Mrs. Zelmarine Murphy looks forward to being in Alcorn’s Golden Class

The beautiful quality that all Alcornites possess is the love for their dear Alcorn State University. Whenever the University is mentioned, you will notice their enthusiasm and appreciation for what Alcorn has done for them. Mrs. Zelmarine Murphy, a Vicksburg native and proud alumna, still bleeds purple and gold in her advanced age. Back in the 1960s, when Alcorn State University was Alcorn Agricultural & Mechanical College, Murphy showed her school spirit by attending the Braves football teams’ games and assisting them whenever she was needed. She said that former Alcorn President, Dr. Walter Washington, told her that she was like a mother to the students. One of the football players agreed with him by saying, “she’s a momma to all of us.” It was at that moment when Momma Brave’s legacy began.

“The students at Alcorn started calling me Momma Brave,” said Murphy. “I think it is an honor to be called Momma Brave because although the students have biological mothers, they still thought enough about me to call me their mother away from home. I don’t take this lightly because we’re all family.”

Murphy, along with 89 others who graduated from Alcorn in 1966, will be recognized as this year’s Golden Class in the 2016 Commencement Exercises. The class will be celebrating their 50th year of being Alcorn graduates. Murphy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in home economics. She taught school in Tunica and Greenville, Mississippi and Tallulah, Louisiana, where she spent 36 years. She retired with 46 years of experience in education before coming back to Alcorn to work as an adjunct professor.

Being a part of this year’s Golden Class is something that Murphy has anticipated for a long time. Now that her special moment is approaching, she couldn’t be happier.

“I feel ecstatic. I have been writing ‘golden class’ behind my name since football season. I think it is an honor to be in this class. The years have really flown by. It doesn’t seem like it has been 50 years already. It’s a blessing for all of us to be in our 70s and be able enough to participate. It’s an honor to wear the purple and gold.”

Growing up, Murphy had positive influences to help shape her into the women she has become. She credits her time at Alcorn as one of the driving forces in teaching her morals and how to be a classy individual.

“Alcorn prepared me to hold my own in the corporate world without having fear. We were taught to make things happen. We were taught to arrive 30 minutes early and not to watch the clock at the end of the day. At Alcorn, we were taught to stand up and be a positive force. We were taught to dress professionally, whether the occasion was formal, informal or casual. When you get out in the community, you represent Alcorn. Someone is looking at you so, you don’t ever want to bring dishonor to yourself or the University.”

With upgraded technology, more eateries and newly implemented resources, Alcorn has changed since Murphy’s time as a student. She explained what it was like to attend Alcorn before all of the upgrades.

“Compared to how things were then, times are significantly different. The rules were very rigid back then. Girls couldn’t wear pants until after noon on Saturdays. You had to get permission from a matron to go to Ms. Patton’s store. The girls were not allowed in the Men’s dorm area. When we would attend basketball games, we had specific tickets to attend games. If you had a gold ticket, you were going to the Monday night game. If you had a purple ticket, you were going to the Saturday night game. You had to eat what was in the cafeteria because there were no other options and on Sundays, we got what were called grab bags. They contained Vienna sausages, crackers and a moon pie.”

Despite not having the technological advancements that this generation has, Murphy said that her class still found ways to have fun on campus.

“We played cards. When I first came to the yard, the student union was under the chapel, so we would go there and play the jukebox. We played tennis and horse shoe. We would walk from the chapel to Alice Tanner, which is now a parking lot. We always found a way to have fun.”

Murphy loves how respectful the students of Alcorn are. Because of their honor, she feels confident in their ability to represent the University with class and dignity.

“The students are so polite. If I were to depart this life after receiving my degree, I would feel happy knowing that Alcorn is in good hands because of the young people. The young people are developing the same love for Alcorn that the older alumni have.”

Now that the celebration is quickly approaching, Murphy is starting to realize the power of her prayer concerning participating in the Golden Class. She, along with her classmates, has plans of celebrating their moment in the best way possible.

“On a serious note, I’ve dealt with illness and death in my family. For the last year, my prayer has been to allow me the strength to strut across that stage. My classmates and I plan to party.”

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