To members of the University of Mississippi community,
As my first week on the job winds down, I want to reach out to you to state what a distinct honor and privilege it is to serve as the 18th chancellor of the University of Mississippi. While you’ve heard a lot about me in the last few days and weeks, I’d like to share a few observations with you directly — about who I am, ambitions for our university, what I’ve been doing and what I’ll do moving forward.
First, I’m the husband of 36 years to my wife, Emily, whom I met at Ole Miss. Emily and I chose to live in the Jackson area and start a family. We are the parents of three wonderful daughters — Brittany, Danielle and Madeline. I’m proud to note that all five members of the Boyce family are graduates of the University of Mississippi.
I came to Oxford in 1978 as a first-generation college student transferring from a small college in upstate New York. All I knew about Oxford at the time was that it was warmer than New York, and a nice person on the other end of the phone told me there was a place for me. I took a risk and this place welcomed and embraced me. It’s something I’ll never forget.
Once I got to Oxford, I carried with me the lessons learned from one of my mentors — my high school biology teacher and basketball coach. Without his tutelage, college would not have been a part of my life. His influence led me to pursue a career in education. What motivated me then is what motivates me four decades later — the opportunity to influence the trajectory of an individual’s life. There’s no other field like it.
During my career, I’ve worked in all sectors of education in Mississippi — public and private, K-12 and post-secondary. Across four decades, I’ve been a teacher, a coach, a principal, a K-12 administrator, the president of a community college, an associate commissioner for academic affairs, a commissioner of higher education and now, chancellor of our state’s flagship university. I’ll lean on my perspective across the entire spectrum of education in this state as we strive to advance the university.
What excites me most about this opportunity is the chance to experience the commitment and talent of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. This extended university community embodies the heart of the Ole Miss spirit. To that end, all of us owe a special thanks to Larry Sparks for serving as interim chancellor during a time of transition. Thank you, Larry, for your leadership, guidance and outstanding service to this university.
As we embark upon the next chapter of this university, an important goal is to share our story, to declare to the world who we are today. A few indicators that stand out to me:
- As the highest-ranked university in Mississippi in the Best Colleges Rankings produced by U.S. News & World Report, we inspire our students to embark on lives of leadership and serve in powerful ways.
- We empower true potential through a community of caring, whether it is helping students through our Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience or offering a workplace recognized among the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For.
- With the recent openings of fantastic facilities like the South Campus Recreation Center and the newly renovated Ole Miss Student Union, we offer dynamic and vibrant academics, athletics and opportunities to engage in which our students form lifelong connections to their classmates and this university.
One of the great responsibilities of our university is our commitment to serve a wide range of students — whether they arrive needing extra help to manage college-level academics, or if they are exceptional students who need an extra challenge. Thanks to the hard work of our faculty and staff, we do both of those things well.
In the last two weeks, it hasn’t escaped me that there are passionate feelings about who leads the University of Mississippi. And rightly so. I’m passionate about that as well. I just hope that the people who care about this university will judge my tenure as chancellor based on the results that we deliver.
I would like to address one thread in recent public comments. To be clear, no hiring decisions have been made about any positions on campus. We will take those up in due time.
What’s most important to me right now is what matters to you about our future. I’ve already met with a number of student leaders, administrators and others in our university community, including the Medical Center. I also spent the last two days in Jackson representing the university at the monthly IHL meeting. That is a part of the chancellor’s responsibilities that took me away from campus.
In the coming weeks, I plan to meet with students, faculty and staff from all corners of the campus. Specifically, I want to hear your thoughts on what we need to bring our community together, and what we need to take our university to new heights. Working together, we can tackle any challenge that we face.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve my alma mater — our university — as your chancellor.
It’s time to get to work.
Hotty Toddy! Go Rebels!