by Web on February 16, 2016
Millsaps College recently received a $1.5 million commitment from the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation (Mississippi) to support a major renovation of the Christian Center and a reaffirmation of the building’s vital role in the academic programs and religious heritage of the College. According to President Rob Pearigen, “This generous commitment from the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation represents the first substantial gift toward the renovation of this historic building which is our highest priority for capital improvements.”
For sixty-five years, the Christian Center has been home to the College’s nationally recognized humanities program and has been the site of the legendary Millsaps Players, honor society inductions, and public lectures by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Truman Capote, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and anthropologist Jane Goodall. The building has also celebrated the College’s relationship with the United Methodist Church, with its auditorium being used in the past for weekly chapel services. A small chapel in a corner room of the building—the Fitzhugh Chapel—has also been the site of worship services, weddings, memorial services, and other religious activities.
Restoration plans include construction of new classrooms, faculty offices, departmental suites and seminar rooms for the English, History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies departments, a state-of-the-art lecture hall, and a new chapel that will be located at the heart of the building. The transformed Christian Center will provide a more suitable and inspiring chapel—a spiritual space that will accommodate individuals of all faiths—as well as modern and enhanced classroom space for collaborative, 21st century learning in the humanities. According to Dr. Pearigen, “The joint location of our Humanities and chapel programs in this historic building will serve as a reminder that reason, intellectual inquiry, and faith may exist together and that critical reflection on the most important questions in life is more effective in dialogue rather than in silos.”
Millsaps has been fortunate to enjoy the association of the McRae and Watkins families for many years. Selby Watkins McRae graduated from Millsaps in 1946. Richard McRae, Sr. served on the Board of Trustees from 1972 to 1990 and has remained involved with Millsaps as Trustee Emeritus. He was awarded an Honorary Degree for Public Service by the College in 1990. Vaughan McRae is a current member of the Board, serving since 1998.
“Our family is delighted to support Millsaps in this very important way. From the time my mother attended Millsaps through the years in which my father and I have served on the Board of Trustees, we have deeply respected the education provided by the College and the service it renders to our city and state. The renovation of the Christian Center comes at a great time in the life of the College, and we are pleased to be part of this exciting initiative,” said Vaughan McRae in presenting the commitment of the foundation.
President Pearigen adds, “For many years, members of the McRae and Watkins families have generously supported the College with gifts of time, talent, and resources and have been instrumental in shaping the Millsaps of today. Selby McRae’s devotion to her alma mater lives on in the support of the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation and members of the McRae family. They have made, and continue to make, an enduring impact on the lives of Millsaps students.”