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Mississippi College

MC President Lee Royce Wins Higher Education Award

January 30, 2014

Mississippi College President Lee Royce will be the recipient of a major award from one of America’s premier higher education organizations.

Officials with the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education’s District III will present the region’s executive leadership award to Dr. Royce at their annual conference in Orlando on February 18.

In its eight-state Southeast region, the honor goes to campus leaders creating a vision for their institution, inspiring others, and encouraging innovation and risk-taking among employees. The award recognizes college executives supporting all aspects of fund-raising, and creating a positive image of their school. In addition, they work hard to ensure institutional outcomes with a reasonably high level of success, CASE officials say.

One of the world’s largest non-profit educational associations, CASE membership includes professionals in communications, fund-raising, marketing, and alumni relations at more than 3,600 colleges and universities. District III includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Founded in 1974, CASE is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

MC’s leader for nearly a dozen years, Dr. Royce is in solid company in the Southeast. Last year’s award recipient was Michael Adams, president of the University of Georgia. Previous winners have come from such institutions as the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Mercer, Tulane and Wake Forest.

“I was certainly surprised and amazed to be given this award,” Royce said at his Nelson Hall office on Thursday. “To be added to the list of previous award recipients is quite an honor.”

Mississippi College, Royce said, “continues to experience great success in many dimensions of its mission, due in great measure to the exceptional work of faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the university. It remains a joy to play a part in this good work. I accept this recognition for all of us at Mississippi College.”

Accomplishments during the Royce era include completion of Mississippi College’s five-year Growing the Vision Campaign in 2011. The fund drive raised $87.4 million for academic programs, scholarships, facilities, and the school’s endowment.

During his tenure, MC has reduced long-term debt by 89 percent, seen its enrollment grow from 3,200 students to more than 5,000, and reported a 69 percent increase in the school budget now exceeding $70 million. The university has enjoyed a construction renaissance on the Clinton campus and at the MC School of Law in Jackson. Now in its 188th academic year, MC has added 42 full-time faculty since Royce took office in 2002.

“In addition to all these wonderful things Dr. Royce has lead Mississippi College to do, he has never lost sight of our mission and our commitment to the cause of Christ,” said Graduate School Dean Debbie Norris. “He regularly makes that commitment MC’s focus.”

For years, Dr. Royce has been active in United Way campaigns on campus to support needs in metro Jackson and solidified partnerships with community leaders in MC’s hometown in Clinton.

The award is a significant accomplishment, but students say they are more impressed with Dr. Royce as a down to earth leader who easily converses with them at lunch in the cafeteria, at athletic events at concerts and along the Quad.

“Dr. Royce can come up to any student and call him by his name,” said MC junior Will Hedgepeth, 20, of Clinton. “He’s just so personable. You feel he’s on your side.”

Mississippi College colleagues say the national award for President Royce is no surprise.

“Lee Royce is a remarkable leader who knows how to create a compelling institutional vision and then inspire faculty, staff and students to unite behind manifold efforts to turn that vision into reality,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Howard. “He leads by doing and gives his all to assisting others in applying their talents to the task at hand.”

The former president at Anderson University in South Carolina, the Miami, Florida native is “a man of both faith and reason who’s taken MC to new levels of academic achievement and Christian commitment,” Howard added.

Royce and his wife, Rhoda, have done so much to lift up America’s second oldest Baptist college, school supporters say. Rhoda Royce has taught business communication classes at MC and has been a loyal volunteer at the university’s tutoring center for Clinton children.

Ridgeland attorney Andy Taggart, who’s served two terms on the Christian university’s board of trustees, says he’s “thrilled, but not surprised” to hear that Royce’s counterparts are saluting him.

As a board member at the Baptist-affiliated university in Clinton, Taggart says he’s closely observed Royce’s vision, leadership style, work ethic and drive to succeed.

“MC is a great university for many reasons,” Taggart said. “We should all be very gratified that those whose profession is higher education realize that Dr. Lee Royce is one central reason that we are where we are at this time in our history.”

In recent months, Royce has joined MC supporters with their successful push to return to NCAA Division II status and the Gulf South Conference. Starting this fall, MC Choctaws athletic teams will face former GSC rivals like Delta State, Valdosta State, North Alabama, and West Alabama. New facilities at MC have included a 22,000 square-foot medical sciences building, a campus bookstore and parking garage with work on residence halls for 189 students to begin later this year.

While in Orlando for the CASE conference, Royce will attend a February 18 evening reception for MC alumni, and prospective students.

Photo: Mississippi College President Lee Royce