Lorman, Miss (Sept. 27, 2013) – Education remains paramount to gaining equality, George Haley, brother of famed author Alex Haley, told a crowd of more than 300 gathered at Alcorn State University to celebrate Founders Day for the university and nearby Chamberlain-Hunt Academy.
“Education will always be the foundation of progress toward equality,” Haley, the former U.S. Ambassador to Gambia, said.
Alcorn State University and Chamberlain-Hunt Academy celebrated Founders Day together for the first time in the schools’ histories Friday. Both trace their roots to Oakland College, a school the Presbytery of Mississippi founded in 1830 where Alcorn stands.
“Today, we — Alcorn State University and Chamberlain-Hunt Academy — come together to celebrate our shared roots and different histories that have intertwined,” Dr. Samuel L. White, executive vice president and provost at Alcorn said. “We join hands to move forward together.”
Oakland Memorial Chapel was part of the original campus. Both schools in the past gathered at the chapel to celebrate Founders day, but on different days. Alcorn President M. Christopher Brown II this year decided the schools should celebrate together, part of his effort to celebrate diversity.
“The progeny that would ultimately populate each campus were descendants of different races, social histories and public ambitions,” President Brown said. “Ancestrally the students of Alcorn and Chamberlain-Hunt may have come over the Atlantic Ocean on different ships, but geographically, politically and genetically we are both in the same boat now.”
“We are both in the same room now,” Brown continued; “And 183 years later, we are both in the same Oakland Memorial Chapel.”
Alcorn also honored many of its alumni and supporters with awards acknowledging their contributions to the university and the public. Haley, who shared personal experiences of having been one of the first students of color at the University of Arkansas, where he earned a law degree, was honored with the Alcorn Bravery Award, celebrating his service in seven presidential administrations.
“For decades we had to fight for equal education and we must continue to invest in the education of our people,” Haley said in his keynote address. “Today we are falling behind in education in the nation. We must invest in our institutions. We can do better. We must do better.” Haley also accepted a posthumously awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letter on behalf of his brother Alex, who attended Alcorn.
The Hiram R. Revels Award, the university’s highest award for superior achievement, was awarded to prominent civil rights activist and the past president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Mr. Ozell Sutton. The Levi J. Rowan Heritage Award was given to urologist Dr. Charlie H. Bridges, a 1974 Alcorn graduate and philanthropist, in recognition of his exceptional financial support of the university. Maj. Gen. Jefforey A. Smith, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, who was awarded the Oakland Memorial Chapel Award in support of higher education.
Five Presidential Citations for Excellence were presented to those who organized events marking the 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers’ assassination: Joseph Reese, the Rev. Hickman Johnson, Dr. Juanita Sims-Doty, NAACP President Derrick Johnson and Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute President Reena Evers-Everette. Alcorn alumnus John Jones was awarded a certificate of appreciation for leading the charge to erect a statue of Medgar Wiley Evers, who attended Alcorn.
“We must remain vigilant, determined and focused about our work,” Brown told the group. “We may not have it all together, but together we can have it all. Generations are waiting on us and we are the best that they have.”
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.