Thursday, January 31, 2008
A couple of weeks ago I had a Thursday night free – no basketball games to cover for the newspaper.
I could have stayed home and rested or watched TV.
Instead, I chose to go to a basketball game – just to watch, from the bleachers, as a fan.
I took son Andy to Blue Mountain College – a short drive from Holly Springs. I had noticed about a week earlier that the Toppers and Lady Toppers would be hosting Freed-Hardeman University.
I’d never been on the Blue Mountain campus. I’d driven by several times.
The gym was almost full. The brand of basketball was exciting.
Freed-Hardeman won both games by convincing margins.
This is the first season for men’s basketball at Blue Mountain. And coach Jerry Conner’s Toppers are fun to watch. They hustle, play “in-your-face” defense, and they have not seen a shot they don’t like. Their run-and-gun game keeps you on the edge of your seat.
And coach Lavon Driskell’s Lady Toppers give it 110 percent on the floor, too.
There were tons of points scored in both games.
The teams compete in the TranSouth Athletic Conference, as part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Ironically, less than a week after Andy and I went to the basketball games, Dr. Bettye Coward, seventh president of the college, was the guest speaker at our Rotary Club meeting in Holly Springs. She’s providing great leadership at the college, nestled beautifully in the hills of Northeast Mississippi between New Albany and Ripley on Highway 15.
She talked about Blue Mountain’s history, about its present and about its future. And she did it with eagerness and excitement.
Blue Mountain College was founded in 1873 by Civil War Brigadier General Mark Perrin Lowrey. A village preacher before the war, General Lowrey was a man of vision who saw the importance of providing a thorough education for women.
Blue Mountain College was independently owned and administered until 1920, when control was turned over to the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Traditionally a female college, the school began offering a coordinate academic program for men preparing for church-related vocations in 1956. On October 4, 2005, the board of trustees of Blue Mountain College voted to make all programs offered by the college available to male students, thus making BMC co-educational.
Blue Mountain College has a reputation of producing quality teachers. It recently added a master of education degree in elementary education.
I’ve always been a fan of the smaller colleges. I guess one reason being I attended the University of North Alabama in Florence. I like the small classes. I like it when the faculty members know the students by name. It’s like family.
President Coward stressed Blue Mountain’s emphasis on preparing students for meaningful lives. She said the goal is to prepare young people academically and spiritually for the leadership positions they will take in their jobs, communities and churches.
She also talked about her strong working relationship with Rust College and its president, Dr. David Beckley.
We are blessed to have Rust College right here in Holly Springs and Marshall County and Blue Mountain just a few miles away in Tippah County. And there are other excellent small senior colleges and junior colleges, like Northwest, a short drive from here, too. Check them out.
I joked with Mrs. Coward after the meeting, telling her next time I come to a game I want one of those blue, chair-back, reserved seats behind the bleachers.
To the folks at Blue Mountain, thanks for the hospitality and thanks for the exciting basketball.
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