The Muse Presidency, Part 3: A Decade of Diversification 1990-2000
Part 9 of 10
Growing The Community
In 1987 Hinds Junior College changed its name to the more appropriate Hinds Community College. Reflecting its new title, the institution continued to diversify its activities and services through an ever-widening range of activities.
These included the establishment of an office to solicit private funds, creation of a major institute for community economic development with a state-of-the-art conference center and the introduction of academic services for a wide range of students, including those with disabilities. Hinds, in the late 1980s and through the 1990s, also experienced a renaissance in athletics, especially in football, that rivaled the success of the great Eagle squads of the late 1940s and 1950s.
Dr. Clyde Muse, Hinds president since 1978, believed strongly that public institutions should raise funds from the private sector for growth and development. Consequently, in his first year at Hinds, he established a Hinds Junior College Development Foundation (placed within the umbrella of a new Institutional Advancement Office in 1994) to enable individuals and groups to contribute to student scholarships, faculty and staff development, and cultural enrichment for the community. After an initial period of struggle, the foundation began to hit its stride in 1988 with the first HCC Golf Fest, an event that quickly evolved into one of Mississippi's premier benefit golf tournaments.
Private gifts and other fund-raising activities increased steadily into the 1990s, but, according to Vice President for Advancement, Jackie Granberry, it was not until Cain Hall, Hinds' "signature" building constructed in 1926, burned to the ground in 1998 that the foundation "came alive." The foundation's ensuing "Campaign for Hinds," aimed at raising private funds to supplement public funds for a new and much larger replacement building, was a model of success. By 2007 the foundation held almost $5 million in assets and had awarded well over $1.5 million in scholarships. The foundation also sponsors the college's Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet and the annual employee appreciation and awards dinner.
In another giant step toward more community involvement, Hinds in 1988 established the Resource and Coordinating Unit for Economic Development (RCU) with the approval of the Hinds Community College Board of Trustees. The RCU provided businesses and government agencies with an array of community outreach programs, including mobile workplace literacy units and industrial start-up training. An International Trade Center within the RCU provided import-export information to local business. Other programs enabled teachers and staff at area schools to take a variety of short courses ranging from computer technology to stress management, and an Institute for Creative Learning in Retirement provided forums for retirees.
In 1996 the RCU moved its headquarters to the newly completed Eagle Ridge Conference Center, a multifunction facility with 60 hotel rooms, a banquet room, an auditorium and high-tech classrooms. To serve a broader academic clientele, including an increasing number of students who needed remedial work, Hinds greatly expanded its developmental curricula in English, math and reading through the 1990s, with a mandatory placement system in effect throughout the district. A new Disability Support Services department accommodated the needs of students designated as disabled, whatever the nature of the disability, while a separate deaf and hearing-impaired program was the first of its kind in Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama to provide postsecondary education to hearing-impaired students in a campus residential setting. In addition to furnishing tutors and interpreters, Hinds equipped selected dorms with safety alarms and special telephones that enabled the hearing-impaired to live safely in convenient residence halls.
The college also established an honors program in 1996 with separate study, computer and classroom facilities. Eligible students could take a broad range of more challenging honors courses and were also required to participate in community service projects.
Simultaneously, Hinds achieved unprecedented success in its overall athletic programs under the direction of Athletic Director Rene Warren, the first woman to hold that position at a National Junior College Athletic Association institution. Football led the way. Head Coach Gene Murphy guided the gridiron Eagles to state titles in 1988 (Hinds' first since 1957), 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2000, and to runner-up spots in 1987, 1990 and 1999.
The 1994-97 squads posted an overall 42-3 in-state record.
Among Murphy's assistants was his wife, Dot Murphy, the only female college football coach in the United States.
The baseball Eagles won regional titles in 1989, 1994, 1995 and 1999, while in 1991 the women's basketball and men's golf squads finished sixth and third in the nation, respectively. A men's soccer program gained varsity status in 1988, with Hinds fielding the only team from a community college in the state, playing against in-state four-year colleges and out-of-state community colleges until other Mississippi community colleges became competitive.
Women's soccer, in which Hinds first fielded a team in 1930 (believe it or not!), reappeared as a varsity sport in 1998.