1. He has traveled to five continents.
2. Some of his hobbies include fishing, running, cooking and reading.
3. He and his wife have two “twenty-something” children, a middle school history teacher and a petroleum geologist.
4. His first job out of college was as a bellhop at a hotel in Memphis where he was assigned to groups like the Rolling Stones and KISS.
5. Pearigen once ran as part of a Millsaps team in the Blues Marathon, and they placed second.
Spread across 100 acres in the heart of Jackson, Millsaps College is dedicated to the education and holistic development of its students as well as making a positive difference in the community and beyond.
“The very words of our mission statement dedicate us to ‘the innovative shaping of the social, economic and cultural progress of our region,’” said Millsaps President Robert Pearigen. “That is a very unusual claim on the part of a college, but it’s one we embrace with much enthusiasm.”
“We are one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the South, with both a traditional humanities, arts and science curriculum and a first-class business school,” Pearigen said. “This combination provides opportunities for students on a liberal arts track to develop knowledge and skills in business, and it helps train future business leaders with valuable experience in the liberal arts.”
Undergirding this experience, said Pearigen, is an outstanding faculty and staff who are deeply committed to the students and to helping prepare them for successful careers and for lives of learning, leadership and service.
Pearigen, a Memphis native, attended The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in political science. He taught English and American Literature in high school before attending graduate school at Duke University.
At Duke, he earned his master’s and doctorate in political science. After Duke, he taught at Virginia Tech and Hillsdale College before returning to Sewanee as a dean of students and a professor of political science. After 18 years of serving in those capacities, he was named vice president of university relations during which he led the institution’s $200 million comprehensive campaign.
Bringing his 28 years of experience in higher education, Pearigen came to Jackson in 2010 with his wife Phoebe to begin his service as the 11th president of Millsaps College.
However, he stays true to his roots and to what attracted him to a career in education by teaching in the department of government and politics at Millsaps. Each year, he teaches a course in constitutional law or political theory.
“It helps keep me grounded in my academic background and in the core purpose of the institution,” Pearigen said of his time in the classroom. The experience also allows him to stay connected to students and faculty in meaningful ways.
There are approximately 800 students enrolled at Millsaps, but Pearigen hopes the unique experience of Millsaps, including its new Pathways Program and career development opportunities for students, will help grow the student population to approximately 1,000.
Millsaps boasts the highest graduation rate of any four-year college or university in Mississippi and it ranks number one in graduating students in four years.
It also ranks number one in the state and in the top 15 percent nationally in average income of its graduates. And, 100 percent of students who graduated from Millsaps in 2019 and applied to medical school were accepted. To reach this level of excellence, Pearigen reiterated his appreciation for the faculty and staff of the College.
“Our faculty are an outstanding group of teachers and scholars,” Pearigen said. “And, their role as mentors is something that they embrace in ways I’ve never seen before. It’s that deeply personal and relational experience in the context of a profound liberal arts and business education that makes Millsaps so special.”
Place that in the middle of Jackson, and Pearigen said it creates an absolutely stellar opportunity for students at Millsaps.