OUR OPINION: BMC chooses leader from close to home

By NEMS Daily Journal

Blue Mountain College’s 139-year presence on Mississippi’s higher education map was extended for another administrative generation Thursday with the selection of Barbara Childers McMillin, associate provost and dean of instruction at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., as BMC’s eighth president – and the fifth with direct Tippah County connections.
Three generations of Lowreys from Blue Mountain, including founder Mark Perrin Lowrey, two of his sons, and a grandson, served as BMC president from the founding in 1873 to 1960. In 1960, Dr. Wilfred C. Tyler accepted the presidency and served until his death in 1965. E. Harold Fisher served as president from July 1, 1965, until his retirement June 30, 2001. Bettye Rogers Coward assumed the presidency on July 1, 2001.
McMillin, who earned her undergraduate degree at Union, a sister Baptist institution, and graduate degrees, including her doctorate, at the University of Mississippi, is a native of Falkner, 15 miles north of Blue Mountain on the same highway.
She will succeed Coward, the college’s first female president, in August.
McMillin, who also taught at Northeast Mississippi Community College, where she formerly was a student, has been at Union, a liberal arts and sciences university founded in 1848, for 20 years as English professor and in various administrative posts.
Blue Mountain is one in a trilogy of Mississippi’s Baptist four-year institutions; Mississippi College in Clinton and William Carey University in Hattiesburg are the other two.
Blue Mountain has been a strong higher education presence in north Mississippi since its founding, especially felt in its alumni who entered teaching in public schools. In 2005, after 132 years as primarily a women’s college, Blue Mountain became fully coeducational, a transition guided by Coward’s steady, visionary leadership.
In a congratulatory statement issued by Union, McMillin said, “The thing that excites me the most is the opportunity to pursue with this group of faculty and a new group of students the integration of faith and learning, because that’s a topic about which I am very passionate,” McMillin said. “I am excited to partner with Blue Mountain College to consider how we can together foster the development of Christian higher education, which means that we recognize the lordship of Christ over all the disciplines.”
Blue Mountain has academic partnerships with Union, including a joint degree program in nursing.
Many church-related liberal arts colleges with less determination and adaptability did not survive the evolution of higher education in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Blue Mountain thrives and remains sharply focused on its historic role as a Christian institution with high expectations for encouraging the faith among its students.