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President Lee Royce Addresses MC Founder’s Day

MC President Lee Royce

Mississippi College leaders will salute the Christian university’s anniversary at its Founder’s Day celebration.

President Lee Royce will serve as the keynote speaker at the special January 23 program before hundreds of students.

The event that Tuesday is scheduled at an MC chapel program at First Baptist Church Clinton. Following his remarks, students, faculty and staff are invited to the school cafeteria to enjoy a Blue & Gold MC birthday cake along with cups of coffee.

The 192-year-old university was founded in 1826 as Hampstead Academy. That year, the state Legislature issued a charter to the academy on five acres of land in rural Central Mississippi near the Mount Salus community. When the school opened in January 1827, it was known as Mississippi Academy.

Mississippi College became affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 1850 and kept its doors open despite the Civil War and later the Great Depression. MC experienced an enrollment boom following World War II as many ex-soldiers returned home to get an education under the G.I. Bill.

Mississippi College officials are already starting to talk about the school’s 200th birthday in 2026.

It should be the final time that Dr. Royce addresses the university’s Founder’s Day program. The Vanderbilt University graduate is retiring in May after providing 16 years of splendid service to America’s second oldest Baptist college. Under his tenure, MC enrollment grew from 3,200 students to nearly 5,200 students today. The university’s budget has almost doubled to $75.5 million, and the campus has enjoyed a tremendous upgrade of its facilities in Clinton and at MC Law School in Jackson.

MC officials are presently conducting a national search for a successor to Dr. Royce. Brookhaven banker Bill Sones is chairing the Board of Trustees’ search committee. He is working with officials of the Washington-based AGB Search firm and distinguished American higher education leader Paul Corts. He’s the former president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The Faculty Senate president and chair of the university’s Foundation Board are also assisting.

The MC president and his wife, Rhoda, are part of Team Royce that’s provided awesome leadership to Mississippi College since 2002, said Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Howard.

The university’s gains are reflected in national publications that evaluate the institution’s academic strengths, the quality of its faculty, graduation rates and costs. In September 2018, “U.S. News & World Report” rated Mississippi College as the 12th Best Value school among the South’s leading regional universities.