For Barbara Childers McMillin, a native of Falkner, and husband, Larry, a native of Walnut, the opportunity to return to their North Mississippi roots was an unexpected bit of serendipity in God’s plan for their lives. The McMillins – Larry, Barbara and Sam – have officially made Blue Mountain their home since July 2013 and for the Tippah County natives it feels good to have come “home.”
As eighth president of Blue Mountain College, Dr. McMillin succeeded Dr. Bettye Rogers Coward who retired June 30, 2012. Dr. McMillin spent the past 20 years at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where she served as Associate Provost and Dean of Instruction.
“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.
The Beginning . . .
Arriving on campus August 1, Dr. McMillin “hit the ground running.” With the academic year beginning immediately, she stepped to the plate and began her tenure with a retreat with the President’s Cabinet, delivering the 2012 Convocation address to faculty and staff, meeting with various groups of faculty and staff, meeting with the local town officials, BMC alumni, and getting to know the students.
Dr. McMillin strongly believes in family and she has embraced the BMC students as a part of her extended family. Almost immediately after their move, the McMillins opened Armstrong, the President’s home, to students. During the fall semester, students were invited to enjoy an ice cream social and later in the semester, they were treated to “Apples at Armstrong” where they enjoyed tasty caramel apples. This spring, students traveled up to Armstrong and helped stuff hundreds of plastic Easter eggs with “goodies” for the Town of Blue Mountain’s first Easter Egg Hunt. Afterwards, they decorated and ate cupcakes prepared by members of the President’s Cabinet. Dr. McMillin is already planning for next year’s student activities at Armstrong as students subtly hint that they “sure did like the caramel apples.”
Chapel at BMC is a regular part of student life. At ten o’clock on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, students gather in the Modena Lowrey Berry Auditorium for 30 minutes of inspiration time. It has been during these moments that President McMillin has delivered some inspiring chapel talks. As a big sports fan, she has embraced BMC’s ram mascot and coined the phrase “Topper Tenacity” which she used in a chapel program that fully explained the College’s mission statement and how it specifically involved the students. After the devastating event in Newtown, Connecticut, she challenged students, faculty and staff to commit to performing “Random Acts of Kindness” just because it was the “right thing to do.” Her kind forthrightness brought a sense of calmness during the midst of a terrible tragedy that shook the entire country. She reminded everyone of the need to be kind.
The “Monday Message” was instituted soon after Dr. McMillin’s arrival. The greeting from the president to the faculty and staff each Monday sets the tone for the week. Her thoughtful insights and newsy campus comments have been archived on the College’s web page and are available to visitors who view www.bmc.edu, the College’s web page.
Honoring Traditions . . .
Blue Mountain College has a number of time-honored traditions that have been passed down from president to president. With every President who succeeded General Mark Perrin Lowrey, founder of Blue Mountain College, a “presidential magnolia” has been planted. In November 2012 during the Founders Day activities, Dr. McMillin planted a Bracken's Brown Beauty, Magnolia Grandiflora on the lawn just north of the Administration Building. The tree-planting tradition was commemorated by the BMC Alumni Association as they presented markers identifying the location of each of the presidential trees.
Great Expectations . . .
For the Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees, Dr. McMillin’s vision of Christian higher education is what BMC needs right now.
Dr. Carl White, chair of the BMC Board of Trustees stated, “Dr. McMillin brings a lifetime of devotion to Christian higher education. Her experience in the classroom and in administration has given her the background needed to be able to provide leadership for our school. But more than that, she brings a love for Christ, and for the Kingdom of God that exudes a deep spiritual walk. She also has a vision for how Christian higher education should look and feel that is compelling.”
Expanding the Curriculum
Blue Mountain College and Baptist College of Health Sciences signed a working agreement that will enable BMC students to earn dual degrees in the healthcare field. Under the working agreement, BMC students will be able to earn Bachelor of Science degrees in three areas: biology at BMC and Bachelor of Health Science at BCHS; biology at BMC and B.S. in Nursing from BCHS; and business administration at BMC and with a concentration in Health Care Management at BCHS. The dual program of biology and health science includes majors in Radiation Therapy,
Respiratory Care, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Nuclear Medicine Technology, Medical Radiography, and Medical Laboratory Science. Both the Health Science and Nursing degree programs are “3+2” curriculums where students attend BMC for three years and their final two years at BCHS, and both degrees awarded at the conclusion. In the Business Administration program, BMC students will complete their final 21 hours at BCHS.
Dr. Barbara Childers McMillin noted the agreement with BCHS – a branch of Baptist Memorial Hospital – is also historical. “One hundred years ago Dr. B.G. Lowrey and Dr. W.T. Lowrey, both BMC presidents, articulated a vision that ultimately influenced the formation of the Baptist healthcare system that has now touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of Mid-Southerners,” McMillin said. “Today that vision will be extended to include new opportunities for Blue Mountain College to partner with BCHS in the provision of healthcare education, a venture which we trust will serve to enhance the original mission. For this partnership with BCHS, we are grateful.”
Brothers B.G. and W.T. Lowrey were sons of BMC founder Mark Perrin Lowrey who also served as school presidents. W.T. Lowrey served as president of Baptist Hospital’s board of trustees from its founding in 1912 until 1943. Lawrence T. Lowrey, grandson of the founder and fourth president of BMC, was president of the hospital trustees 1943-46. Dr. Sharon Enzor, vice-president for academic affairs at BMC, also noted the historical connection.
“One-hundred years later, Blue Mountain College through God’s ordained plan, is connecting with that which was a seed in the heart of Dr. B. G. Lowrey,” she said. “We are thrilled to be able to provide opportunities for health care training at the Bachelor’s Degree level for our students and to partner with our sister Baptist institution in making these programs available.”
Expanding the Playing Fields
Blue Mountain College athletics took a “giant step forward” when school officials joined with students and area business leaders to break ground on a 34-acre sports complex one-half mile north of the campus. The complex, on land donated to the College by Tippah County neighbor Profile Products, will include a baseball field, softball field, golf driving range, intramural soccer field, sand volleyball court, and a one-mile running/walking track. The goal is to have the fields ready for practice by Fall 2013, with the rest of the infrastructure close behind.
“We are blessed and excited about the opportunities that the sports complex will afford Blue Mountain College,” said Dr. McMillin. “This facility will serve the needs of our student athletes while providing our community with an outstanding venue for watching intercollegiate athletic competition.”
Lavon Driskell, athletics director, said the BMC complex “will be a giant step for our intercollegiate athletics program. “It will allow us to have a first class facility; it will bring our practices and our games back to our campus; and it will be a lot more convenient for our students and the surrounding community to attend our baseball and softball games.”
The land for the BMC sports complex was donated to the college by Profile Products in exchange for the mineral rights to 37 acres across the from the site for the new fields. Profile Products, at its plant approximately two miles from the BMC campus, manufactures and distributes Turface, the industry’s best-selling inorganic soil amendments for sports fields, golf courses and landscaping. Turface soil conditioner is used on athletic fields across the country, including Major League Baseball stadiums and National Football League stadiums.
To Infinity . . . and Beyond!
Everyone under a certain age – and even some over a certain age – knows who Buzz Lightyear is, the animated space ranger in Walt Disney’s Toy Story movie who coined the phrase “to infinity. . .and beyond!” How does such a phrase catch the spirit of Barbara Childers McMillin? She is a believer. She is a thinker. She is a dreamer. She is steady. She knows who holds her today and her “infinity.” She knows to rely on God who sees beyond the “beyond.” In the days, months, and years to come, Dr. McMillin will no doubt reflect on her early days at Blue Mountain College as times of great expectations knowing that all things are possible for those who love Him, who seek His face, and who remain faithful.