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Family Matters: Respected Ophthalmologist, Marketing Specialist Share MC’s Young Alumni Award

Receiving the 2023 Young Alumni of the Year Award at MC will provide Suzanne and Dr. Lee Walker an opportunity to show their 10 children their alma mater and
Receiving the 2023 Young Alumni of the Year Award at MC will provide Suzanne and Dr. Lee Walker an opportunity to show their 10 children their alma mater and "celebrate what God has done in our lives."

If “Eight is Enough,” then 10 must be plentiful.

Dr. Lee ’06 and Suzanne Walker ’04 may not be featured in a popular television sitcom, but everyone who knows the Mississippi College alums marvels at their remarkable faith and lives filled with love as they deftly handle a household that includes three biological and seven adoptive children.

As founders of a foster ministry at First Baptist Church in Tupelo, Lee, a respected ophthalmologist, and Suzanne, a talented marketing professional who left full-time service to focus on their home, somehow finds time to provide aid for other children, too.

“Their Christian example is a beacon for others,” said Donna Sharp, president of the MC Alumni Board of Directors. “They are both outstanding individuals who truly live out their Christian values. They both carry the light of Christ through the testimony of their family.”

For their exemplary service to their family and the community, the Walkers have been selected by the National Alumni Association at Mississippi College as MC’s 2023 Young Alumni of the Year. Each year, the association bestows the honor to MC graduates 40 years of age or younger who have rendered distinguished service to their college, church, and community.

Mere prominence is not a criterion: the award is limited to those who, through a period of years, have worked with marked intelligence and success to promote the highest interests of Mississippi College and their home communities.

The Walkers and other outstanding MC alumni selected for major Homecoming awards in 2023 are scheduled to be recognized during the annual Alumni Association Awards Brunch from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Anderson Hall on the second floor of the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

Suzanne, who obtained her Bachelor of Science in marketing from MC in 2004, said the couple feel “incredibly honored” to be named MC’s Young Alumni of the Year.

“Mississippi College holds such a special place in our lives,” she said. “Receiving this award at Homecoming gives us a unique opportunity to show our children an exciting part of MC, see old friends, and celebrate what God has done in our lives.

“We feel very undeserving of such an honor, but are grateful for a chance to honor God with what He has done through us.”

Lee, who received his Bachelor of Science in mathematics cum laude from MC in 2006, suggested one was worthier than the other to be recognized.

“I can think of no one more deserving than my wife,” he said. “She is an example of Jesus to our family, to our friends, to our community, and beyond. The fact that I get to piggyback on her coattails for this award is one more example of how wonderful it is to be married to her.

“We are excited to receive this award, and pray that Jesus’ name will be made greater by our receiving it.”

Their selflessness is genuine, according to those who know them best. Longtime friends like Mandy Martin, receptionist in the Department of Admissions and a 2002 MC alum, treasure their companionship and Christian influence.

“I have known the Walkers for quite a while, and I cannot say enough good things about them,” Martin said. “Lee and Suzanne are two of the kindest and most selfless people I know. Their desire to know the Lord and make much of Him spills over into all they do, whether through their work, church, community, or home.

“This award is without question well-deserved in how they represent our alma mater and the One our alma mater represents.”

Family ties brought each to Mississippi College. Lee’s parents had attended the Christian University, while Suzanne’s older sister, Robin, became a Choctaw and invited her to visit the Clinton campus. MC’s small-town setting and Christian focus appealed to them both.

Lee majored in mathematics and minored in physics while Suzanne focused on business with an emphasis on marketing, but providentially, their paths converged. Their first date was exactly 20 years ago – at MC’s Homecoming 2003.

“It was as a member of the Homecoming Committee that I had my first interaction with her,” he said. “As the place where I met my wife, Suzanne, I can give Mississippi College no higher position in my memory.”

The couple’s fondest memories of their undergraduate days together are the relationships they formed with their classmates.

“Without hesitation, the people I met are the most cherished gifts I have – not just from college, but in all of my life,” Suzanne said. “I met my husband and so many friends with whom I experienced so much life. These people cheered me on in major life decisions, encouraged my walk with Christ, and challenged me to push harder.”

Among that group were outstanding faculty members whose encouragement and guidance helped the couple chart a course for success.

“I was fortunate to have some excellent professors,” Lee said. “I consider Dr. Bill Nettles and Dr. John Travis to have been the most positive influencers of my education and my career trajectory during those formative years. It was by God’s divine hand I was privileged to sit under their teaching while at MC.

“Bryan Hayes made the marketing and advertising side of business really interesting,” Suzanne said. “Years later, I returned for graduate counseling classes that were probably the most interesting I ever had. Dr. Bill Nettles was the most creative professor, while there were several others who taught me so much about communication and relationships.”

Upon graduation, Lee was accepted into the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. While Lee earned his M.D. from UMMC, and had one year of residency training in internal medicine and three years of training in comprehensive ophthalmology, Suzanne provided support, launching her marketing career.

“The business classes I had at MC prepared me for the work I did while Lee was in medical school,” she said, “and the counseling classes were invaluable to us when we adopted our kids, several of whom had experienced trauma.”

A physician partner at the Tupelo Eye Clinic since 2016, Lee credits the training he received from MC for helping position him for success in life.

“I found Mississippi College’s reputation for strong academic programs to be completely accurate,” he said. “My time here put me in a perfect place to be ready for the next step in my education, which was to move to a medical degree. I could not have been better prepared academically.

“However, the interactions I had with people in the dorms, in church, in the Baptist Student Union, in the Reformed University Fellowship, and many other places on campus I count as more significant to my future. They were crucial in my spiritual development. MC was the tie that brought all these things together and fostered an environment rife with opportunities for spiritual growth because it brought together so many people who loved Jesus well.”

The couple retain close ties to Mississippi College. Whenever they visit Clinton, the Walkers take time to stroll through campus and visit friends on staff at the University. At Homecoming, they may have the largest pass list for the awards luncheon.

“We are planning to bring our kids, our parents, a couple of our nieces and nephews, and anybody else we can find who wants to come with us,” Lee said. “This Homecoming will be especially memorable, given that it’s the 20th anniversary of my first date with Suzanne. Revisiting some of those memories with her will be fun.”

“I can’t wait to just be back on campus with our family,” Suzanne said. “MC is such a special place with so many memories. Our children will love hearing about different events and being able to see the places where Lee and I met, studied together, and got married.”

Call it a recruiting trip for the next generation of Walker Choctaws.

“MC is the place I encourage my children to consider as they reach the age where they begin to think about life after high school,” Lee said. “I unreservedly recommend MC to any student looking for an academically focused school that views the world through a Biblical lens. Time at MC will spur you towards maturity in your walk with Jesus, push you to expand outside your comfort zone, stretch your mind academically, and help you put your best foot forward in preparation for whatever God has for you after graduation.

“Mississippi College will forever hold a special place in my heart.”

Tickets to the Homecoming Brunch cost $25 apiece, and RSVP is required. Click here to register or for more information.