photo courtesy of Mississippi College/originally published Fall 2018
The new school year brings Dr. Blake Thompson back to his home state to serve as Mississippi College’s 20th president, succeeding President Lee Royce. Thompson most recently served as vice-president and secretary to the board of trustees at Ohio State University. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmaceutical sciences, as well as his doctorate, from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. He also received an executive master’s degree from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Thompson has worked as a senior staffer for Senator Thad Cochran and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. We are excited to welcome Dr. Thompson and his family to Clinton.
What made you want to come back to Mississippi? What drew you to Mississippi College in particular?
Growing up in the small community of Rienzi, Mississippi was such a wonderful experience. After being away from the Magnolia State for decades, it was time to return home. Serving as president of Mississippi College, with its deep commitment to faith, family and outstanding academic programs, made this an amazing opportunity to give back to my home state.
Tell us about your family. How did you and your wife meet? Where will your children attend school this year?
My wife Jana and I grew up together in Rienzi, a town of a couple hundred wonderful people in Northeast Mississippi. My earliest memory of Jana is at Vacation Bible School at Rienzi Baptist Church. We were later students at Biggersville High School. In fact, we scrimmaged against each other at high school basketball practice (She was a much better basketball player than I was), and I eventually followed her to pharmacy school at Ole Miss. Our two daughters, Sarah Blake and Cate, will attend Clinton public schools. Our oldest child (and our teenager!), Grey, is “considering his options,” but we are confident he will soon find a home as well.
What was your college experience at Ole Miss like? What clubs/organizations were you involved in? Any particularly funny or impactful memories?
As a transfer student from a Mississippi community college, I learned it was important to spend more time studying once I arrived at Ole Miss! My transition didn’t go so well at first— I still have memories of getting a really bad grade on my first pharmacology quiz. But things improved after that so much that I ended up getting three degrees including my doctorate. I enjoyed both undergraduate and graduate life on the Oxford campus and was involved in student leadership organizations. Those leadership roles opened up doors for me, including the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C.
What is your vision for Mississippi College? What kind of learning environment do you hope to foster?
Mississippi’s oldest university and America’s second oldest Baptist college, Mississippi College, has built a stellar academic reputation over its 192 years. I will work with an excellent faculty and staff, along with students, to see the Christian university receive even greater national prominence. Strengthening students’ faith remains a key part of the MC mission as well. I have said that we focus “on both the head and the heart” at MC. Our students excel intellectually and share a faith guiding them personally and professionally.
What role do you see MC playing in the Clinton community?
President Emeritus Lee Royce did a terrific job the past 16 years strengthening partnerships between MC and its hometown. We are blessed to be linked so closely to this vibrant community sitting just yards away from the Clinton campus. I look forward to continuing that partnership, and my family is excited about being Clinton’s newest residents.
What are you passionate about?
I’m most passionate about getting to know our students, walking around campus with them, and learning their stories. We have about 5,200 MC students, and hopefully I will get the chance to interact with each one in the years ahead. I absolutely love roaming around campus.
What have you learned at Ohio State University that you are excited to implement at MC?
We were very thankful that Ohio State welcomed us and gave me tremendous professional opportunities. And Ohio State was very gracious to me as I left to “come home,” and I will always look fondly on my time there. What I have learned over my career, including at Ohio State, is that a kid from Mississippi can go to world-class institutions and succeed. I want our students to understand and believe that too. Now we are becoming part of the MC family, and we are excited to “do life together” with students, faculty, and staff members on campus, in town, and especially as we cheer together for the Choctaws. I want to share my experiences with my new MC family, and I want to learn their stories as well.
Can you tell us how you incorporate your faith into your daily work?
My faith is a part of who I am, and as MC president, I look forward to sharing with our family how that has shaped me, both personally and professionally. I believe that our faith should inform how we see the world and how we treat others. And it should animate our love toward others. I want us to strengthen—to encourage, to build—the faith of our students as they seek God’s calling in their lives. Being part of an institution supported by the Mississippi Baptist Convention since 1850, Mississippi College has an amazing partner that strengthens us in doing that. We are thankful for what the Convention means to MC.
Tell us about your involvement with The Thompson Institute and how you plan on creating the same atmosphere of discussion at MC.
The Thompson Institute was named after Ohio State’s fifth president, William Oxley Thompson (not named after me!). He was an ordained Christian minister as well as a university president who was an active leader in his faith and his profession (The story is that he even performed weddings for students on commencement day). The institute’s purpose is to encourage and strengthen Christian faculty members as they integrate their faith and their scholarship. I am thankful to join an institution where that same integration is strong.
What do you love to do when you are not working?
Foremost is my family. Jana and I love raising our three young children (ages 14, 11, and 8). You will see us together all over MC, and events on campus will be our family outings. We have this little blueberry farm, which is a good diversion at times. My parents own a farm, and so do Jana’s parents, and we thought we might like to try it. We are still learning how to manage it, but our favorite fruits are gaining in popularity among our new friends in the Mississippi College family! We have already made some blueberry deliveries to Nelson Hall and to those who might have been wandering through Nelson…and there are more blueberries to come this summer.