancement of student participation and professional development in the oil and gas industry. The couple furthered their investment with additional support offered through ExxonMobil’s matching gift program. 

Both Mississippi natives, John is from Meridian and Kathleen is from Olive Branch. They have fond memories of their time at MSU and are thankful for the education and mentorship they received as students. The Ashes have continued to maintain a strong connection with their alma mater in various ways over the years, including Kathleen’s service on the Swalm School of Engineering’s advisory board. 

“I am really thankful that there were faculty like Dr. Bill Elmore, who really poured into their students like me, and helped us find a rewarding path,” Kathleen said. “I think it’s good to give back to the people and places that impacted our lives, and we’re proud to be able to do our part to help more students find their own ways.”