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Clinton Community and Mississippi College Family Honor Lee and Rhoda Royce

Clinton community leaders will soon join Mississippi College supporters saluting President Lee Royce and his wife, Rhoda.

After 16 splendid years of service at the Baptist-affiliated university and a deep love for their hometown of Clinton, the Royces are retiring in May. The tribute is set for April 15 at First Baptist Church Clinton. Ceremonies in the sanctuary begin that Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

The Mississippi College Singers will supply the music. Following the program, there will be a reception at the church Fellowship Hall from 3:40 p.m. until 5:15 p.m. The public is invited.

“The leadership of President Lee Royce and First Lady Rhoda Royce brought great energy and enthusiasm with them to Mississippi College,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Howard. “They reinvigorated the university in countless ways.”

Enrollment grew steadily from 3,200 MC students to nearly 5,200 students today. A construction renaissance teamed with strong financial support to see the MC annual budget nearly double to $75.5 million. New academic initiatives, such as the state’s first physician assistant program, along with a return for Choctaws athletics to NCAA Division II, are a few of the hallmarks of his administration. At the same time, MC’s reputation achieved solid rankings in publications such as “U.S. News & World Report.”

Team Royce deserves much of the credit at America’s 2nd oldest Baptist college, school leaders say. “Their example of Christian caring has been an inspiration to the college family and those in the church and community who have worked with them,” Howard said. “The Royces have made us better people along with the strengthening the university and the community.”

MC faculty, staff, alumni and Clinton officials will be part of the April 15 celebration. President Royce took office at the Clinton-based university in 2002. He served as president of Anderson University in South Carolina for seven years before leading the Blue & Gold family in the Magnolia State. Remarkable facilities expansion occurred including the university’s Medical Sciences Building and at the MC Law School in Jackson.

Rhoda Royce faithfully tutored local children for a decade at a nearby Clinton apartment complex. She also served as a business communications instructor on the Clinton campus.

The Royces hosted numerous receptions at their residence for many MC constituents and university guests. They will move to Northern Virginia to be closer to their son, Mark Royce, a political science professor at George Mason University and NOVA Community College.

“The impact they’ve had on Clinton could never be measured,” said MC graduate Clay Mansell, publisher/editor of “The Clinton Courier,” and other Mississippi newspapers. “They will have a lasting effect on Clinton for many decades to come.”

When Dr. Royce and Mrs. Royce first arrived in 2002, “they quickly made our community their own,” noted Steve Stanford, vice president for administration and government affairs.

The Royces were fixtures at many community, church and MC events. They did much to enhance the “town and gown relationship,” added Stanford, a former Clinton Chamber of Commerce president.

Once named Clinton’s Citizen of the Year, President Royce strengthened the Christian university’s partnerships with Clinton schools, businesses, local government, and other key community components.

Lee and Rhoda Royce remained gracious hosts to all university stakeholders, including students. “They have been focused and interested in each and every student they met,” said Melanie Fortenberry, director of MC’s health services administration program. “I appreciate their leadership and service.”

The Royces are held in high regard among Baptists in Mississippi and across the USA.

“They are both genuine, have a passion for Mississippi College, for our students, our faculty, and most importantly for keeping their hearts and focus on Christ,” said accounting professor Billy Morehead. A former Education Commission member of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, he worked closely with Lee and Rhoda Royce. Both Mississippians “helped make remarkable strides in the integrity and accountability of Christian higher education to Mississippi Baptists.”