Mississippi College Construction Boom Going Strong

Mississippi College's first new residence halls in two decades, a walking track to step up the university's wellness efforts and major renovations of the choir room were on the summer to-do list.

The projects are part of a construction boom as the 5,000-student university seeks to keep pace with expanding enrollments in recent years.

Equipped with the latest amenities to serve students, University Place residence halls will open their doors to 189 students in late August. The eight three-story units on the East Campus are modern apartment-style facilities with French balconies, security systems, new sidewalks and 21st Century technology. “It will definitely be a nice addition,” said MC sophomore Matthew Atkinson, 19, of Clinton as the construction crew wrapped up the final project details. “People will be happy to get more privacy at the new residence halls.”

The $16 million residence hall project stayed on track despite frequent thunderstorms in Central Mississippi for much of the spring and summer. The new facilities were badly needed in light of MC’s upsurge in enrollment in recent years. There were 3,200 students taking MC classes when President Lee Royce arrived in 2002. Today, over 5,000 students attend America’s second oldest Baptist college that was birthed in 1826.

School leaders believe brick buildings are a positive addition to the Mississippi College campus and blend in well with nearby Clinton neighborhoods. The facilities will also be a nice recruiting tool, too. “These are good days for Clinton, Mississippi, with the continued growth of the college and increasing commerce throughout the city,” says Jim Turcotte, vice president for enrollment services and dean of students. Built a couple of years ago, Mississippi College’s Pimento’s Café and bookstore are located just steps from Clinton’s Olde Towne, the historic business district on the city’s brick streets.

Extensive renovations for the Mississippi College Music Department’s choir room also caused quite a buzz on the Clinton campus over the summer. A state-of-the-art sound system was added, new cabinets were installed, risers were totally rebuilt and a new ceiling was added among major changes for the room in Aven Hall. In addition, a newly purchased Steinway grand piano arrives soon. Two new flat-screen TVs bring another nice touch to the project.

Mark Nabholz, director of MC choral activities, couldn’t be more pleased. “I’m delighted to have the chance to inaugurate the room this fall,” Nabholz said in early August. “This is very high-tech. They went above and beyond. This will be a great room for auditions.”

An anonymous lead gift was made and other donors supplied contributions to the fund drive that began last fall. Construction started in mid-May. The project represents the first major renovations for the Christian university’s choir room in 40 years. The revamped facility will be ready for the start of Mississippi College’s fall classes and rehearsals when the 2015-16 academic year opens in late August. Its formal re-opening is set for September 14 with the award-winning MC Singers to perform two concerts. No doubt, the choir room at 326 Aven Hall figures to be one of the most utilized spaces in the Music Department.

“It serves not only as the home for choir rehearsals, but as a classroom, small performance hall, and is the location for music auditions each spring,” says professor Angie Willoughby, who chairs the Music Department. It’s bound to be attractive to prospective freshmen and transfer students. From the floor that was replaced with a high-quality wood-grained laminate to new cabinets, closets and improved lighting, the room is getting a thumbs up from all visitors.

“The addition of work space, storage space, and the visual and audio components will enhance virtually every usage of the room,” Willoughby said. Willoughby joins colleagues thankful to the generous gifts from donors giving to MC’s newly-formed Music Legacy Society.

Mississippi College music alumni and friends of the department provided gifts in memory of longtime faculty member Ralph Taylor. Others gifts were made in tribute to the late Graham Smith, an MC graduate who served for many years as the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s music director. “It is humbling and encouraging to go through a fund-raising project such as this,” Willoughby said. “In the process, we have encountered so many people who are happy to be part of something like this that will benefit so many students for years to come,” she added. “This is an unforgettable gift.”

Completed in time for the Fall 2015 semester to begin in late August was the one-mile walking track that will be one of the centerpieces of the university’s advances to promote healthy lifestyles for students, employees and residents in the Clinton community. It is located nearby the MC Choctaws soccer fields.

Last fall’s opening of the Phillips House overlooking Olde Towne Clinton was another major construction project that’s been well-received by the entire MC family. The new residence for President Royce and his wife, Rhoda, is extensively utilized for the university to host receptions for faculty, staff, students, alumni and university friends. The summer also saw construction crews busy putting new roofs on Mississippi College landmarks from Provine Chapel to Alumni Hall, and those type of projects will continue into 2016.

About the Author
Andy Kanengiser starts his ninth year as Mississippi College’s news coordinator. The New Jersey native spent more than three decades as a newspaper reporter in the South, primarily with “The Clarion-Ledger” in Jackson, before joining MC.