Over the past few months, the Choctawk blog has featured stories on several Profound Professors, but today, I have the opportunity to share with you our prodigious, preeminent, prestigious president, Dr. Lee Royce. Join me as I explore this living legend's life leading up to MC and look forward to his lasting legacy.
Behind every great man is a great woman. Dr. Royce has been married to Mrs. Rhoda for forty years. Her brother invited Dr. Royce over for Sunday dinner while he was an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt. She was a graduate student at the time, and they met at this family meal. He said that it was not love at first sight, but they became good friends before they dated. He even talked with her about previous dates. However, Dr Royce said, "My first date with her was my last date with anyone else." In traditionalist fashion, he proposed in her parents living room at the age of 23.
Shortly after they were married, He taught business and economics at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. After a brief stint in Arkansas, Nashville beckoned, and the young Royces responded. Dr. Royce worked in the marketing or fundraising department of a company that automated databases, and Mrs. Rhoda was an editor for Lifeway. After seven years, they transitioned to Belmont University where he was the Vice President for University Relations. During this time, he went back to school for a doctorate in higher education.
Following his time at Belmont, Dr. Royce faced his biggest challenge yet, and overcame immense obstacles in a team effort marked by his humble leadership. He was the President at Anderson University tasked with rescuing the school from a less than glamorous state. He said, "If I presume to be a leader, there must be followers, and the followers achieve a lot." Under his guidance, the team succeeded in rallying the troops, finding supporters, and reestablishing Anderson as a "strong and viable" university.
His next move was to Clinton, Mississippi where he has been the President of Mississippi College and has led us in a period of growth.
He said his main motivation is "to ensure that students have a good experience." He is constantly trying to think of ways to improve what we're doing. These improvements range from doormats and other "trite things" to bringing in new programs. He said, "I don't micro manage, but I do focus on the details because the details do matter."
In the morning, it turns out that he is just like the rest of us, or at least those who prefer sunsets to sunrises, if you catch my drift. He admitted the he likes to "push it right to the limit," and wake up as late as possible. Once awake, he washes his face, shaves, throws down breakfast (usually a banana and toast) before spending some time in prayer and reading the scriptures. After this moment of reflection, he heads out the door and into the whirlwind of the day.
Throughout the day, there are a myriad of possibilities of things that may arise. He said that oftentimes he will field strange calls or receive complaints from people taking an issue to the highest office. He does his best to be prepared for unknown and respond in the way that best resolves the problem.
Perhaps the most salient responsibility is his commitment to students. "Students are the reason this all exists," he said. Dr. Royce's goal is to create a "positive and transformative experience." He enjoys seeing students in the Healthplex where he can be seen sporting his grey Jordans. I first met Dr. Royce during Welcome Week my freshman year. I was floored by his swagger.
While we're talking about style, let's appreciate Dr. Royce's exceptional fashion sense. While he is notorious for his seersucker suit, he said he regularly wears grey and blue. When he's not rocking the Jordans, he likes to wear two-tone Oxfords. On football game days, Dr. Royce can be found wearing blue and gold socks. He said he likes to wear the colors to "spice it up."
Aside from fashion tips, Dr. Royce summed up a surefire plan for life when he offered this advice to close our conversation: "Trust in the Lord." It was an honor to interview Dr. Royce, and I am thankful for his strength in leadership, love for students, and commitment to the Lord.
Until next time,
Andrew, Sunset fan, ice cream enthusiast, college student.