Millsaps invests millions in campus improvements

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Students might not necessarily enjoy some lectures in college, but they’ll definitely benefit from a new state-of-the-art lecture hall at Millsaps College.

A new, $1 million lecture hall is among renovations currently under way at the school’s Christian Center and part of $22 million in new construction and renovations expected to wrap up there this summer.

The projects are designed to help the school expand its offerings and improve the educational experiences for all Millsaps students.

Among projects, $15 million is going to completely gut and renovate the Christian Center, an iconic building on the school’s campus, while $5 million is going toward the construction of a new 16,000-square-foot visual arts center.

“Every student will benefit from the work, regardless of their major,” Director of Marketing and Communications John Sewell said. “Any student that comes through Millsaps gets a great foundation in everything from language to art to history, philosophy or religious studies.

“If you’re a business major, you will take courses at some point in those liberal arts areas.”

Christian Center renovations are being funded, in large part, with a grant from the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation. Once construction is complete, the building will be rededicated the “Selby and Richard McRae Christian Center,” in their honor.

The center, which is located on the west side of the campus, is home to Millsaps’ various humanities offerings, including history, religious students and philosophy. The facility was constructed in the 1950s but was in need of upgrades.

Work includes completely remodeling the facility, transforming a former crawl space into a second floor with conference and office space for faculty, adding a million-dollar, state-of-the-art lecture hall, and replacing the dilapidated auditorium with a new, 300-seat chapel.

“There was a great deal of debate over the last 10 to 15 years over the structural integrity of the building,” Sewell said. “Some thought it was falling and we needed to tear it down. Some said, ‘no, it needs to be renovated.’ There were some foundation issues, but the first thing (contractors) did was gut the building and put some 60 piers underneath.”

The projects were designed by JH&H Architects and Dale Architects, and work is being done by Yates Construction.

 

Up top, the center of the building will house a 300-seat, domed chapel/sacred space, that will be a major focal point of the campus.

“There was a small chapel space in the Christian Center before, but nothing like this,” Sewell explained. “This one is going to be the centerpiece of the building.”

Construction is being funded with a $2.2 million gift from the William G. Yates Family, and will be named the “Yates Family Chapel,” once finished.

Also, on the west side of campus, work is continuing on a $5 million Windgate Visual Arts Center.

“That goes back to a gift the college received from the Windgate Charitable Foundation out of Arkansas. We broke ground on that in November 2017,” Sewell said. “Windgate will take our art offerings to an entirely new level.”

The 5,000-square-foot facility will include eight new studios, as well as faculty offices, shared space and a gallery for displaying student work.

Millsaps offers majors in art history and studio art, and offers classes in woodworking, sculpting, papermaking and painting. “The space we were working in was not outfitted from a safety standpoint for heavy artwork,” Sewell said. “This will offer a much broader set of resources.”

 

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