About Mississippi College
Mississippi College is an accredited comprehensive university affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Its academic programs of liberal arts and sciences and professional studies are dedicated to the pursuit of academic excellence. The Board of Trustees is elected by the Convention for three-year terms, and its members serve on a rotating basis. The University receives support from the Mississippi Baptist Cooperative Program; from gifts by alumni and friends of the University; from corporations; from endowment income; and from student fees.
Mississippi College seeks to be known as a university recognized for academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ.
The Early Years
Mississippi College, the oldest institution of higher learning in the Magnolia State, traces its roots back to the early 19th century, less than a decade after Mississippi became a state. In 1826, the state legislature issued a charter to Hampstead Academy, which would be located on a five acre tract of land in central Mississippi near the Mount Salus community. The property was part of the six million acres transferred to the United States by the Choctaw Nation in 1820.
At the time the institution was chartered, land was selling for $1.25 per acre, America was celebrating its 50th birthday, John Quincy Adams was President, and the growing nation had a population of just over 9.6 million people.
By the time the school opened in January of 1827, Hampstead Academy had become Mississippi Academy. Classes, including rhetoric, were offered to both boys and girls. The first building on campus, known for decades as the “academic edifice,” contained four “handsome” rooms, each with two fireplaces, and it was large enough to accommodate 150-200 students.
The academy was renamed Mississippi College in 1830 and was authorized “to confer… such degrees in the arts, sciences and languages as are usually conferred in the most respectable colleges in the United States…”
As a private, coeducational institution, Mississippi College made history in December 1831 when it became the first college in the nation to grant a degree to a woman. This first group of female graduates received gold medallions. The college continued to teach both men and women until 1850, when the school’s Female Department was discontinued. Women’s higher education returned to Clinton three years later when Central Female Institute, eventually renamed Hillman College, opened a short distance from the MC campus.
In 1842, the college was given to the Presbyterian Church, which operated the institution for eight years until financial issues prompted the denomination to return it to its original owners. In 1850, the Mississippi Baptist Convention acquired Mississippi College, making it the second oldest Baptist educational institution still operating in America today. MC continued its growth through the next ten years, adding to the campus the landmark now known as Provine Chapel, which opened its doors in 1860.
The Civil War and Beyond
The Civil War brought tumultuous times to Mississippi, to the town of Clinton (formerly Mount Salus), and to Mississippi College. A large group of MC students, three faculty members, a trustee, and local citizens from Clinton organized a military company known as the Mississippi College Rifles. The company boarded a train for Corinth in the early days of the war and participated in a lengthy series of battles, primarily in northern Virginia. Sadly, only a few members of the group returned home alive.
The college kept its doors open during the war years, maintaining an average enrollment of about 30 students. As Union troops crisscrossed central Mississippi, the campus was utilized by General Ulysses S. Grant and his men. The newly-constructed chapel became a hospital for wounded troops, and some believe the ground floor of the two-story structure was used by Grant as a stable for his horses.
Today, Provine Chapel remains the oldest building on the Clinton campus, housing the classrooms and offices of the Department of Christian Studies and Philosophy and serving as the site for Christmas concerts by the Mississippi College Singers and as a classic venue for weddings year-round.
When the war ended, Mississippi College faced numerous challenges. Its endowment had been wiped out, its physical plant was deteriorating, and many of its students had left to fight in the war. Nevertheless, under the leadership of President Walter Hillman, the institution was restored.
Hillman’s administration was followed by the presidencies of Drs. Warren Webb, W.T. Lowery, and J.W. Provine. These men oversaw a continuing resurgence at the college, including the construction of new buildings, the redevelopment of the school’s endowment, and a growth in enrollment. In fact, during the Provine presidency, enrollment stood at 400 students and the endowment reached more than $500,000.
The Early 20th Century
Shortly after the turn of the century, work began on what would become another campus landmark-Jennings Hall. When it opened in 1907, the building was considered among the most elegant residence halls in the South. It provided meals in a well-furnished dining hall, it was heated with steam, and its residents bragged that there was electric light in every room.
While Jennings Hall is no longer being used as a dormitory, students and visitors alike continue to enjoy its beautiful central courtyard and fountain. The stately building has been renovated to provide classrooms and faculty offices for such departments as English, history, sociology, and modern languages.
Another familiar sight on the Quad, Alumni Hall, was built during the prosperous years of the 1920s. The multi-purpose facility, which opened its doors in 1925 as the university marked its centennial, is now home to the student mailroom, a basketball court, the student counseling center, conference rooms for the Board of Trustees, and a student gathering spot, boasting large flat-screen TVs and a coffee shop.
After years of financial stability, adversity returned to Mississippi College, to American higher education in general, and to the nation in 1929 with the arrival of the Great Depression. The financial collapse brought widespread poverty to millions of people, and its effects lingered for more than a decade. At times, MC students found creative ways to continue their education, even making tuition payments with a wagonload of potatoes. In addition to monetary contributions, the college welcomed gifts of land, houses, and other resources to help it survive.
The institution’s neighbor, Hillman College, was not as fortunate. While it had prospered through the late 1920s, even constructing two brick cottages for a dozen female students and one faculty member on its campus, the small women’s school did not survive the Great Depression. Hillman closed its doors and consolidated its operations with Mississippi College in 1942.
Post World War II
The return of many education-seeking WWII veterans from overseas battles, combined with the influx of women students, brought an enrollment boom to Mississippi College. A growing number of students brought the need for more learning and living space, and new buildings were added to the Clinton campus to meet that need.
Nelson Hall, the cornerstone of the university which serves as the hub of its administrative offices and houses its main auditorium, was built in 1948. Additional dormitories and classroom buildings soon followed, including Ratliff Hall, the B.C. Rogers Student Center, the Leland Speed Library, Aven Hall, which houses the departments of Communication, Music, and Art, and Self Hall, home to the MC School of Business.
More recent additions to the Clinton campus include Hederman Science Building, Cockroft Hall, which is shared by the School of Nursing and the Department of Kinesiology, the A. E. Wood Coliseum, the university’s basketball arena and the setting for today’s commencement ceremonies, as well as new sports facilities for baseball and football.
The university expanded its educational offerings when it opened the Mississippi College School of Law in downtown Jackson in 1975, just one year short of its 150th birthday.
From new buildings and new academic programs to successful fund-raising drives, hiring award-winning faculty, and employing the latest computer technology, Mississippi College experienced tremendous advances under the leadership of presidents D.M. Nelson, R.A. McLemore, Lewis Nobles, and Howell Todd.
Dr. Todd’s administration was committed to preparing Mississippi College for the 21st century. As part of that mission, Dr. Todd targeted a number of physical improvements which would maintain and replicate the architectural character of the MC campus. Renovations and remodeling projects for Latimer-Webb, Mary Nelson, and Whittington residence halls were completed, while Self, Farr, and Aven Halls were also renovated. A multimedia language lab was added to Jennings Hall and stateof-the-art soundproof practice rooms for music students were installed in Aven Hall. New residence halls for men and women, a 106,000 square foot health facility, and a math, computer science, and chemistry complex were also constructed. MCNet, a campus-wide computer network, was installed to offer a communications link and internet access for all administrators, faculty, staff, and students.
Entering the 21st Century
As the new century began, Dr. Todd’s seven-year tenure as the university’s president ended with his retirement in June 2001. The Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Lloyd Roberts, Vice President for Business Affairs and professor of management, to serve as interim president until a new leader could be found.
On July 1, 2002, Dr. Lee G. Royce, the former president of Anderson University in South Carolina, became the 19th president of Mississippi College. That same year, the institution successfully completed the $100 million “New Dawn” capital campaign which had begun in 1996. The project was the largest financial campaign in school history. With Dr. Royce at the helm, Mississippi College has seen steady growth in enrollment, revitalization of its facilities, and extraordinary levels of giving. The student population has climbed from just over 3,200 to almost 5,300 students. That enrollment includes an increase in the number of international students.
A five-year, $65 million campaign to boost student scholarships, build the university’s endowment, enhance its facilities, and strengthen its academic programs began in 2006. Despite a weak U.S. economy, the Board of Trustees increased the goal to $80 million. The faith of the members of the Board was confirmed in the fall of 2011 when the “Growing the Vision” campaign concluded, having raised $87.4 million.
The university’s doctoral programs in educational leadership and professional counseling are also adding new students. MC made history in August 2011 when it awarded its first educational leadership doctorate to a Jackson elementary school principal.
MC continues to enhance its academic offerings with the addition of new programs. Begun in 2011, the Physician Assistant program is the first one of its kind in the Magnolia State. The two and one-half year Master of Science in Medicine program has an enrollment of 90 students. Based in newly renovated facilities at the Baptist Healthplex, the program works closely with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and with federal clinics and hospitals in the region to train professionals to work under the supervision of physicians. P.A. program graduates will play critical roles in easing the medical care shortages in underserved areas of the state and nation. The first class, consisting of 29 students, graduated in December 2013.
While undergraduates continue to take advantage of the London Semester program, the Mississippi College School of Law offers overseas study programs in Germany, France, Mexico, China, and Korea. The Law School also offers students the opportunity to participate in moot court competitions, having sent 26 teams to regional/national competitions in recent years.
Mississippi College’s extensive list of building projects includes a new front entrance to Robinson-Hale Stadium, a new soccer complex, and baseball facility. New athletic facilities helped MC transition to NCAA Division II athletics. Returning to the Birmingham-based Gulf South Conference began in Fall 2014. Adding to the building renaissance: a three-story parking garage, a prayer garden outside Alumni Hall, and a bookstore next-door to Pimento’s café in Olde Towne Clinton. Overlooking MC’s hometown on a hilltop, sits the Phillips House, a new residence for the MC president. The new medical sciences building opened in January 2013 and includes classrooms, a cadaver lab, and the latest research facilities.
Other notable construction projects include the August 2015 opening of the University Place residence halls. Costing $16 million, the eight three-story units house 189 students.
The Mississippi College community has welcomed an all-star lineup of prominent national speakers for its spring scholarship dinners. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees spoke at the 2019 dinner. The university’s signature event raised more than $4.1 million for student scholarships since 2008. MC’s impact on the local economy remains strong with more than a $75 million budget, over 500 employees and net assets exceeding $172 million.
National recognition continues for Mississippi College. The Fall 2017 issue of “U.S. News & World Report” ranks MC No. 12 as a Best Value School among the South’s regional universities.
Dr. Royce retired in late June 2018 after 16 extraordinary years leading the Christian university. He and his wife, Rhoda, retired to Northern Virginia.
The Lee Royce Medical Science Center along College Street was named in honor of the retired MC president. The Rhoda Royce Prayer Garden near Alumni Hall was named as a tribute to MC’s former First Lady.
Succeeding President Emeritus Lee Royce, Dr. Blake Thompson became the university’s 20th president on July 1, 2018. Thompson’s diverse background includes leadership in higher education, international research, and the United States government. As Mississippi natives, the MC presidency represents a homecoming for Dr. Thompson and his wife, Jana.
Thompson was formerly vice president and secretary to the board of trustees of The Ohio State University (OSU). He held several leadership positions at 66,000-student Ohio State, one of the largest universities in the country. Thompson served as vice president for economic and workforce development, led the university’s Science and Technology Campus, and spearheaded the development of the endowed Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy at OSU.
In addition to his duties with OSU, Thompson held a joint vice-president appointment with Battelle, the world’s leading nonprofit R&D organization. He has also served in Washington as a senior staffer to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and to the late Senator Thad Cochran. Dr. Thompson and his wife, Jana, were raised in the small community of Rienzi, Mississippi, and operate a blueberry farm in North Mississippi. Both are graduates of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. Thompson earned three degrees in pharmaceutical sciences from Ole Miss, including his doctorate. He holds an executive master’s degree from the Georgetown University School of Business. The Thompsons have three children, Grey, Sarah Blake, and Cate.
During the early stages of the Thompson era, MC enrollment climbed to 5,138 students in Fall 2018, including the law school in downtown Jackson.
Mississippi College programs are truly world-class. In Fall 2017, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International granted accreditation to the MC School of Business. Only 25 percent of business schools in the USA and less than five percent of business schools worldwide have achieved this recognition.
Passage rate for Mississippi College students taking the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam is 97 percent or the national average. The MC School of Nursing passage rate on national standardized exams is 94 percent. The graduates must pass these exams to enter the profession.
MC made history with the election of Anthony Jackson as the first African American to serve as Student Government Association president on the Clinton campus in 2018-19.
Inaugurated in March 2019 as Mississippi College’s 20th president, Blake Thompson launched the institution’s first Honors College. The first 14 freshmen will enroll in August 2019. The Rienzi native also expanded international programs with the creation of the Edward McMillan Center for Education Abroad. MC leaders are conducting a $2 million drive for the center’s initial phase. A longtime history professor and administrator, Dr. McMillan established the London Abroad program in 1990. He died in 2018. A 1992 graduate, Spanish and linguistics professor, Beth Stapleton heads the new center.
In the Summer of 2019, MC was ranked the No. 1 online Christian college in the USA by the website onlinechristiancolleges.com. New classes for MC in Fall 2019 include a master’s degree in nursing.
In September 2019, “The Wall Street Journal” lauded MC as the best private college in Mississippi. America’s most trusted
newspaper examined more than 800 schools across the USA. Their rankings examined 15 key indicators. Evaluators considered
salaries that graduates earn, the debt burden they take on and how much schools invest in instruction as well as student services.
The MC Choctaws football program continued to progress in fall 2019 under head coach John Bland. He was named the co-
coach of the year in the Gulf South Conference. During its 5-5 season, MC defeated rival Delta State 37-13 at Robinson-Hale
Stadium to capture the Heritage Bell Trophy.
Mississippi College filled a key administrative post with the hiring of Dr. Keith Elder. A distinguished administrator and scholar
in the public health field, the Alabama educator will serve as the university’s new provost and executive vice president. His appointment becomes effective in July 2020. Dr. Elder is the founding dean of Samford University’s School of Public Health
since 2016. He will succeed Interim Provost Debbie Norris.
Renovations at MC’s Alumni Hall will lead the way for the university to welcome a Chick-fil-A restaurant and Einstein Bros.
Bagels to campus. The two national franchise restaurants will open by late August 2020 as students return for fall classes.
The Christian university admitted 15 additional students to its Honors College for the fall semester beginning in August 2020.
They come from Mississippi and four nearby Southern states.