Mississippi College Celebrates President Blake Thompson as New Leader on Inauguration Day
Creating an Honors College on the Clinton campus, and expansion of international programs far from home are major initiatives President Blake Thompson announced during his inauguration address.
Speaking to 1,400 Mississippi College supporters during March 29 ceremonies on the Quad, MC’s 20th president pressed for significant changes to strengthen the Christian university for decades to come.
The twin proposals will advance Dr. Thompson’s strong embrace of MC’s vision statement “to be recognized as a university known for academic excellence and a commitment to the cause of Christ.”
President Emeritus Lee Royce, who served the Baptist-affiliated university with distinction for 16 years, first developed the vision statement and fervently spread its message to MC’s family.
Dr. Thompson effectively carried the torch for it since arriving on July 1. It’s not just a tagline, he says. “It’s the core of who we are, who our students are, and who our faculty members are,” the Mississippian says in a cover story in “Beacon,” the university’s alumni magazine.
The Rienzi, Mississippi native skillfully communicates the same message in his own words. The 44-year-old leader from Alcorn County often emphasizes the institution’s core values of “head, heart and hands,” including greater service globally to mankind.
On a stage near Nelson Hall, Thompson commended Mississippi businessman J.L. Holloway for his generous gift to launch the Honors College beginning this Fall. Fourteen of its future students were introduced to an appreciative inauguration audience. The president sees positives of an enriched academic experience for these entering freshmen starting in late August.
“I can’t wait to see how you change the world,” Dr. Thompson told the students as Gov. Phil Bryant joined other dignitaries and university supporters looking on. The energetic student-oriented leader believes an Honors College undergraduate will make history as MC’s first Rhodes Scholar. The prestigious international postgraduate award at Oxford University in England dates back to 1902.
The new Honors College, Thompson said, will help Mississippi College attract outstanding students across the USA with classes taught by a talented group of professors.
Ridge Futral, 18, a Madison Ridgeland Academy senior and Patriots football player, will be among the new crop of Honors College students. “This is exciting and very gratifying,” said his father, pastor Rob Futral, a Mississippi College graduate who will lead Pathway Church in Redlands, California starting August 1. His son plans to major in biochemistry and join the Choctaws football team.
As his image was captured on large video screens, Dr. Thompson spoke of other notable priorities as chief executive of the 193-year-old Christ-centered institution.
America’s second oldest Baptist college will benefit with a new Edward McMillan Center for Education Abroad. The comprehensive international study program will be led by Spanish and linguistics professor Beth Stapleton. It is named for a Blue & Gold icon, the late MC professor Edward McMillan, a 1950 graduate. The former dean of graduate studies, Dr. McMillan established the London Semester Abroad program in 1990. MC started a $2 million campaign to fund the program’s launch through 2020. Thompson and colleagues say study abroad programs deepen one’s faith.
MC’s faith in the leadership of Dr. Blake Thompson runs deep.
Inauguration speakers such as Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, the Hon. Regina B. Schofield, a leader with Battelle, a research giant in Washington, and David Williams, College of Engineering dean at The Ohio State University, saluted his people skills. Thompson is “the president of an outstanding college,” who brings “great humor and high integrity” to the job, Keenum said. “He’s a hard worker.”
They join Mississippi Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer Jim Futral, who sees much more success ahead for President Blake Thompson with support from the state’s churches. “We will continue to send money,” Futral said.
Wrapping up inauguration activities from worship services to a dinner-concert on Clinton’s Brick Streets and community service projects in metro Jackson, Dr. Thompson, his wife, Jana, and their three children (daughters Sarah Blake & Cate and son Grey) enjoyed the week’s celebration.
A vice president for nine years at Ohio State before returning home to the Magnolia State, Dr. Thompson thanked the inauguration speakers for their kind words. He feels blessed to be leading Mississippi College as the school approaches its 200th anniversary in 2026. “God has honored Mississippi College for almost two centuries,” Thompson told his audience on a picture-perfect Spring afternoon.
An avid fan of Tupelo-bred Rock n Roll legend Elvis Presley as well as the delicious taste of barbecue, Dr. Thompson remains a hit with MC students. As inauguration ceremonies drew to a close, hundreds of students crowded below the stage to pray for President Blake Thompson and Mississippi College.