On Board with Gus Argrett

By Dusty Thompson

Growing up, Gus Argrett had an unusual combination of interests: foreign affairs, the military and…cooking. It was his love of culinary arts that led him down an unexpected path to the steps of Mississippi University for Women.

Gus came to Mississippi with his wife who was completing a Management Residency at the VA Medical Center in Jackson. Though he had earned a BA in History from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA he found that looking for work in his chosen field was frustrating. He ultimately took a job with an independent mortgage broker, working solely on commission. After some difficult months trying to adjust, he and his wife, Sekila, decided he should return to school to pursue one of his interests. Cooking seemed to be the most recession-proof of his passions...

An internet search led him to MUW, a school that was close to home, affordable and similar in its history and environment to Mary Washington College. Since he already had his BA, it would only take him two years to complete his degree in Culinary Arts. The fact that the word Women was in the name of the school did not bother him and was not a factor in his decision to enroll at the W.

However, when he arrived on campus he experienced a different vibe. Having started as a freshman in the Engineering School at the University of VA, Gus had already had a typical college experience; too much fun, not enough education. When he arrived at the W, Gus said he realized that, “An education is more than taking classes and writing papers; it’s a business. The students are the product.” Returning to school as an older student, he had a different focus, a purpose. When he was not in class, he worked at a restaurant to earn money or traveled home on weekends to spend time with his family.

Gus said, “I was a real minority at the W. I was used to being in a racial minority, but this was my first experience to be in a minority because of my gender. The environment was okay at times, but I could tell it was still geared toward women. I got a taste of preferential treatment and I did not like it.” However, he found no issues related to gender in his culinary courses.

When it came time for his culinary internship, he applied to the American Club in Wisconsin. During his internship, he lived in a house with other cooks, all men. He admitted, “Sometimes our house was like a scene from Animal House and I loved it.” But he never lost sight of his purpose and enjoyed working with people from all the major culinary programs in the country. He was offered a position to stay and complete an advanced program, but chose to be with his family again.

Gus met his current boss through a networking opportunity in his food styling class. He started a conversation with Jenny Katool and asked her if she knew of any job opportunities. He has been working for her at Sanderson Farms for the last eight years.

When asked why he joined MUWAeA, Gus replied, “My boss got me involved in the Alumnae Association. It has given me the opportunity to meet and work with some outstanding women on the Board of Directors. I stay active in the association in an effort to help the W not just survive but to thrive. I believe that the education students receive at the W helps them stand out from their competitors. For such a small school, MUW has to be successful at being unconventional.”

Since graduation Gus devotes his time to raising a family, singing in the church choir and being a good husband.

Dusty Thompson, 1993, BS in Journalism/Public Relations; MA in Education Administration from Ole Miss. He works in Washington, DC for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Policy and Program Analyst. He recently self-published his first book, A Gone Pecan, and will have a book signing at Homecoming in April.