FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2011
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
MUW awards Medal of Excellence to alumna Dr. Bettye Coward
COLUMBUS, Miss. – Mississippi University for Women awarded a Medal of Excellence to alumna Dr. Bettye Rogers Coward ‘65, president of Blue Mountain College. Awarded since 1979, the Medal of Excellence is the university’s highest non-degree honor.
Coward was presented the award on Friday at the MUW Alumni Association retreat, where she also was the speaker.
During her words of inspiration to the group, Coward said the role of an institution’s alumni is critical to its success.
“It is hard to tear down or dismantle an institution whose alumni stand strong, firm and together,” she said. “Alumni have made all the difference in my college presidency.”
Coward also shared lessons she has learned in higher education that relate directly to the importance of alumni engagement and support.
“We own our own collegiate experience. I think it is important for each of us to understand and recognize that we own our own W experience. The college changed the day we graduated from it and it has never been the same since.”
She added that diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking among constituencies are an asset at an institution, noting that as a student she came to MUW from a rural and provincial background.
“The W was so good for me. I was exposed to ideas and thoughts I had never experienced.”
Coward also stressed the need for alumni to share a common sense of purpose and focus to achieve the highest level of excellence at an institution.
“They must embrace a vision for the institution which stretches and challenges—one that is larger than the individuals who support it.”
In closing, she touched on service above self and making the distinction of what to change or not to change to prepare students for the real world.
MUW Interim President Allegra Brigham said, “Dr. Coward is a special person who has left a trail of blessings through her career in higher education. She has positively impacted the lives of thousands of students who are now impacting the lives of many other Mississippians.
Coward serves as the seventh and first female president of Blue Mountain College. Before joining BMC in 2001, she was the vice president for academic affairs at Mississippi College in Clinton. She was selected by MC faculty and students as the school’s distinguished professor in 1990 and was recognized by the 1991 Mississippi Legislature as the outstanding faculty member at MC. As a senior administrator, Coward has had experience in management and leadership in Christian colleges.
During her nine-plus years at Blue Mountain College, she has led the institution in:
- The shaping of a VISION for Blue Mountain College
- Reaffirmation of the College’s accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities
- Becoming a fully integrated coeducational institution after 133 years as a woman’s college
- Approval of the first graduate program at the College, the Master of Education Degree Program in Elementary Education, launched summer 2007.
- The signing of an articulation agreement with MUW for the Educational Leadership Program – a master’s degree curriculum for the preparation of school administrators.
- Establishing the first-ever intercollegiate athletics program for men, fall 2007
- Renovating a number of buildings on campus and working with the town and county to construct a new entrance to the campus from Highway 15
She currently serves on the CREATE Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the Grants Committee and on the Board of Directors for Sanctuary Hospice House in Tupelo. She has also served as a member of the Tippah County Development Foundation Board. Coward is a member of Lowrey Memorial Baptist Church in Blue Mountain.
Dr. Coward’s educational background also includes Jones County Junior College and the University of Southern Mississippi.
A native of Collins, she is married to Tom Coward, retired State employee and attorney. The Cowards have one daughter, Dr. Marte Coward Wasserman.