Alcorn graduates bid their farewells at Commencement Exercises

No one could have asked for a better senior year than Devon Francois. In December, he played a huge role in the Alcorn State University Braves Football Team’s triumphant victory over Southern University in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship game. May 9, he not only received his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, but he graduated with the honor of cum laude. As he got ready to walk across the stage, Francois reflected on his days and felt a sense of accomplishment.

“I was meant to be an Alcornite,” said Francois. “Alcorn has truly been a blessing to me. I’ll always cherish the memories I made here. Alcorn will always have a special place in my heart.”

Frederick Brown, who received a bachelor’s degree in biology education, expressed his pride in excelling in college and being an inspiration to his family members who look up to him.

“The importance of earning this degree was to allow my parents to see that I stayed on the path they set me on,” said Brown. “Now I can be a better role model for my younger family members.”

Francois and Brown were among more than 700 graduates to earn their college degrees during Alcorn State University’s Commencement in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex. Prominent Alcornite, physician and one of the stars of Bravo’s hit reality series “Married to Medicine” Dr. Jacqueline Walters ’93 delivered the commencement speech. She began by reminding the graduates of how the motivation and influence of their loved ones helped them reach their goals.

“No one accomplishes a goal without the help and influence of others,” said Walters. “I stand here today because my family, friends and colleagues believed in me. You are here also because of those who encouraged you to succeed.”

Walters encouraged the graduates to stand tall in the face of adversity and persevere until they reach their goals.

“Hold high your torch of determination and resilience. No matter how tough school may have seemed at times, your determination to succeed is the reason why you’re here today. There’s going to be challenges in the real world, but it’s not about the challenges, it’s about how you respond to those challenges.”

Walters expressed to the graduates the importance of continuing to expand their knowledge.

“Hold high the torch of life long learning and advancement. I understand that you all are graduating, but don’t let your learning stop today. I urge you all to further your education. Every day, make it a personal mission to learn something new. This can change your life.”

As a physician, Walters pointed out how maintaining good mental and physical health is key to living a prosperous and productive life.

“Your greatest wealth is your health. Maintain physical and mental well-being. It is our responsibility to do our part to improve the health statistics in Mississippi. I charge you to take charge of your health and the health of your loved ones. Learn the importance of exercise, healthy eating and avoiding obesity. Fitness is about being whole in your mind, body and spirit.”

Walters concluded her speech by giving the graduates kudos for a job well done.

“I want to congratulate you for reaching this point in your lives and living your dreams. No matter what path you choose or what your passion is, I wish you the very best. Be the change you want to see.”

There were plenty of other highlights from today’s Commencement. President Alfred Rankins Jr. congratulated the graduates and presented Walters with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

More than 70 members from the Golden Class of 1965 were present for their 50th anniversary. The class received golden diplomas and donated $103,862 for their class endowment.

Dr. Cassandra Vaughn, University veterinarian and board member of the ASU Foundation, Inc. presented the Award of Excellence to Fishkill, NY native Rachelle Abram, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and was named this year’s outstanding student, receiving a $1,000 gift.

James Stubbs, president of the Alcorn State University National Alumni Association, inducted the graduating class into the Association and presented the Alcornite of the Year Award to Charles E. Davis ’69,’78.