By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE MOUNTAIN – The next president of Blue Mountain College is no stranger to Tippah County or to Christian higher education.
Barbara Childers McMillin was named the college’s eighth president on Thursday during a meeting of the BMC Board of Trustees. McMillin will succeed Bettye Rogers Coward, who retires on June 30 after 11 years leading the Baptist-affiliated school.
A native of Falkner, McMillin has spent the past 20 years at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she currently serves as associate provost and dean of instruction. Union is also a Baptist-affiliated university.
“I have spent the last 20 years in Christian higher education, and I am passionate about the opportunity to provide students with an environment where they can study and seek to honor God through their studies and prepare to go out in the workplace and the culture and be salt and light,” McMillin said.
McMillin, 52, is a graduate of Northeast Mississippi Community College, Union University and the University of Mississippi, where she received her master’s and doctorate degrees.
She taught for two summers at Blue Mountain College in 1985 and 1987 and served on the English faculty at Northeast for six years before joining Union’s English faculty in 1992. She was the university’s Faculty of the Year in 1999.
“She has a very strong academic background,” said BMC board member Sam Patterson of Tupelo.
McMillin’s husband, Larry, is a fellow Tippah County native who grew up in Walnut. Their son, Sam, will be an eighth- grader in the fall.
“We look forward to being back near people who are dear to us,” she said.
Duane Bullard, president and CEO of the Tippah County Development Association, said he considers the family among his closest friends and that he is excited about their return.
“She is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known,” Bullard said.
“She is a gifted person in education.”
Blue Mountain has undergone significant changes over the past decade, becoming coeducational and adding graduate students.
McMillin said she must carefully study the school and its community before she can say if any changes are in store for the future.
She said she is honored to follow Coward and other BMC leaders who have established a strong foundation.
McMillin will become president of the 550-student college on Aug. 1. Janice Nicholson, BMC’s executive vice president for student affairs and graduate/special programs, will serve as acting president in July.