Millsaps launches renovations

Millsaps launches renovations

Members of the Millsaps College community recently celebrated the formal launch of renovations to the Christian Center, one of the most iconic buildings on campus.

Completed in 1950 with funding from Methodist churches in Mississippi and individual donors and dedicated to members of the Millsaps community who died during World War II, the center is undergoing a $13.5 million renovation.

“After three years of planning and two years of fundraising, a transformative renovation is underway,” Millsaps College President Robert W. Pearigen said during the formal launch of renovations. “When finished, the building will, indeed, be a jewel on our campus.”

The renovated center will include faculty offices and meeting spaces for the departments of English, history, religious studies, philosophy, and classical studies. “Our students will engage with the humanities in new, updated classrooms and a state-of-the-art lecture hall, which will provide seating for up to 180 people,” Pearigen said.

 The building will also include a suite housing the chaplaincy, the Center for Ministry, and the Wesley Foundation, which will help the college strengthen its relationship with the United Methodist Church as called for in the college’s strategic plan. “With the humanities departments and the chapel under one roof,” Pearigen said, “it will also reinforce the shared values and compatibility of reason and faith – the mind and the heart – in our world today.”

“The renovation will return a beautiful chapel to the heart of the building, providing a sacred space that has not been available on our campus for many years,” he said.

“Serving as a worship space and as the center of the college’s religious and spiritual life, the new chapel will allow students of all faiths to connect their intellectual, spiritual, and moral commitments. It will also provide a central, sacred, gathering place for our community in times of celebration and in times of sadness.”


Upon completion, the building will be rededicated as the Selby and Richard McRae Christian Center in honor of a $4-million gift from the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation for the project. Selby McRae was a 1946 graduate of the college, and Richard McRae was a longtime trustee and the recipient of an honorary degree presented in 1991.

The McRaes’ son, Vaughan W. McRae, was a 17 year member of the Millsaps Board of Trustees and a representative of the McRae Foundation. He said the renovation is significant for several reasons, including his family’s many connections with Millsaps.

Dr. Alexander Farrar Watkins, a great uncle of Mrs. McRae’s, served from 1912-1923 as the third president of Millsaps, numerous McRae family members have attended the college, and Selby and Richard McRae endowed a faculty chair for the Else School of Management plus an ongoing scholarship program to attract top students, he said.

“I think our family’s abiding interest in the success of the college is best explained in the theme of the college’s strategic plan, Across the Street and Around the Globe,” he said. “The future of Jackson, of Mississippi, and of our world demands great leadership, and Millsaps College has for 130 years been a source for those great leaders.”


William G. Yates III, president and CEO of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co., commended Pearigen’s commitment to the project and recognized Millsaps alumnus and architect Robert Parker Adams, Yates Construction Co., and Dale Partners Architects P.A. for the role they will play in transforming the building.

“We have some great projects and are honored to be all over the world in different things, interesting things, from the state department to Volvo and Mercedes, but this project has a special place in our heart,” he said. “I’ve been talking to Rob (Pearigen) about this project for several years -- and his vision and commitment and dedication to make this happen has really been inspiring.”

Yates, a Millsaps trustee from 2008-2016, said an important component of the renovation is the chapel space. “Being able to provide a space where Millsaps students for years and years can come and worship is very meaningful, and we’re proud to be part of that,” he said.

The William G. Yates family has committed a gift of $2.2 million to the project, and the chapel will be named for the Yates family.

Dr. David C. Davis, associate professor of history at Millsaps, recalled that the Christian Center had not only been home to numerous theater productions from “The Sound of Music” to “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” but also to some of the college’s most beloved professors and nurtured the education of generations of students.

“Housed within historic walls,” he said, “this will be a place where the minds, hearts, and spirits of students will continue to be inspired, challenged by the legacy of those who have come before us.” 

Construction on the project is estimated to be completed by spring 2019.


Photo: Participating in the launch were (from left, back) the Revs. Joey and Connie Shelton, Chuck Lathem, Bill Blair, Cooper Morrison; (front) David McRae, William Yates, Nora Frances and Vaughan McRae, Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, Susan McRae Shanor, Mary Lene and Newt Harrison


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