Lee Gardner Royce became Mississippi College’s 19th president in July 2002, and under his leadership the Christian university has experienced record enrollment growth, financial success and a construction renaissance.
The former president of Anderson University in South Carolina, Dr. Royce pursues the institution’s vision “to be recognized as a university known for academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ.”
Despite economic difficulties facing America in recent years, Mississippi College’s Growing the Vision campaign raised $87.4 million for academic programs, scholarships, the university’s endowment, construction needs and other vital initiatives. Concluding in 2011, the five-year campaign owes much thanks to the Board of Trustees and the extended MC family.
Since Dr. Royce assumed the presidency of Mississippi College more than a decade ago, there’s been a 69 percent growth rate for the operating budget, the endowment has climbed 82 percent, and the Baptist-affiliated university’s long-term debt has been reduced 89 percent. With more than 5,030 students, enrollment has jumped 60 percent since 2002 with a record 615 freshmen in Fall 2013. International student enrollment of more than 250 students from 26 nations reflects Mississippi College’s global outreach. That’s up from just nine international students when Dr. Royce arrived in 2002. The number of full-time faculty members grew by 42.
The hard work of the Vanderbilt University graduate is gaining national attention in higher education circles. In February 2014, Dr. Royce will receive the executive leadership award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education’s District III Southern region. The honor goes to university administrators encouraging innovation among employees, presenting a positive image of their institution, advancing fund-raising and having a strong success rate for major initiatives.
On a local level, the Clinton Chamber of Commerce has recognized Dr. Royce as the community’s Citizen of the Year for his efforts to strengthen partnerships between the university and its hometown in Central Mississippi. Royce also serves on the Board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
After a dozen years as leader of the nation’s second oldest Baptist college, Dr. Royce’s work is far from over.
After adding impressive new academic initiatives such as Mississippi’s unique physician assistant program, doctorates in education leadership and professional counseling, and guiding MC Choctaws athletic teams to return to NCAA Division II ranks in Fall 2014, there’s much left to accomplish. From the main campus in Clinton to the Mississippi College Law School in downtown Jackson, there’s much on President Royce’s to-do list.
“Over the past decade, we’ve encouraged a culture of innovation and responsiveness at Mississippi College; maintaining that momentum in positive times is our next challenge,” Dr. Royce said.
A native of Miami, Florida, Dr. Royce earned his bachelor’s in history, master’s in business management and doctorate in higher education administration, all at Vanderbilt University. He served as vice president for university relations at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee before becoming president at Anderson University and then Mississippi College.
In 1975, Dr. Royce married Russell Rhoda Royce, a former editor with “Open Windows” magazine and other publications with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of Belmont University in Nashville with a master’s degree at the University of South Carolina, Rhoda Royce has worked as an adjunct instructor of business communications at MC. In addition, Mrs. Royce has served for more than a decade as a faithful volunteer to assist Clinton children at an MC tutoring center located in a nearby apartment complex.
The Royces have one son, Mark Royce, who earned his doctorate in political science at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Mark teaches at George Mason University and NOVA Community College. Recently, President Royce announced his retirement after 16 years of splendid leadership at Mississippi College. MC has seen its enrollment grow dramatically from 3,200 to nearly 5,200 students, has enjoyed tremendous financial success and experienced a construction renaissance. The school budget of more than $75 million has nearly doubled. The Baptist-affiliated university continues to receive stellar ratings in “U.S. News & World Report” and other national publications. The Royces will move to Northern Virginia to be closer to their son, Mark, during their retirement years.