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2018: The Year in Review

by Dr. Robert Pearigen on December 12, 2018

The past twelve months have been a time of turning challenges into opportunities, of discerning new ways to strengthen our community and maintain the standards that set Millsaps College apart from other institutions of higher learning.

As I reflect on the past year, one of the highest points came in the form of a letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which oversees accreditation of colleges and universities among 11 southern states. We have worked with SACSCOC over the past several years to ensure our accreditation and financial strength, and the letter we received over the summer informed us that no further monitoring or reporting would be required. I’m grateful for the efforts of Provost Keith Dunn and so many others on campus for the hard work that brought us to this point.

Our campus continues to be transformed by the renovations to the Christian Center—home to our outstanding humanities division and a beautiful new chapel-- and the construction of the Windgate Visual Arts Center. Steel work on the Christian Center was completed in October, and we hope to have the building completed by the spring. The Visual Arts Center is rising up, and will be an attractive and highly functional addition to the west side of campus and offer a welcome to visitors who come in through our re-opened gate on West Street.

We have continued to live into our strategic plan, titled “Across the Street and Around the Globe: Partnerships and Influence at Millsaps College.” A joint partnership with Millsaps graduate and Rhodes Scholar Brad Chism (B.A., 1982) has established Millsaps as a sought-after resource with regard to politics and government. In 2018, four different Millsaps College-Chism Strategies surveys, under the auspices of the Institute for Civic and Professional Engagement, covered a variety of topics, from legislative priorities to electoral reform, and generated positive media attention for the College.

Around the globe, I had the opportunity to travel this year to India and China, to establish new and hopefully long-term relationships with educational entities that can help us grow our international student enrollment. It is important to note the strong reputation of the College in other parts of the world, and the great potential for future student growth and programming.

I have been very pleased at the progress made in strengthening relations with The United Methodist Church. The Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton, chaplain and director of church relations, has worked tirelessly to promote opportunities for new programs that will support students with an interest in the ministry or simply enhancing their faith journey. In October, we were thrilled to receive a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to establish a new ecumenical program to support clergywomen, to be led by the Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, director of the Center for Ministry.

And, it was another fine year for Millsaps athletics. In March we celebrated the 750th career victory for head baseball Coach Jim Page, and the first national ranking for both the women’s and men’s tennis teams. The announcement of a new swimming and diving program in June has generated great interest among current and prospective students, and we look forward to the development of a strong program under Coach Brian Ware. Athletics continue to be a strong draw for prospective students, and our coaches, trainers, and support staff do a wonderful job of supporting our student-athletes.

2018 has been a busy year, with its share of celebrations and challenges. Through it all, the Millsaps College community has remained strong. Our faculty and staff are deeply committed to the institution and the students who choose to make Millsaps their alma mater. I am confident that this commitment will remain strong in 2019, as we focus on the never-ending work of providing our students, and the surrounding community, with abundant opportunities for learning, inquiry, and growth.

My thanks to all of you for your support and care of Millsaps College, and my best wishes for a happy Christmas and meaningful holiday season.

Photo by Sam King