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Mississippi College

Mississippi Business Leader Robert H. Watson Receives Honorary Degree

July 11, 2013

A prominent businessman and strong supporter of Mississippi College, Robert H. Watson will receive an honorary degree at the Christian university’s summer commencement.

During the August 3 graduation, MC leaders will award the honorary Doctor of Business Administration as a tribute to the president of Watson Quality Ford and former Mississippi College trustee. The Madison County resident completed his five-year term on the university’s board in 2012.

“Robert Watson has given generously of his time and his resources in advancing the future of this venerable institution in ways both small and great,” said Ron Howard, vice president for academic affairs. “His commitment to our students and to the sustainability of Mississippi College is nothing less than exemplary. He certainly deserves the recognition.”

Since becoming president and general manager of the family owned business in 1988, Watson Quality Ford has grown to be listed among the largest 45 Ford dealerships in America. Born in 1957 in New Orleans, Robert Watson moved to Jackson when the dealership first opened to assist his father, Wild Bill Watson.

Over the years, Robert Watson has remained dedicated to providing excellent care and service to his customers and that commitment is evident in his life’s activities away from the dealership in Mississippi’s capital city.

He’s provided enormous leadership and financial support to Mississippi College in a variety of ways. He’s served on the board’s development committee, and on the institution’s Growing the Vision Steering Committee. He’s been a major contributor to help upgrade athletic facilities at the Baptist-affiliated university that is home to 15 NCAA sports.

Watson is a founding member of MC’s Circle of Champions that’s supported major renovations to the entrance to Robinson-Hale Stadium, extensive improvements to the A.E. Wood Coliseum, and upgrades to the cross-country course at Choctaw Trails. The Watson Cross County Course at Choctaw Trails is named in his honor. The Watson Cross Country Invitational in Clinton remains one of the biggest competitions of its type in the South.

In addition, the Mississippian continues to be a key supporter of the university’s annual golf fundraiser, and the school’s athletic banquet. He’s provided substantial gifts to enhance Mississippi College’s new track and turf football field at the Choctaws’ football stadium.

Devotion to family, love of God and community service are high priorities. Active members of First Baptist Church in Madison, Watson and his wife, Rebecca, are the parents of two sons. Their oldest, Robbie, works at Watson Quality Ford, while their youngest, Matt, has completed his studies at MC’s Graduate School. Robert Watson serves on the church’s Finance Committee and the Church Council.

He recently completed his term as chairman of the Mid-South Ford Dealer Advertising Fund that oversees marketing expenditures of $22 million. The businessman serves on the Mississippi Motor Vehicle Commission, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau.

Watson attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana from 1976 to 1978, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he competed as a pole vaulter. The experience heighted his interest in sports and assisting student-athletes. Robert Watson earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1980.

In recent years, Mississippi College leaders granted honorary degrees to a select number of individuals, including retired MC art professor Kenneth Quinn, federal Judge Henry T. Wingate, and Mary Libby Payne, the first dean at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson.

Watson, who has provided distinguished service to MC on its Board of Trustees and through other activities on the Clinton campus, is in good company with the honorary degree.

“This is an undeserved honor that speaks volumes about the commitment of Mississippi College pursuant to their cause to (serve) Christ,” Watson said.

Photo: Robert H. Watson, former Mississippi College trustee