Rust College

         Rust College

Holly Springs, Mississippi

Picture_Original Picture of Dr. Beckley for IBWBSJW website

Dr. David L. Beckley


Rust College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission on Colleges to award Associate and Baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Rust College.


Our vision for the future reflects an institution of teaching and learning, internal and external to the classroom. Students will come to prepare for careers while living and studying in an environment that nurtures academic and personal development.

Strategic Initiatives 2014-2019

1. To operationalize programs and activities that are firmly based in the institutional mission;
2. To utilize an institutional model for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of college operations as they relate to the institution’s mission;
3. To maintain a strong academic program with a focus on teaching, research, and community service in order to prepare students for a global society;
4. To institutionalize an enrollment management system aimed at recruitment, retention, and graduation of top quality students with the skills necessary for success in their chosen fields;
5. To stabilize enrollment at 1,000 FTE students;
6. To improve the system for acquiring and managing the College’s fiscal resources to include a projected increase in the permanent endowment to $35 million; and
7. To continue to upgrade the College’s technologies to meet the needs and challenges of present and future students.


To make Rust College the premier private liberal arts college in North Mississippi, serving young people from throughout the world.


RUST COLLEGE was established in 1866 by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Its founders were missionaries from the North who opened a school in Ashbury Methodist Episcopal Church, accepting adults of all ages, as well as children, for instruction in elementary subjects. A year later the first building on the present campus was erected.

In 1870, the school was chartered as Shaw University, honoring the Reverend S.O. Shaw, who made a gift of $10,000 to the new institution. In 1892, the name was changed to Rust University to avoid confusion with another Shaw University. The name was a tribute to Richard S. Rust of Cincinnati, Ohio, Secretary of the Freedman’s Aid Society. In 1915, the title was changed to the more realistic name, Rust College.

As students progressed, high school and college courses were added to the curriculum, and in 1878 two students were graduated from the college department. As public schools for Negroes became more widespread the need for private schools decreased, and in 1930 the grade school was discontinued. The high school continued to function until 1953.

A significant change in the administration of the institution took place in 1920 when Dr. M.S. Davage became president, the first Negro to hold that position. Dr. L. M. McCoy (1924), his successor, was the first alumnus to serve his Alma Mater as president. He was followed in 1957 by Dr. Earnest A. Smith, an alumnus, class of 1937. In 1967, Dr. William A. McMillan, a non-alumnus assumed the presidency. In 1993, Dr. David L. Beckley, an alumnus, class of 1967, became the eleventh president of Rust College.

Among approximately 20,000 former students of Rust College, many completed only their elementary or secondary education. However, more than 5,500 have graduated from the college department. Among these alumni are bishops of the United Methodist Church and other Church denominations, public school teachers and administrators, college presidents, lawyers, physicians, businessmen, government leaders and ministers.


The College is located in the city of Holly Springs in the Northwestern part of Mississippi.  Situated approximately 35 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee.  The College is on U.S. Highway 178 and Mississippi Highway 7.


Rust College is a historically Black, co-educational, senior liberal arts college founded in 1866 by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to offer quality programs in business, education, humanities, science and math, and social science to prepare students for leadership and service in a global society.


  • A college related to the United Methodist Church
  • A college with sound programs designed to serve students who have a variety of academic preparations
  • A college that recognizes the threefold functions of education as teaching, research, and community service, with its primary mission as teaching
  • A college with programs designed to acquaint students with cultural, moral, and spiritual values both in theory and in practice
  • A college that provides an opportunity for education to all, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or ethnic background.


In the early history of Rust College, its first president, the Reverend A.C. McDonald, stated the purpose of Rust College as follows:

It is our aim to not do hot-house work, seeking to hurry students through a college curriculum, as do many mushroom schools in the South, sending them into the battle of life only to disgrace themselves and bring reproach upon the cause of education at large, but take the by far more difficult and tedious plan of trying to lay well a foundation for a broad, thorough, and practical education, such as shall fit our pupils for long lives of usefulness to themselves, their race, and the church.”

President McDonald gave the criterion for testing this purpose: ”By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them,” which is the motto of Rust College, and a good criterion for its purpose. While the elements of the purpose as originally stated by President McDonald remain in essence, the scope and expression of the purpose have expanded and must be expressed in terms of complexities and demands of education in a more complex and sophisticated society.

                          The Roy Wilkins and Ernest A. Smith Institute                             for Health Equity and Social Justice (WSIHESJ)

Why the Wilkins/Smith Institute at Rust College
Achieving health equity in North Mississippi and the Mid-South can be realized in our lifetime. What it requires is the vision to believe it is possible; strategies to make it happen; and the will to succeed. Rust College, through the Wilkins/Smith Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice is uniquely positioned to support health equity. Drawing on the legacy of social justice pioneers affiliated with Rust College, the Institute has developed proven community-engaged research and evaluation strategies that produce high impact results for communities affected by health disparities. As the Institute expands its partnerships and work in North Mississippi and the Mid-South, its vision of health equity through high-quality, actionable information and community-engaged activities will be realized.

Dr. Charles Williams, Associate V.P. for Institutional Research
Read more
Office of Institutional Research
Rust College
Holly Springs, MS 38635
Phone: 662-252-8000 x4009
Fax: 662-252-7901 (temporary)

Community Development Center (CDC)

Rust College, pursuant to a HUD HBCU award received in 2002, established the Rust College Community Development Corporation to expand and focus the college’s mission of providing service and technical assistance to Holly Springs, Marshall County and North Mississippi in general.

The Rust College Community Development Corporation, herein after referred to as (RCCDC) has been assigned the responsibility of developing and expanding partnerships between the college and local community, faith-based, governmental, private and not for profit organizations in order to address pressing community problems.

Mr. Clencie Cotton, Director
Beckley Conference Center
Rust College
150 Rust Avenue
Holly Springs, MS 38635
Fax: 662-252-8884
Key Function Areas
> Home Ownership
> Workforce Development
> Community Economics & Business Development
> Volunteer Center
> Partnerships


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