By Annie Rhoades
Late-night studying, hard work and determination are necessary to obtain a college degree and establish a successful career path. It took all of this and much more for alumnus Markeeva Morgan (BSEE 01), Space Launch System (SLS) Program Core Stage Avionics Hardware Subsystems Manager for NASA, to get to where he is today. But if you ask him it all happened, “by the grace of God.”
A native of Coldwater, Miss., Morgan graduated from Coldwater High School in 1997 and set his sights on obtaining a degree in engineering – specifically in Mississippi.
“Very early in my selection process, mainly for patriotic reasons, I decided I wanted to go to school in Mississippi,” Morgan said. “Part of my decision was functional as well, as I was hoping to get enough scholarships to pay for my degree.”
After receiving numerous offers from universities across the country, Morgan began visiting Ole Miss frequently.
“It became a common thing – the more I visited the University of Mississippi, the more I loved it,” Morgan said. “I also appreciated how much the university representative talked about what we have to offer in Oxford without a negative word being said about anybody else.”
The son of a Vietnam War veteran and Ole Miss alumnus, Morgan enrolled in the fall of 1997 to pursue a field that spiked his interest from the time he was a small child watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“When I was really little I didn’t know what an engineer was, but I had always been fascinated with how things work,” Morgan said. “Watching ‘Star Trek’ is how I came to learn what an engineer is. What really cemented it for me was when the movie ‘Apollo 13’ came out while I was in high school. There’s a scene after carbon dioxide levels are increasing in a crew capsule, where a bunch of engineers are all in the room trying to figure out how to solve the problem and basically put a round peg in a square hole. And I thought, ‘Wow that’s cool, that’s what I want to do.’”
After earning a bachelor of science in electrical engineering in 2001, Morgan relocated to Washington, D.C., to take a position with the U.S. Navy.
His first day on the job was September 6, 2001, five days before the world would be changed forever.
“I remember my boss came by and said, ‘You know the reason they make the application process so difficult is because they want to make sure they get the best candidate, because the learning curve is very steep,’” Morgan said. “He then told me I had no learning curve. I had to perform right then because we were just attacked. And then he walked away. I was 22 years old.”
Named the nuclear instrumentation and control technical advisor to the Atlantic submarine fleet within weeks of his arrival, Morgan led multi-disciplinary teams of mostly senior personnel to ensure the continued readiness of the fleet to respond to the then-incipient threat to our nation’s security.
Morgan is proud to say his time at Ole Miss helped him through those challenging and stressful times at a high-pressure job fresh out of college.
“I remember going to career day at Ole Miss, and one of the recruiters said something that was so intriguing – every university graduates scholars, but this university graduates people who are scholars,” Morgan said. “Having now graduated and worked in a high-pressure environment, I understand exactly what he meant. There’s a difference between the two. The university provides opportunities to develop the whole person. In many respects I felt like I was uniquely qualified to do what I was doing because of the experiences I had while I was in Oxford.”
A member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Morgan’s time at Ole Miss was filled with the typical highs and lows of any student struggling to find positive reassurance for the career decision he or she has made.
During the second semester of his junior year, Morgan suddenly realized he no longer wanted to be an engineer.
“It wasn’t because I stopped loving engineering – in fact it was quite the opposite,” Morgan said. “I have lots of passions and it dawned on me that my passion for engineering and technical things might be ruined, because I’m going to wake up one day and not want to do it that day. I may want to write poetry or something else. I was really nervous about that, but fortunately my job is a lot of technical management. On any given day I get to be as much of a manager or as much of an engineer as I would like. I’ve loved my career ever since then.”
After serving six years with the U.S. Navy, both Morgan and his wife, Shaquinta Morgan (BE 03), were presented with the opportunity to relocate to Huntsville, Ala., in 2007 for their respective jobs.
“We were in two different cities at the time when I was asked to consider moving to Huntsville and working for NASA,” Morgan said. “That evening my wife was at a regional meeting for her company in Atlanta and told me she was just asked by her company if she would ever consider relocating. I think it was divine, so when people ask me why I came to Huntsville I first tell them because God told us to. Needless to stay it all worked out.”
A past board member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association and recipient of the 2007 Outstanding Young Alumni award, Morgan enjoys his work with NASA and coming to Oxford as often as possible to serve on the University of Mississippi Foundation Board of Directors, the School of Engineering Advisory Board, the Center for Manufacturing Excellence Advisory Board, as well as guest lecturing for the Chancellor’s Leadership Class each fall.
“My love for Ole Miss runs pretty deep,” Morgan said. “Relationships I’ve made and relationships I continue to make through the university certainly have a significant impact on my life and my profession. I can proudly say that I am who I am in no small part because of the University of Mississippi.”