Dr. Robert Pearigen's comments from the reception welcoming Dr. Pearigen and his wife, Phoebe. Watch Dr. Pearigen deliver his remarks.
We commemorate today the Founding of Millsaps College and we salute the three men (and, no doubt, the women who supported them) whose vision, commitment and hard work laid the foundation for an educational experience that has transformed countless lives for well over a century.
Reuben Millsaps, Charles Galloway, and William Murrah are honored as the Founders of the College. I had the opportunity recently to read about these men and their "high faith in genuine education," as described by Millsaps historian and long-time English faculty member, Marguerite Goodman. Of Major Millsaps, I learned about his romantic-realism and his belief that anything is possible as long as vision, industry, and integrity abide. Of Bishop Galloway it is said that he was singularly responsible for "moving the minds that moved the world" in the late 19th century. And of Dr. Murrah, I've read of his quiet dignity, his seriousness of purpose, and his tenderness of soul.
Woven as a thread through the thoughts and intentions of these giants in Millsaps' history was their belief in the transformative value of education and their hope for the future - the future of the college they helped found, the future of the students who would study and learn here, the future of the Methodist Church, and the future of the great State of Mississippi.
Today, as we honor the past of Millsaps College and look toward the future, as did our Founders, I am deeply humbled to be introduced as the next President of the College.
I will inherit an institution of which the Founders would be enormously proud. It is an institution known for academic excellence and pioneer thinking; for a pervasive spirit of warm relationships and compassionate service to others; for making a difference in the lives of its students and those whom they touch; and for being an exemplar of liberal arts education as the best preparation for life.
These characteristics and qualities are manifest today in multiple programs and experiences in the college, including:
At the heart of each of these programs and experiences are a brilliant, nationally-renowned faculty and an outstanding staff, dedicated to the mission and very bright future of the college.
And, all of this is built on a foundation in the Methodist Church that helps to shape in a meaningful way the culture and ethos of the college and to reinforce the values of freedom of inquiry and broad-based education in light of a Wesleyan understanding of reason and faith.
The image portrayed here is of an ideal liberal arts college experience - rooted in a bold and courageous past, nourished by inspiring teachers and devoted supporters, and growing toward an even greater, more ambitious, and more influential future.
To be sure, Millsaps faces challenges today that are formidable. We must expand our student recruitment and retention success; shore up our finances; improve our support of faculty and staff; increase the engagement of our alumni and friends; and significantly grow our endowment.
But, with careful and creative strategic planning and an unrelenting focus on excellence in teaching and learning, these are manageable challenges. And, we can address them optimistically and ambitiously because of the exceptional quality of the Millsaps experience today; the devotion and support of those who love the place; and the one hundred and twenty year tradition of being mission-driven and student-centered.
Millsaps has all the right elements in place to advance in excellence, reputation and influence, and to be a beacon of liberal arts education as preparation for a good and worthy life of learning, leadership, and service. It will be my highest privilege to work alongside the Millsaps faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends to advance the promise of this great college in the years ahead.
I'd like to conclude with a few words of thanks. First, I want to express gratitude to Maurice Hall and the Board of Trustees for this privilege and their trust, and to the presidential search committee, chaired by Trustee Tom Fowlkes, for the time and energy they invested in the process and the many kindnesses they conveyed to me along the way.
I would also like to thank Acting President Howard McMillan for his excellent stewardship of the college this year and his personal encouragement and counsel. He, along with many members of the staff and faculty, have already reached out to me in many ways, large and small, and I'm very grateful.
And, I would like to thank Frances Lucas for her dedicated service to Millsaps and her distinguished tenure as the 10th president of the College. Dr. Lucas is a highly-respected leader in American higher education, and she has left an impressive and important imprint on the College.
Finally, I want to thank my family for their support and love as we turn the page to this next chapter in our family's story. My wife Phoebe and our fourteen year-old son Wesley are very much looking forward to moving to Jackson this summer. Our 17 year-old daughter Carolyn is weighing her college options now and trying to decide where to begin her freshman year next fall. But, as a lover of history and literature and a voracious reader, I'm sure she'll find her vacation time in Mississippi much to her liking.
All the Pearigens appreciate the warm and enthusiastic reception of the Millsaps and Jackson communities, and we can't wait to begin our time at this remarkable college and in this wonderful city of Jackson.