Following two years of renovation, the iconic Christian Center at Millsaps College was officially re-dedicated on October 16, 2019, as the Selby & Richard McRae Christian Center. An audience of more than 100 donors, alumni, students, faculty, and staff gathered in the new Yates Chapel to celebrate the building’s rebirth as the vibrant home for the humanities and, in the Wesleyan tradition of the College’s Methodist roots, the spiritual and reflective space for faith traditions at Millsaps.
“Together, we came to believe that the Christian Center could be restored, and today we celebrate a transformative renovation that provides a state of the art facility for our students, faculty, and staff; a renovation done with the deep care that will enliven our campus for decades to come,” said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps. “We have made a bold claim about the importance of the humanities to an educated citizenry and the value associated with continued learning in history, literature, philosophy, and religious and classical studies. We have embodied our commitment to the complementary values of faith and reason in a beautiful sacred space surrounded by centers of learning and discovery. And, we have made a compelling statement that preservation can, indeed, lead to transformation and new incarnation, all for the sake of our most important asset—our current and future students.”
The Christian Center was originally constructed in 1950 and dedicated to “all Millsaps students who served in the armed forces of their country during World War II.” Since that time, it has been a focal point on campus, housing the College’s humanities program and serving as the venue for productions by the Millsaps Players, concerts by the Millsaps Singers, public lectures by Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, readings by Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, and appearances by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and noted anthropologist Jane Goodall.
Pearigen celebrated the generous contributions from key donors for the renovation effort. The Selby & Richard McRae Foundation was an early lead donor on the project, and additional support was provided by the William G. Yates Family (designated for the Yates Chapel), Millsaps alumnus and current Trustee Chuck Lathem (for the Lathem Memorial Lobby), the Madeleine and James McMullan Foundation (for the McMullan Lecture Hall), and alumnus and current Trustee Mark Freeman and his wife, Tara, also a Millsaps graduate (for the Freeman Commons).