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, chartered by the legislature in 1826, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Mississippi. Originally called Hampstead Academy and later Mississippi Academy, the College was named Mississippi College in 1830 and authorized “to confer . . . such degrees in the arts, sciences, and languages as are usually conferred in the most respectable colleges in the United States . . . “
A private institution, the College was for several years coeducational and in 1831 was the first such college in the United States to grant a degree to a woman. In 1842 the institution was given to the Presbyterian Church which, upon encountering financial difficulties, returned the College to the original owners in 1850. Later that same year, the Mississippi Baptist Convention obtained the College and began operation through a Board of Trustees.
In 1850 the Female Department was discontinued; and in 1853 a Central Female Institute, later renamed Hillman College, was established in Clinton. In 1942 Mississippi College purchased and absorbed Hillman College, and the institution was again coeducational.
The Civil War Years
Mississippi College suffered grievously during the Civil War. Its endowment was destroyed, its student body disbanded, and its physical plant allowed to deteriorate. The post Civil War period was one of heart-breaking effort on the part of Baptists and educational leaders to restore the College to its former position of leadership. Enrollments were low; the income of the College was limited. The group of dedicated faculty members who appreciated the value of Christian education labored steadily and courageously to overcome the handicaps. Under the leadership of Dr. Warren S. Webb (1873-1891), the College was restored to a position of stability. During the administration of Dr. W. T. Lowrey, a substantial beginning was made in the accumulation of an endowment fund and the development of physical plant. Dr. J. W. Provine’s administration was an unusually fruitful period. The former Provine Hall (now destroyed), Lowrey Hall (the former library, now renovated as the education building), Alumni Hall, Farr-Hall Hospital, Jennings Hall, Ratliff Hall, and Chrestman Hall were constructed. The endowment was increased to more than $500,000, and the enrollment reached 400 during his presidency.
During the 25-year period of Dr. D. M. Nelson’s administration, the College withstood the ravages of the great depression and emerged a stronger institution. The admission of women and the end of World War II brought about a rapid increase in enrollment and forced expansion of the physical plant. Nelson Hall — the administration, auditorium, and classroom building — was erected; Lowrey Hall was enlarged; Hederman-Gunter and Mary Nelson residence halls for women were erected; and Ratliff Hall, men’s residence hall, was improved by the addition of two wings.
The College continued to grow under the administration of Dr. R. A. McLemore. Enrollments grew and plant additions during his eleven-year administration included the Leland Speed Library, Aven Fine Arts Building, the B. C. Rogers Student Center, Hederman Science Building, Latimer-Webb Residence Hall, Whittington Residence Hall, Self Hall, and Hendrick House (President’s home). The old cafeteria was converted into a women’s gym; the Old Chapel (now Provine Chapel) was restored; Ratliff and Chrestman Residence Halls were renovated; and a program of campus improvement was begun.
Dr. Lewis Nobles’ administration, which began in July 1968, saw continued growth in the areas of enrollment and quantity and quality of faculty, resulting in improvement of instruction, curriculum expansion, library accessions, and plant improvements. In the spring of 1975 students began use of the addition to the library and the electronic media center. Constructed from funds raised during the 1972-75 Commitment Campaign, this was the first of three proposed facilities. Other construction included the Cockroft Hall for the School of Nursing and Department of Home Economics and the A. E. Wood Coliseum, a multi-purpose building. The Law School building in downtown Jackson was remodeled and was occupied by the School of Law in January of 1981. The James Moody Adams Field House was dedicated in October of 1983. Latimer House, a Victorian home steeped in Mississippi College history, was dedicated in October of 1991.
With the resignation of Dr. Nobles on August 3, 1993, Dr. Rory Lee, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, was named Acting President. In July of 1994, Dr. Howell W. Todd came as the new President of Mississippi College.
Preparing for the 21st Century
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 to maintain and replicate the architectural character of the Mississippi College campus. Renovations and remodeling of Latimer-Webb, Mary Nelson, and Whittington residence halls were completed. Nelson Hall and Alumni Hall were renovated. Self, Farr, and Aven halls also received renovations. In addition to renovations, the Foreign Language Learning Center, a multi-media language lab, was added to Jennings Hall, and state-of-the-art soundproof music practice rooms were installed in Aven Hall. New construction included men’s and women’s residence halls, a 106,000 square foot health facility, and a math, computer science and chemistry complex. A campus-wide computer network, MCNET, was installed to offer access to the Internet and act as a communication link for all administration, faculty, staff and students. In 2002, MC successfully completed a $100 million capital campaign entitled “New Dawn” launched in 1996, the largest campaign in the school’s history. Through these physical, financial and technological advances, Mississippi College can continue its legacy of academic excellence and Christian witness while offering the best of the total university experience.
Growing the Vision
In June 2001, Dr. Howell Todd retired as president of the university after serving seven years. The Board of Trustees named Dr. Lloyd Roberts, Vice President for Business Affairs and Professor of Management, to serve as Interim President from July 2001 until June 30, 2002. Dr. Lee G. Royce became the 19th president of Mississippi College on July 1, 2002.
During Dr. Royce’s presidency, the university has greatly expanded the program for international students, established the Mississippi College Foundation Board, and instituted a successful accelerated degree program for working adults. Mississippi College enrollment has climbed steadily, growing from 3,227 students when Dr. Royce arrived as the school’s leader eight years ago to 4,887 students last fall to the current 5,000-plus. MC's enrollment now includes working adults, international students from 30 countries, and the highest number of graduate students in the college's history. Enrollment by freshmen and transfer students has also increased, and enrollment in the Mississippi College School of Law is at an all-time high. Mississippi College received a high ranking in the U.S. News & World Report 2011 survey of the nation’s colleges. MC was ranked ninth among Southern regional universities in the “Best Colleges, Best Values” category.
Dr. Royce is leading Mississippi College’s “Growing the Vision” campaign that is raising funds to support scholarships, academic programs, the university’s endowment, and capital enhancements to the MC campus. The five-year $80 million campaign will conclude in fall of 2011.
Projects completed through “Growing the Vision” include the construction of the spacious Samuel Marshall Gore Galleries, renovations and additions to MC's Hannah Food Court, Watson cross country complex, Williams Recital Hall, Lundy Moot Court Room, Cross Boardroom, and Dowdle Reception Room, and enhanced campus landscaping. The campaign provided a renovated auditorium, modernized classrooms, and state-of-the art equipment for Self Hall, the home of the MC School of Business, as well as a makeover for the Leland Speed Library that included upgraded seating areas, small group study rooms, and a new coffee shop. “Growing the Vision” provided enhancements to Cockcroft Hall, home of the School of Nursing and Department of Kinesiology, and contributed to facilities under construction for MC’s new physician assistant program, the only one of its kind in Mississippi. The university expanded its boundaries with the purchase of the old Clinton Junior High School property, now known as the East Campus, fronting Clinton Parkway and College Street in downtown Clinton. Facilities at the Mississippi College School of Law have also been expanded and renovated with a new classroom building, student center, and library. Primarily serving adults in metro Jackson, the Flowood Center opened in August 2010.
Mississippi College continues to enjoy steady enrollment growth, is seeing the revitalization of its facilities and receiving strong financial support during the administration of President Lee G. Royce.