Houghton’s First “First Gentleman”

Houghton’s First “First Gentleman”

In the spring of 2009, Dr. Paul Mills, Class of 1961, called the President’s Office and said that, if President Mullen was ever in Washington, D.C., he would be glad to take her to dinner. (After serving as president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University for 19 years, Dr. Mills had worked in Advancement at both Southern Wesleyan and Houghton before taking up his current position as CEO of the Wesleyan Retirement, Camp and Conference Center in Denton, Maryland.) President Mullen assumed that the invitation was an Advancement call and that Dr. Mills wanted to make a gift to Houghton in honor of his late wife of nearly 48 years, Bonnie Boggs Mills, Class of 1960, who was a supportive partner in all of his endeavors.

It was not until October of 2009, October 9th to be exact, that the schedules worked such that President Mullen could meet Dr. Mills for dinner. The carefully orchestrated evening included dinner at the Charthouse in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, followed by dessert at Mount Vernon. Later that evening, Dr. Mills indicated to President Mullen that he enjoyed planning events—and since he had time on his hands, and had heard through the Houghton grapevine that she was working too hard, he offered to plan a once-a-month outing to get her out of Houghton. He was offering, in his words, “to serve as her presidential distraction.” He claims this was a statement made entirely in innocence, though everyone who has heard the story—at least at first hearing—doubts this account!

Thus began a series of monthly “outings.” November to Niagara Falls for dinner. December to Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York City. January to dinner in D.C. during a professional conference. (One does not “date” in the traditional sense in Houghton as the president.) Each outing made it ever more clear that the relationship could be serious. In February, Dr. Mills proposed in St. Mary’s Chapel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. (He IS a planner!) It was to be a June wedding, and everyone in Houghton—especially the students—were to be invited.

According to President Mullen, Dr. Mills immediately expanded the capacity of the presidency in a range of ways. “Paul knew the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the history of Wesleyan Higher Education. He brought his experience in advancement and enlarged my connections with alumni going back into the 1950s when Paul was here at the Prep School (now the Academy). He graciously took over all the household responsibilities like shopping, meal preparation, drycleaner runs and washing. Finally, he understood the presidency and what I was dealing with in a way that no one else could. Paul never tried to tell me what to do as president. We clearly had very different styles of being president! But just his being there made so much difference!”

Paul Mills and Shirley Mulle

Dr. Mills brought his own background as a prominent Purple-Gold athlete to the campus. (He was recently inducted in the Houghton Athletic Wall of Honor.) He served for several years on the Athletic Advisory Board and was a regular supporter of our athletic teams, especially men’s basketball.

Dr. Mills continues to plan President Mullen’s “distractions” including annual spring trips to New York City to see the Yankees as well as their annual Christmas trips to Radio City. In addition to planning the house and gardens in which they will be residing—appropriately called “Home Base”—he is also planning for some retirement travel to places like Spain, Iceland and even potentially the Antarctic.

We wish President Mullen and Dr. Mills many joyful years of retirement together.