Thursday, March 26, 2009
Hundreds pay last respects to former Rust president
By ANDRE LOCKETT
The W.A. McMillan Multi-Purpose Center on the Rust College campus was almost filled to capacity as family and friends from near and far came together to pay tribute and say last goodbyes to long-time educator and mentor Dr. William A. McMillan Sr.
Several hundred people were in attendance Saturday, March 21 – dignitaries, state and local officials, even dozens of men from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in which McMillan was a lifetime member.
McMillan, 89, died Saturday, March 14, at Alliance HealthCare System Hospital following an automobile accident.
The memorial service was directed by John W. Johnson, news director of WTOK-TV, Meridian. Rev. Bruce McMillan of Christ Episcopal Church gave the opening invocation, followed by opening remarks from Dr. David L. Beckley, who took over as president of Rust College following McMillan’s retirement in 1993.
Special guest speakers who gave reflections included State Rep. Kelvin O. Buck; McMillan’s grandson, James B. Jackson III; Rev. F.H. Brown, pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, Columbus; and Evelyn Elliot, who represented Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
“My grandfather always told me to do what you love while helping everyone you can,” said Jackson.
Buck mentioned how none of his own achievements would have been possible without the mentoring of McMillan.
The emotions were heartfelt as McMillan’s family gave anyone in attendance the opportunity to reminisce about past experiences or interactions with the former college president.
Justin Chandler, a Rust student and member of Omega fraternity said, “Doctor McMillan was a leader in our community as well as the entire state of Mississippi. He was always willing to help. He did great things for this school and community, as well as for our fraternity. He will be missed greatly.”
In his self-penned obituary, “How I Want You to Remember Me,” McMillan wrote, “I have been a simple man with simple dreams. My quest has been to point the way for those searching for the path of knowledge. Be it a mega center of higher learning or the schoolhouse down the road, I have had but one goal – to lift up and lend a hand.
“Whether dining with kings and presidents or toiling with farmers and fishermen, I have strived to shed light that will chase away the darkness of ignorance and apathy. To mobilize the spirit and inspire future champions, there is no greater satisfaction. Yes, remember me as a simple man with simple dreams who has had a wonderful, fulfilling voyage.”
In memory of McMillan, the family requests that donations be sent to the McMillan Scholarship Fund at Rust College.
McMillan, in his lifetime, received awards and was recognized more than 400 times for achievements in education, professional development, and community service. He served as president of Rust College for 26 years. He is credited with helping to increase endowment of the college during his tenure which led to the building of the Leontyne Price Library as well as other facilities across the campus.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Mildred Newlin McMillan, and son William Jr. He is survived by his two daughters Pamela, Paula, and six grandchildren.
Special correspondent Andre Lockett is a staff writer for The Rustorian. He majors in print journalism at Rust College.
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