Alumni Board Hears from MC President, Transitions to New Leader During Convocation Day Meeting
Progress, growth, and change were on the agenda when the Mississippi College National Alumni Board met in Alumni Hall Aug. 19 following MC’s Faculty and Staff Convocation.
Board members learned about the Student Government Association’s plans for the 2022-23 academic session, the University’s partnership with the City of Clinton and local investors to create mixed-use retail, restaurant, and residential space between Interstate 20 and Highway 80, and renovations to the Latimer House, a beloved campus gathering place for generations that will soon house community meeting rooms and offices for the MC Foundation.
They concluded the meeting by acknowledging leadership changes within their membership. Clay Mansell ’99 of Clinton, Alumni Board president, figuratively passed the gavel to Donna S. Sharp ’78 of Gulfport, Alumni Board president-elect, who will preside over the Board’s next meeting during MC’s Homecoming. The group also recognized Aaron Lacey ’09 ’13, for his service. Lacey is rotating off the Board, but will be eligible to rejoin the group after one year.
“I think we accomplished some great things,” Mansell said. “I want to brag on the officers. They worked really hard, even before my year (as president) started, to update the bylaws. It’s important for this board – and for any group – to operate how the bylaws are written.
“I appreciate your service, and I’m looking forward to Homecoming and celebrating with you.”
Sharp said it was an honor to serve “this incredible group of people that love MC.”
“MC is a bright light in the world of higher institutions,” Sharp said. “It’s an institution that not only teaches students how to make a living, but how to have a life, and points them to the Giver of Life, and the One they need to serve with their life. I want us to remember that all that we do, we should do to the glory of God, and our ultimate goal is to enable MC to bring glory to God. Let’s keep that at the top of our minds as we serve.
“I’m looking forward to working with everyone next year as we help MC move forward and grow.”
The MC National Alumni Board serves to enhance the overall strategic direction of the University’s Alumni Association.
Fresh off delivering the Convocation message and bestowing emeritus status to four longtime faculty members – Dr. Tommy Leavelle, Dr. J. Larry Lee, Charlotte McMath, and Dr. Bill Stark – Dr. Blake Thompson, MC president, informed the Board about the University’s partnership with the City of Clinton and local investors in the mixed-use development project.
“It has accelerated beyond our dreams,” Thompson said. “What we thought was going to be a groundbreaking and dirt-moving sometime by the end of the calendar year turned into groundbreaking and dirt-moving by the end of the summer.”
He said that after having met the challenges of a worldwide pandemic, the University has emerged in a position of strength.
“We have come through a difficult, challenging couple of years, and we’ve made it stronger together, and I’m excited for us to go forward. You are all part of that. You have new plans, new board members, and new structures. I need you to come alongside me and take advantage of this moment.
“We have real, genuine momentum, and it’s time to keep moving forward.”
Turning to MC’s Bicentennial in 2026, Thompson said the University has already begun preparing for the momentous occasion.
“As part of our Bicentennial Campaign, we will have definite needs from this group in a leadership role,” he said.
Katrina Pace ‘93, executive director of the Mississippi College Foundation, explained how the development office will be preparing for the University’s Bicentennial.
“We started 12 months ago getting our staff in place,” Pace said. “We’re putting all the building blocks together for a Bicentennial Campaign. We’re excited, and we’ve got a staff that’s getting ramped up. I hope we can do this as a big group effort.”
Pace provided details about the Foundation’s move to the Latimer House, scheduled to be completed this fall, and shared a personal story about her father, Ralph Taylor, a longtime music professor at MC. While he was a student at Mississippi College, Taylor once rented an upstairs room in the Latimer House that will soon serve as his daughter’s new office.
She said renovations downstairs will offer traditional community space for luncheons, board meetings, or bridal showers, ensuring the beloved Queen Anne-style structure will remain a cherished meeting place for years to come.
“It’s different than it was the last time you were in there,” she told the Board members. “It’s a great place, it’s multifunctional, and it’s absolutely beautiful. We’ll have a little more elbow room in our new home, and we’re happy to be moving.”
Thompson said the classic furniture in the Latimer House had been presented to Dr. Carmen Hawkins Walters, president of Tougaloo College, for a Victorian-era mansion being restored on her campus.
“The furniture fits the décor of the Tougaloo mansion,” he said. “It’s a great story between these two institutions.”
He said the MC Foundation also plans to add a staff member who will interact with Mississippi College School of Law alumni.
“We have a real desire to reach out to our MC Law alums,” Thompson said. “We want to make the law school a cornerstone piece of our campaign.”
Rachel Smith, Student Government Association president, provided an overview of SGA activities for the upcoming academic year. Chief among them are to guide the student Executive Council to focus on three imperative goals: outreach, community, and reconstruction.
Smith said she intends for the SGA to proactively engage with students and learn more about their needs and how to make a place for them within the organization.
To broaden its outreach, she said the SGA plans to enhance its social media presence, post a weekly forum for students to engage with the organization, make its officers more publicly accessible, and post frequent updates about its projects and initiatives.
“Most importantly, our outreach will look like us engaging with our community,” she said. “Community is the foundation that has made MC home to its students. However, many of us can attest to the severe decline in a sense of community at MC since the beginning of the pandemic.
“My freshman class is the last class to experience Mississippi College prior to Covid, and I feel very moved to keep that sense of community that’s so strong at MC for our students. For the incoming freshmen, I believe this desire of mine is visibly needed.”
Among the SGA’s community-building initiatives are outdoor projects to encourage students to gather with one another, and efforts to have students not in social clubs and tribes participate in major school events.
Smith said the organization will focus on efficiency and productivity within the SGA. The 2022-23 Executive Council will revise its constitution to implement a sexual assault prevention awareness associate to the student legislature, including the MC Office of Student Counseling and Disabilities within the student senate committee’s jurisdiction to communicate student mental health needs to administrators and incorporate a new mission statement.
Dr. Jim Turcotte ‘83, executive director of the MC Alumni Association, praised each member of MC’s Alumni Office for staying abreast of the association’s 46,000-plus members. At the request of the MC Infinity Groups, Turcotte said his team is close to finalizing contact information for everyone who has ever served as an SGA officer at Mississippi College and will soon do the same for all members of the MC Hall of Fame and Founders.
“The more we get this information in shape, the more we can focus on people who have the most likelihood of being on the Alumni Board and contributing and being part of what we’re doing here,” Turcotte said.
He told the Alumni Board about efforts to reinvigorate the M Club under Kenny Bizot ’93, MC athletic director, and his own goal to reorganize the MC Sports Hall of Fame. He also discussed the potential for developing an MC Medical-Dental Alumni Association base in Grenada – a hotbed for a number of alumni in the health care professions – and activating similar alumni groups in other strategic Mississippi cities, such as Tupelo, Hattiesburg, and Meridian.
Chad Phillips, ’93, ’98, touched on the Alumni Association’s plans for Homecoming, including moving the 50 Year Club’s induction ceremony to the fall. The MC Class of 1972 will be celebrated in combination with the traditional Decade of the Seventies party in Alumni Hall.
Mainstay events will return, including the annual Homecoming Golf Tournament at Patrick Farms on Friday afternoon, the Coach “Hap” Hudson Homecoming 5K Run through historic downtown Clinton on Saturday morning, followed by the Homecoming Brunch in Anderson Hall, where distinguished alumni will be honored. This year’s award winners include: Jane Hederman ’67, Alumna of the Year; Ezekiel Andrew McCall ’11, Young Alumnus of the Year; Chief Cyrus Ben ’01 and Stephanie “Joy” Dowdle ’02, Order of the Golden Arrow; John and Mary Brock III, Award of Excellence; and Dr. J. Mark Reed ’85 and Dr. Harry V. Phillips III ’85, Award of Service.
Phillips said this year’s Homecoming theme, “Blue and Gold Forever Rising,” will be punctuated by “Reunion Row” tailgating in the Quad, a line of tents that will greet members of each participating MC class. A section of the Quad will be reserved for the “Parent Family Network” – almost 750 parents of current MC students from Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas have signed up to participate.
“We’re encouraging everyone to tailgate,” Phillips said. “That’s where you can see your former classmates and your professors. It’s a big, fun event.”
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