A Look Inside the Phillips House: The Royces’ New Home

-James Osborne

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Standing atop a hill on the corner of Capitol and Madison streets overlooking the college is the new Phillips House, the first on campus home to the Mississippi College president in almost 50 years. The Phillips House is named in honor of the major donors to the project, Don and Sue Phillips. This house is the sixth president’s house at MC and the fourth one on campus.

MC president, Lee Royce, and his wife Rhoda moved in to their new home just before Thanksgiving of 2014, when the house was livable but not totally complete. Now, the only project left is the final driveway coating which is due in the next several weeks.

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“We moved in, even though it was not complete because we wanted to host a number of year end events in the new house and give an opportunity for the campus and community to experience the house,” said Lee Royce. “We held nine events during the Christmas season, ranging from a dozen persons to several hundred. We have hosted four events in the New Year and have an active schedule of events for the spring including faculty, staff, student and community groups.”

Royce said that the impressive Phillips House was designed by Frank Tindoll with on campus entertainment in mind. Direction and input for the project also came from a trustee committee.  The house holds a large dining room and a main hall, or loggia, which provides space for receptions and sit down dinners.  The kitchen is big enough to provide set up space for major events. Royce said, “My favorite room is the screened in porch which we have already used for two events and will see greater use as the weather improves.” Royce also said that he and his wife enjoy the two fireplaces in the house. “The house has four bedrooms, and though we use only one, except when our son visits, there will be a time when a family will need some of those bedrooms.”

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            Tindoll said that there was a consensus by the board of trustees that the house should be Georgian and red brick to compliment the buildings on campus. “The goal for the function of the house revolves around entertaining,” said Tindoll. Over 50 guests can be seated for dinner inside and larger functions work well with tents that can be connected to the back porch for year round entertaining. “Working with the Royces, Steve Stanford, Glen Worley, and the board was really enjoyably,” said Tindoll.

President Royce’s wife Rhoda said she loves the house. “Phillips House is a jewel treasure at beautiful Mississippi College,” said Rhoda, “and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the dedicated friends of MC who made it possible for us all. It works well as a site for our University’s events for many and for few, as well as a fabulous place to live. I still feel like I’m waking up every morning in someone else’s life, and I think I will always feel astounded by the privilege of taking care of it.” She also said that picking a favorite room would be like asking her to choose between peaches or blueberries, two of her favorite fruits. She went on to say, “Our architect Frank Tindoll had a comprehensive and detailed insight into how to make this home so perfectly designed for entertaining, and our landscape designer, Michael Gibson, took a smallish, hilly lot and gave us everything we need for gracious outdoor entertaining as well.”

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            Events that are held at the president’s house take a lot of planning, coordination, cleaning, and food preparation. The effort of getting the house ready for the Royce’s to move in and having events at the Phillips House have been almost a campus-wide effort to make everything come together. Rhoda said, “I couldn’t have accomplished anything like what we did in moving in and getting ready for parties that started 13 days later without all the Physical Plant management and workers, housekeepers, security workers, audiovisual workers, president’s office workers, and Campus Dining caterers. I am enduringly grateful for their expertise and their hearty good will as we worked together.”

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            Rhoda said that many more events are planned at the Phillips House for the spring and into the future. “This is a home for the MC family,” she said, “and the lovely attributes of Phillips House come alive when some of the MC family are in the house.”

This is the second time the Royce’s have lived in an on-campus president’s house, the first time being at Anderson University. President Royce said, “This house is perfectly designed for its purpose and will serve the university and this community for decades to come.  Rhoda and I view this opportunity to live and serve on site as a real honor and privilege, and we thank the trustees for returning a president’s home to the campus.”

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