Mississippi College

Showcasing the Mississippi College-Clinton Partnership

August 25, 2014

For nearly two centuries, Mississippi College’s partnership with Clinton has stayed strong.

Historian Walter Howell detailed those ties from the school’s founding as Hampstead Academy in 1826 through 2014 as a growing private university with over 5,000 students.

The keynote speaker at MC’s faculty/staff convocation on Friday, Howell noted the college nearly moved 100 miles away to Meridian back in the 1890s.

Many of the hundreds of people in audience at Swor Auditorium weren’t aware of that interesting chapter in Mississippi College history.

Clinton leaders, who typically were Mississippi College administrators and professors back then, successfully battled a proposal pushed by Meridian officials, Howell said.

He should know. The former Mississippi College professor is writing a book on Clinton history that will be published this fall. There were a couple of attempts, but the plan to bring the Baptist-affiliated college to the bustling city in Lauderdale County never materialized.

The mayor in his hometown from 1981 through 1985, Howell began working on his book four years ago. He quickly discovered the history of Clinton and Mississippi College is closely connected. “The stories are so intertwined.”

Today, those ties are even tighter. Located along College Street and U.S. 80, Mississippi College is showcasing its partnership with Clinton with several special events as the 2014-15 academic year begins.

“Mississippi College Celebrates Clinton – Town and Gown Since 1826” is the name of the initiative that’s got the blessing of MC President Lee Royce and Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher, among others.

MC graduate Lorin McAlpin of Magee designed the attractive logo on the new banners appearing around the Clinton campus and throughout the city. A graphic arts major, Lorin received a round of applause Friday for her work.

Town and gown relationships have grown together, Royce told the audience. “They have blossomed as a result of partnerships since 1826.”

This fall, the Thornton Wilder play “Our Town” is set for production on the Clinton campus to spotlight the partnership. In addition, a special Messiah sing-along is planned for the Christmas season. Various community service projects and a mural to salute the city are also in the planning stages. The event-driven campaign comes to an end with Clinton’s July 4th celebration in 2015.

A Mississippi College alumnus, Howell is passionate about his work on the Clinton book and its examination of town/gown relations. “The partnership today is as vital as it ever was.”

MC has stepped things up to promote Olde Towne Clinton, the city’s historic business district of quaint shops and restaurants. Mississippi College two years ago located its bookstore and Pimento’s Café just a few steps from Olde Towne.

Welcoming Mayor Fisher and other city leaders to campus Friday was just another aspect of the MC-Clinton celebration.

Mississippi College is a mighty economic force in the city. The university makes a big impact with an annual budget exceeding $70 million, more than 500 employees and over 5,000 students.

“We rose together and need each other to prosper,” Royce told faculty and staff members.

As faculty, staff and students begin the university’s 189th academic year, they are learning much more about school history. A new display of photos, MC Choctaws jackets and other university artifacts in Nelson Hall will help tell the story. “I didn’t know we had a Navy V-12 program,” said MC senior Amelia Breitling, 21, of Pensacola, Florida.

“It’s funny looking at how they (students) dressed back then,” added the elementary education major as she observed the old photographs near the first-floor lobby. “This looks good.”

Photo: MC President Lee Royce speaks at the university's faculty/staff convocation on August 22.

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