COLUMBUS – Mississippi University for Women looks pretty good for its age.
“Things are really going very, very well,” President Dr. Claudia Limbert said Thursday, the anniversary of the Mississippi Legislature’s approval of the Martin Bill, which created the university originally known as Industrial Institute and College.
“Enrollment is up, giving is up,” Limbert said. “The faculty are busy and doing productive work. For our first 125 years, we’re doing pretty well, and we’re looking forward to the next 125 years.”
Limbert presided over a party at Rent Auditorium. The celebration included a birthday cake made by MUW’s Culinary Arts Institute and the release of 125 blue and white balloons.
In front of guests including students, faculty, staff and the community, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith presented a proclamation “to applaud MUW on the contributions you have made.”
Rep. Esther Harrison, D-Lowndes County, thanked her alma mater “for the work that you have done and the work that you are doing.”
Since its beginning as II&C, the first public college for women in America has seen many changes. In 1920, it became Mississippi State College for Women. The name was changed in 1974 to Mississippi University for Women, and men have been admitted since 1982.
The school today has an enrollment of about 2,300 students.
A new name to reflect the coed population will occur in the near future; in January, Reneau University, Welty-Reneau University and Waverley University were recommended to Limbert, who became embroiled in controversy after becoming MUW president in 2002.
Problems between Limbert and leaders of the Alumnae Association were settled last fall, when the state Supreme Court ruled the president had the authority to break ties with the group.
Today, “We have a new association that’s doing extremely well,” Limbert said. “It’s a group that’s very representative of our graduates, in that it’s females, males and minorities.”
The alumni flap “at this point is kind of over,” said Joshua Lee, a senior from Fayette, Ala., “but it’s definitely going to be of note” in the university’s history.
As for the name change, Lee said MUW should keep its current name and focus on women’s studies. Still,
“I’m going to be in one of the last classes of graduates that’s going to have MUW on their diploma,” he said, calling the anniversary party “a last hurrah.”
Despite everything MUW has endured, the Student Government Association president said it remains a wonderful place.
“It’s a school of excellence and a school of leadership,” said Kristen Barnes of Jackson. MUW, she said, “started all of my dreams.”
Ginny Miller/Daily Journal