During the 2009-2010 academic year, Dr. Jim McKeown, professor of biology and longtime faculty marshal, initiated discussions for the creation of a Millsaps College mace. A mace is the traditional college symbol of educational authority and institutional identity and is presented at all formal rituals and traditions. Jackson resident and master craftsman Jerry Summerford crafted the mace from the finest walnut in honor of his wife and College alumna Julianna Summerford (1969) and in honor of two of his children and College alumni Thomas Summerford (1996) and Helen Summerford (1998). A small circle of wood cut from a fallen oak tree on campus is part of the mace. The mace is 36 inches in length and is topped by a lantern headpiece that is accented on four sides with alternating brass medallions of the College crest and the College seal. The mace debuted at the August 26, 2010, convocation at which President Robert Wesley Pearigen presided.
The Mississippi Conference Journal of 1890 records the date of the official charter of Millsaps College. In December of 1888, the Mississippi Conference passed a resolution favoring the establishment of a “college for males under the auspices and control of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South … at some central and accessible point in the state of Mississippi.” A few days later, with Bishop Charles B. Galloway presiding, the North Mississippi Conference passed a similar resolution. A committee from the joint conferences was appointed. In February of 1889, the committee elected Major R.W. Millsaps chairman. Major Millsaps “proposed to give $50,000 to endow a Methodist male college in the state, provided the Methodists of Mississippi would give a like sum for said purpose.” Through the efforts of many, led by Bishop Galloway, Agent A.F. Watkins and the ministers in the pulpits, the Methodists met the Major’s challenge, completing the first $100,000 in 1894. Classes officially began in 1892.
The gavel is made of wood from the original main building of Millsaps College (Old Main, constructed 1891-1892), which burned in 1914. Alumni of the College presented the gavel to the first president of the College, Dr. W.B. Murrah, in 1917 at the Methodist Conference held in Vicksburg – the first one in Mississippi during which he presided. Bishop Murrah’s son, W.B. Murrah, returned the gavel to Millsaps during Homecoming in 1957.
The Register of Millsaps College is the earliest printed catalog of the College. It includes information for academic years from 1895 to 1906 and lists College trustees, faculty, students, and classes offered. It also includes faculty academic credentials, descriptions of earliest courses of instruction, academic calendar, honors conferred at previous commencements, detailed statements about academic departments, photographs, general information about the College, and a register of alumni and their post graduate positions. A complete series of registers and catalogs, along with other College publications, is housed in the archives in the Millsaps-Wilson Library.
Edward Escowitz of Queens, New York, designed the crest when he studied at Millsaps in 1968. According to History Professor Ross H. Moore, who chaired the crest committee, the symbolism in the crest is the following: “The cross indicates Millsaps’ role as a Christian college . . . The three stars represent the three founders of the College: Major Reuben W. Millsaps, Methodist Bishop Charles Betts Galloway, and President William B. Murrah; and the three divisions of the College: Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. The purple stripes on a white background represent the Millsaps colors, purple and white. The date is the year the College was chartered.” Magnolia Coullet, who taught Latin at Millsaps, is credited with the motto, “ad excellentiam,” translated “in pursuit of excellence.” The crest was adopted in 1968 with the approval of faculty, trustees, and students.
The Millsaps Seal was used on college documents as early as 1907, when it was engraved on the commencement program. No records exist to document its origin. The image is a likeness of College Founder Major Reuben Webster Millsaps. The 1891 date on the seal commemorates the selection of Jackson as the location of the College and the 1891 construction of Old Main, the main building of the College.
The walking stick of Major Reuben Webster Millsaps has a gold knob handle inscribed “Major R.W. Millsaps from W.B. Jones.” Jones was a prominent minister in the Mississippi Methodist Conference, serving 15 years as secretary of the conference and 50 years as a pastor and a presiding elder. A member of the College’s third graduating class in 1897, Jones was awarded the Founders Medal. Mrs. Webster Millsaps Buie, Jr. donated the walking stick to the Millsaps College Archives in 2002.
The Mississippi Annual Conference of the Methodist Church received the family Bible of William Millsaps, grandfather of Major Reuben Webster Millsaps, during an Annual Conference session at Millsaps in 1954. Mrs. M.L. Wright, great-granddaughter of William and Rebecca Millsaps, original settlers in 1811 in Mississippi, made the gift.
The Bible is part of the Millsaps Family Manuscript Papers in the Millsaps College Archives. It includes four pages of handwritten family records. The earliest entry recorded is the birth of William Millsaps, born in October of 1769. The Bible’s title page and first pages are missing; it was rebound in Moroccan leather with gold trim in 1964.
The armchairs used in the inaugural ceremony are part of the dining room furniture originally owned by Major Rueben Webster Millsaps. Millsaps family descendants Sara Buie Morris and Joe Ellis Buie Love donated the furniture to the College in 1978. The furniture, which consists of an oak dining table and oak sideboard, circa 1880, ten side chairs and two arm chairs, is used in the home of the College president.