Faculty, Staff, Students Reflect on MC’s Past, Anticipate University’s Future During Founder’s Day
When it comes to Founder’s Day celebrations, most historians would agree with Maya Angelou: “You can’t really know where you are going,” the revered author, poet, and civil rights activist said, “until you know where you have been.”
Patrick Connelly is no exception.
The associate professor and chair of history and political science at Mississippi College said the Christian University’s founding, celebrated on the fourth Tuesday of every January, provides an optimum time for anticipation and reflection.
“Founder’s Day is a great opportunity to think how the past, present, and future are interconnected,” Connelly said. “We can celebrate the mission of Mississippi College, think about how far we’ve come, and envision where we aspire to go – and grow.
“Founder’s Day provides an opportunity to express gratitude for how Mississippi College – through adversity, resilience, successes, and failures – has persevered and flourished. Students have been preparing to live out their callings for almost 200 years.”
Among them is Coulter Clement, a senior marketing major from Water Valley, who has participated in several Founder’s Day celebrations at MC. He particularly enjoys the complimentary birthday cake decorated in blue and gold icing from Meme’s Brickstreet Bakery and piping hot cups of a unique vlend of java from the BeanFruit Coffee Company owned by Paul Bonds, an MC alum.
“Life at MC can always seem busy, so it’s crucial that we take a moment to stop and reflect on all that the Lord has done through the years at Mississippi College,” said Clement, who participated in a video to wish “Happy Birthday” to the Christian University. “By recognizing and celebrating our founding, we are slowing down from the busy day-to-day to be grateful for this wonderful University that the Lord has let us be a part of.”
Following a brief video during chapel services in Swor Auditorium to acknowledge Mississippi College’s founding 198 years ago, MC faculty, staff, and students will gather in the Alumni Hall Commons on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to acknowledge the day in 1826 when the Mississippi Legislature passed the act establishing Hampstead Academy on five acres of land in Hinds County.
In addition to coffee and cake, birthday hats and stickers will be handed out; Tushka, MC’s new on-field personality, will make an appearance; and all attendees will be invited to participate in some exciting games.
The celebration is an unabashed effort to let the world know that the oldest institution of higher learning in the state and the second-oldest Baptist-affiliated college in the country is marking another successful year.
In 1827, Hampstead Academy was renamed Mississippi Academy, and in 1830, the institution was ultimately renamed Mississippi College. The first co-educational college in America to grant degrees to women, MC became affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 1850.
In 1853, the Central Baptist Association opened the Central Female Institute, renamed Hillman College in 1891. MC and Hillman College maintained a cooperative academic relationship, sharing faculty and resources, until the two institutions merged in 1942.
The Christian University known for academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ has grown to offer more than 80 undergraduate majors, more than 50 graduate areas of study, three doctoral programs, a law school, and one of the state’s leading physician assistant programs. According to Connelly, that growth wasn’t always easy.
“The onset of the Second World War presented a unique challenge to institutional viability, given how many students served in the war,” Connelly said. “The key to survival and flourishing was the acquisition of Hillman College, which made MC a coeducational institution, and that MC was selected as one of the colleges to host a V-12 Navy officer training program, which brought an infusion of students to campus from 1943 to 1945.
“The Civil Rights Era was also a challenging time for Mississippi College, Our mission provides the resources for reflection, repentance, and redemption as we face difficult chapters in our shared history. We can lament previous failures, implement and appreciate positive changes, and renew an ongoing commitment to serving all of our students.”
At times, Connelly incorporates MC’s history into his classes on topics ranging from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.
“One fun example is HIS 360 Historical Methods, in which students work with Heather Moore in the MC Archives to produce a public display on aspects of MC’s history,” he said. “These tri-fold presentations are on display during Homecoming Weekend for alumni to see.
“Students have fun digging into MC’s history. For example, topics have included the history of clubs and tribes, dating and fashion in different eras, and discovering that MC’s football team played games in Mexico.”
Not all universities celebrate their Founder’s Day, but MC’s celebration helps remind faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding community how important the institution’s history and heritage are as it continues moving forward to its bicentennial in 2026.
Clement is proud of his role in the University’s story and pleased that MC acknowledges its past.
“Taking time to mark the occasion for students is important because it helps us focus on the wonderful place where we get to be students,” he said. “Mississippi College is a special place, and by celebrating Founder’s Day, we are able to remember how blessed we are to attend and all the Lord has used the University for throughout the years.”