Millsaps College President George Harmon announced last spring that he would step down as leader of the 110-year old college on June 30, 2000.
After a nationwide search for a successor, native Mississippian and life-long Methodist, Frances Lucas-Tauchar, senior vice president for campus life at Emory University in Atlanta and daughter of former president of University of Southern Mississippi Aubrey Lucas, was named the 10th president of Millsaps College, the first woman to hold the position in the college’s history.
“I think the board of trustees has made a wonderful selection in Frances Lucas-Tauchar,” said Harmon, who will remain at Millsaps College as president emeritus and senior counsel for special projects on a part-time basis, focusing on donor cultivation and fund-raising efforts.
“I can tell you she’s a ball of fire,” Harmon said, with a laugh. “She’ll do a great job. I’m going to enjoy very much working with her in any way I can be helpful under her leadership. The school is well set to move to even greater heights in the future. I’ll be doing whatever I can to support her — under her direction.”
Millsaps College was recently recognized by U.S. News and World report as No. 3 among national liberal arts colleges that are “Great Schools at Great Prices,” representing a steady rise (27th in 1998; sixth in 1999) in the closely followed value measurements used by prospective students and parents to determine the best education for the best price.
The Mississippi Business Journal asked Lucas-Tauchar how she plans to continue the momentum, what challenges lie ahead, the short-range and long-range plans she envisions and whom she considers her biggest influence.
Mississippi Business Journal: What priorities have you established during this transition period?
Frances Lucas-Tauchar: The first priority is to get acquainted and to build strong, healthy relationships with all in and of the Millsaps community. I will accomplish that goal by asking many strategic questions and listening carefully to the answers of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and friends of Millsaps.
Secondly, I will make every effort to get acquainted with the leadership of the Jackson community, the leaders of the United Methodist Church and the people who are the major decision makers for the state of Mississippi. I will concentrate on affirming those relationships with people who are important to Millsaps. With their guidance, I hope to create a vision for success and to communicate that vision broadly.
MBJ: What challenges lie ahead?
FLT: The biggest challenges confronting Millsaps are to grow the endowment and to grow the enrollment. With more endowed professorships, scholarships and income for new and dynamic curricular projects we can rise to the next level of academic distinction. More students would enhance that momentum.
MBJ: What short-term and long-term plans do you envision?
FLT: In the short term, I want to encourage and excite all participants in our Millsaps scholarly community to get involved and engaged in our initiatives and programs. We want to be viewed as one of the most exciting places of intellectual stimulation and learning in the nation. Additionally, we want to encourage students of all ages to come and enjoy the best of a core liberal arts learning experience.
In the long term, we hope to” friend raise” and then to fund raise. New building plans include a new performing arts center, a library and a chapel. Millsaps’ reputation for being a cultural hub of magnificent arts performances will only increase in the years to come. In the area of academic enlightenment, Millsaps has a long and deep history of some of the finest, brightest and most talented faculty in the nation. We hope to add to the prominent faculty ranks and enhance the current faculty work environment with more resources. From all reports, the Millsaps faculty members are stellar and have superior teaching as their No. 1 priority.
MBJ: What do you consider your biggest influence?
FLT: I have worked for many fabulous presidents who have taught me to understand and acknowledge excellence when I see it.
However, the most influential person in my life has been my mother. Mom was the one who led my Girl Scout troop for years, took me to countless lessons of various sorts and made sure that I went in the church house door anytime it opened. She was the one who re-directed my behavior without thinking twice.
Right and wrong were always quite clear to her, and were rarely confusing to me after her strong words of wisdom were spoken.
Seconds after I became a mother myself, my mother became the most brilliant person in the world.
MBJ: If your career had not gone in the direction of academic administration, what path would you have chosen?
FLT: At one time, I thought that I wanted to be a Methodist minister. However, as I was contemplating my applications to theology school, my father invited me into his library and asked me if I had felt the call from God. Dad confessed that he, too, had felt the call from everyone else, but never from God. I had to admit that she hadn’t given me a ring yet.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.