CLINTON, Miss. (BP) — A Mississippi native now serving as an Ohio State University vice president has been selected as the new president of Mississippi College.
Blake Thompson, 43, will start July 1 as president of the 5,200-student college affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, succeeding Lee Royce, who retires June 30 after 16 years as president.
At Ohio State where Thompson joined its administrative leadership in 2009, he serves as vice president of the office of government affairs, representing the university at the local, state and federal levels, and as board secretary, one of three elected trustee officers at the 60,000-student university.
Thompson and his wife Jana are natives of the small north Mississippi community of Rienzi. The Thompsons are both graduates of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. Thompson earned his doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences at Ole Miss in 2002, following a bachelor’s degree there in 1997. Thompson also holds an executive master’s degree from the Georgetown University School of Business.
He has also worked in Washington as a deputy staff director for the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and as legislative director for recently retired Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi. During Thompson’s time in D.C., Cochran also chaired the Agriculture Committee.
“Jana and I grew up and were educated here, and we developed our core values here in Mississippi,” Thompson said in a May 14 news conference at the Clinton campus near Jackson. “We then pursued professional opportunities in some of the most vibrant places in the country, but we always sensed that we wanted to come home.” The Thompsons have three children, ages 14, 11 and 8.
At Ohio State as board secretary, Thompson has been responsible for the leadership of the university’s governing board office, strategy and agenda development, and coordination of the trustee board’s academic, financial, governance, audit and advancement committee functions. He also led in the creation of the endowed Center for Science and Technology Policy with the nonprofit R&D organization Battelle, teaching in the areas of public and nonprofit leadership and public policy analysis; he has overseen Ohio State’s government internship program and currently is developing a course in university governance.
Prior to being named board secretary, Thompson was vice president for economic and workforce development in OSU’s academic affairs office and special assistant to the president of the university. As part of these responsibilities, he served as president of the Science and Technology Campus Corporation to lead the planning and management of the campus research and technology park. Thompson also has held the position of joint vice president for institutional affairs for Ohio State and Battelle involving large-scale research, education and philanthropic partnerships.
Before moving to Ohio State, Thompson had served as director of university partnerships for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he built institutional partnerships with local, state and federal communities.
Thompson has been active in the Columbus community as president of Our Ohio Renewal, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing social challenges facing Ohio families, founded by “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance; as a board member of a public charter school, KIPP Columbus, educating more than 2,000 inner-city students; and as a board officer for Rev1 Ventures, a technology-based business incubator. He also is the founding board chair of The Thompson Institute, a campus ministry for supporting faculty as they seek to integrate their faith with their profession.
Roy Ward, who chairs Mississippi College’s trustees, said Thompson’s “commitment to excellence in all his endeavors, his visionary thinking and Christian faith have prepared him to build on the firm foundation established at Mississippi College.” Thompson will be the college’s 20th president since its founding in 1826.
Royce said Thompson brings deep relationships across Mississippi as well as impressive credentials in higher education, research and government circles. “His youthful devotion and passion for the mission of Mississippi College promises great days ahead for this university cherished by so many,” Royce said.
Thompson, at the news conference, said, “A lot of colleges do well preparing the head. Perhaps even more important is preparing the heart. I believe Mississippi College does both.” Mississippi will see its future directly linked to the advancement of its leading academic institutions, he said, noting, “Mississippi needs a strong and vibrant Mississippi College.”
A news release from Mississippi College quoted Ohio State trustee Clark Kellogg, a former NBA and Ohio State basketball and CBS Sports basketball analyst who was a keynote speaker at the MC sports dinner a couple of years ago.
“I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Blake as a man and as our board secretary at The Ohio State University over the last few years,” Kellogg said. “His character, competence, communication skills, and faith have impressed me greatly. He is a consensus builder and thoughtful leader who will serve Mississippi College well.”