Alcorn State, Miss. (May 11, 2013) – Alcorn State University concluded its commencement week activities May 8-11 by conferring degrees to graduates of its 2013 class. The university had an unprecedented 674 applications for graduation – an increase of more than 15%. Alcorn’s 18th President M. Christopher Brown II welcomed all gathered in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex to the 142nd Commencement Convocation.
Keynote speaker Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremony, told graduates about choice, courage and compassion.
“The choice is yours to have the courage and compassion to lead us into the 21st century,” Morial encouraged the students to remember those who are “locked out and left out.”
Morial, the former New Orleans mayor, reminded the students that they stood on the shoulders of the prestigious Alcornites who preceded them, including Myrlie and Medgar Evers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Alex Haley, and Hiram Revels, the first black U.S. senator who was the first president of what was then Alcorn University.
Actor Michael Clarke Duncan’s mother didn’t get to see her son graduate from Alcorn State University where he once majored in communications and played basketball. But Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, the 93-year-old was there when her son was among four awarded posthumous degrees on the Lorman campus.
Omarosa Manigault, who gained fame as a reality TV star, was among the popular celebrities and civic leaders who addressed the graduates.
“I am so honored that Michael Clarke Duncan, joins the class of 2013,” Manigault, who is now a Los Angeles minister, said. “In memory of Michael, I will give to Alcorn the first financial gift from the Class of 2013.”
Alcorn’s 2013 class, ranging in age from 21 to 62, is filled with encouraging stories of those who overcame obstacles. Those stories are reflected in its top graduates, two of whom addressed the audience.
Valedictorian Kenneth Gibson was in special education until the sixth grade. Then a teacher noticed he was smart, but processed information differently. That teacher’s attention helped lead Gibson, who had struggled with math, to become a math major. Saturday he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, walking away with a 3.95 GPA.
“We salute our instructors who have helped and encouraged us to overcome the obstacles along the road of knowledge and who have been so patient with us during all these years,” Gibson, 23, told the crowd that filled the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex and spilled into three overflow locations.
Gibson tutored students in math while at Alcorn, the school he entered in 2009. He plans to earn a graduate degree and become a researcher. Gibson has a paid internship in atmospheric science at Texas A&M University where he will be this summer.
Salutatorian Rosetta Knight Futrell is a U.S. Army Reserve member who was deployed to Kuwait in 2008. She transferred from Copiah-Lincoln Community College to Alcorn in 2011. Saturday the 28-year-old earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Futrell earned a 3.85 GPA and plans to get a master’s in business administration and become a certified public accountant.
“Today doors of opportunity have been opened for us, but it’s up to us to walk through them,” Futrell told the crowd. “Let’s not stop here, but continue to excel to higher heights.”
This year’s Alcorn State University Foundation, Inc. Award of Excellence was presented to an outstanding student Casey Mock of Natchez, Mississippi, by Marcus Ward, vice president for Institutional Advancement and director, ASU Foundation, Inc. Mock also received a monetary award of $1,000.
Alcorn also honored the Class of ’63, keeping with the school’s tradition of acknowledging the class that graduated 50 years earlier. The class, many of whose members walked the stage and received golden degrees, donated $90,000 to the ASU Foundation, Inc.
Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, who tweeted graduation pictures during the ceremony, gave each student $1, a symbolic gesture marking the first money they will earn as Alcorn graduates.
Facts about the Class of 2013:
674 degrees awarded this year; 570 last year.
4 posthumous degrees also awarded.
77 percent of the class is female.
8 percent are from non-black groups.
Youngest is 21.
Oldest is 62.
27 is the average age of baccalaureate recipients.
35 is the average age of graduate and professional degree recipients.
31 is the average age of all graduates.
90 percent are Mississippi residents.
17 states represented.
5 foreign countries represented.
7 were commissioned as officers, 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army.
Celebrity guests at Saturday’s graduation:
Omarosa Manigault, former reality star and now Los Angeles minister.
Chrystal Rucker, nationally known gospel-recording artist who sang two songs at the ceremony.
Michelle Nicole Gibson, choreographer and dancer who performed.
Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.
Presidential Awards presented to:
Dr. Marta A. Piva, associate professor of biology - President’s Award for Research Excellence
Dr. Wesley Lloyd Whittaker, professor and program leader for agricultural economics/international agriculture - President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching
Ms. Mary Marie Trimble, lifelong educator and coordinator of the Saturday Science Academy - President’s Award for Community Engagement
Ms. Belinda Benjamin, director of administrative and student services/budget manager - President’s Award for Excellence in Student Services
Mr. Samuel Griffin, an iconic pioneer of HBCU bands all over the nation - President’s Award for University Service
Presidential Honorary Alumnus Awards presented to:
Milton C. Davis -- Renowned attorney and 29th General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated
Jimmy Hammock -- Public servant and International President of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated
Cynthia M.A. Butler-McIntyre -- Gifted educator and 24th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Frenchye Harper Latham -- Community servant and civil rights pioneer
Jesse Morris, Jr. -- Lifelong Lorman resident and son of Alcorn legends
Alcorn State University is a premier comprehensive land-grant university that develops diverse students into globally-competitive leaders, and applies scientific research through collaborative partnerships that benefit the surrounding communities, state, nation, and world.