Dr. Robert Wesley Pearigen is the eleventh president of Millsaps College. He brings to the position more than two decades of leadership and teaching in higher education.
A native of Memphis, Pearigen is a 1976 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he earned a bachelor of arts in political science. He earned his master's and doctoral degrees in political science from Duke University. His post-graduate study included constitutional law, judicial process and political theory, particularly the work of Plato and Aristotle. His academic fields of interest include public law, political theory and American government.
He was an English instructor at Towering Oaks Academy in Memphis, Tenn., in 1977, an instructor of political science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University from 1982-1985 and an assistant professor of political science at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., from 1985-1987.
Pearigen returned to The University of the South in 1987 as dean of men. A member of the political science faculty throughout his 23-year tenure at Sewanee, Pearigen served as associate dean of students, dean of students and vice president for University Relations. As a faculty member, Pearigen taught courses in constitutional law, civil rights and liberties, jurisprudence and political theory. As vice president, he oversaw the largest capital campaign in the history of the university, raising more than $206 million for the endowment, new and renovated buildings and the operating fund. He also led the campaign to raise funds for the acquisition of the 3,000-acre Lost Cove tract, which increased the university's domain to 13,000 acres.
He is an advocate for liberal arts education. "I have a passionate belief in liberal arts education as intrinsically meaningful for individuals as well as being the very best preparation for a good and worthy life of learning, leadership and service," he said.
Pearigen is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Distinguished Faculty Award, presented by the Associated Alumni at The University of the South. The Student Life Cabinet at The University of the South established the Pearigen Commitment to Community Award to recognize his dedication to the academic success and social well-being of student, and Friends of the Pearigens also established the Robert W. and Phoebe S. Pearigen Faculty Support Endowment in their honor.
He was an Aspen Institute Fellow at the Summer Seminar at Wye Woods and a guest at the Georgetown University Law Center's Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation Symposium. He authored two chapters in Religious Schools of America, and his book review of David Miller's Principles of Social Justice was published in the Journal of Politics in 2000. He has also presented papers and participated in panel discussions at professional conferences.
Pearigen was a Region III board member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and served as a member of the board of trustees and chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, Tenn.
He and his wife Phoebe have two children, Carolyn and Wesley.