A Q&A With Leo Seal, III

The Leo Seal Family Foundation recently gave a lead gift of 12 million dollars to help build a new football building, the Leo Seal, Jr. Football Complex for Mississippi State. The gift is just one of many financial gifts that the Leo Seal family has given to Mississippi State. Gene's Page talked with Leo Seal, III, the president of the Leo Seal Family Foundation, prior to the MSU spring game.

The Seal family is very well known for helping Mississippi State University financially. Your family really gives back to MSU. What does Mississippi State University mean to you and your family?
"Mississippi State University means a great deal to us. I've spent a lot of my time here while growing up. I've been coming to games since I was two-years-old. My dad was a pretty busy man so coming here and watching football, baseball and basketball games was how we were able to spend a lot of time together."

When the next football building is built, it's going to have your dad's name on it and will be called the Leo Seal, Jr. Football Complex. Both you and your brother, Lee, will see that every time you walk by that building. What will it mean to you to see your dad's name on it and know you and your brother helped to build that complex?
"It will mean a lot. A lot of people thought the M-Club building was named after our father but that is named after my grandfather, Leo, Sr, who played football here in 1908, when it was called Mississippi A&M. So, we wanted to do something to recognize our father."

People associate the Seal family as giving to Mississippi State athletics but it's not just athletics that you have given to is it?
"We have done a lot of things on the academic side. My father actually put up a lead gift for the business school, which is a 60,000 square foot building. The Leo Seal Family Business Complex. We are actually involved with academics and athletics about equal.

"That's another thing my father did. He would help get people together to help get projects started that a lot of people don't even know about. There were a lot of things he was behind in getting people involved in. That was the main reason why we wanted to do this (football complex) building for him."

What was the process like from beginning to end to do a project like the new football complex building? How long did it take from beginning to end to complete the giving process?
"All projects are different. I'm president of the Leo Seal Foundation and we do a lot of projects for a lot of different things. People come to you about new projects they want to do and you can structure them all differently. There are all kind of ways a project can be done. So, it really all depends.

"For this building, we probably started about eight months to a year ago. We had some things in mind but we really had no idea about the first phase. We were just really looking at what they wanted to get done. We decided that Dan (Mullen) really wanted the practice facility, but, obviously, the stadium expansion is also going to be right up there with everything. Just like Scott Stricklin said, there are different things you can do for the stadium expansion such as bonding that you can't do with the practice facility."

Are all of your Foundation projects MSU related or do they involve other non-MSU projects?
"No, we'll do things for all kind of charities, the Cancer Association, the Nature Conservancy, all kind of things really. We obviously try to focus on the Gulf Coast because we had (Hurricane) Katrina (do a lot of damage) down there. We've done a lot of things to help the Gulf Coast. We also try to focus on Mississippi but we have done some things nationally as well. But we try to focus on the Gulf Coast and education."

Other projects supported by Leo Seal, Jr. as well as several MSU honors he received:

Seal supported the university's Presidential Endowed Scholarship Program, which provides four-year scholarships and mentoring opportunities for the university's best and brightest incoming students. He also supported a variety of academic scholarships in business, engineering and forestry.

Another significant gift from Seal created an excellence fund for the Mitchell Memorial Library. Recently, he made the lead gift for the newly opened Templeton Athletic Academic Building.

Seal first joined the MSU Foundation Board of Directors in 1966 and served numerous terms as a board member, including serving as president from 2000-2003. He was vice chairman of the University's first major gifts campaign - The Campaign for Mississippi State: Serving Mississippi and Beyond - and was also a member of the steering committee for MSU's most current - State of the Future - campaign.

Among his many accolades include being honored by MSU in 1999 with an honorary doctorate in public service. He was also named National Alumnus of the Year in 1983 and honored as the College of Business Alumnus of the Year in 2002.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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