Graduates say their goodbyes at Alcorn Commencement

For Sunflower, Mississippi native, Reginald Higgins, today’s Commencement marked the end of an incredible era at Alcorn State University. This milestone is one that he will cherish for the rest of his life.

“Receiving my bachelor’s degree makes me feel accomplished,” said Reginald, who earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics. “I am proud to say that I’ve crossed the finish line. I am proud to be a young, educated black man.”

Today was just as special for Fayette, Mississippi native Amber Hall. She is proud to have earned a master’s degree in school counseling in the midst of juggling a teaching career and motherhood.

“To achieve this milestone in my life feels amazing,” said Amber. “What I once thought was impossible has become a reality.

Mario and Amber were among the 594 students that received college degrees at the 2016 Commencement Exercises in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex. President and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) Johnny C. Taylor Jr. was the keynote speaker.

Taylor applauded the graduates for completing their studies.

“Each of you should be so proud of yourselves because some students aren’t fortunate enough to graduate,” said Taylor. “So the fact that you’re here is a big deal. Today, you should take your victory lap.”

In his speech, Taylor encouraged the graduates to shine bright in their various fields to prove why historically black colleges and universities are relevant.

“You make the case for why HBCUs are relevant. Amongst you is some amazing talent. You all are going to change the world one day, and you all will make the case for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund when we speak on why HBCUs are important. People are going to judge Alcorn State University based on what you do in the workplace, so the number one thing you can do for Alcorn and HBCUs is show up to your future careers and perform exceptionally. It’s not enough to say you have a degree. You have to show that you can use your degree to the fullest.”

Taylor stressed to the graduates the importance of giving back to Alcorn. He pointed out that all donations, whether big or small, contributes to the progress of the University.

“You have to give back. At the end of the day, you have to pour funds into the institution that has given so much to you. You have to go out and recruit students for your school and mentor someone so that they wont make the same mistakes you made. If every one of our alumni would give significantly, we can make a difference.”

Alcorn President, Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., congratulated the graduates for completing this chapter in their lives. He encouraged the new alumni to be positive representatives for the University.

“To the new Alcorn alumni, we wish you well in the next phase of your lives,” said Rankins. “Remember to always represent Alcorn and your families with pride and dignity.”

Other than the graduates completing their college careers, several other highlights stood out at Commencement. President Rankins presented Taylor with an honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree.

Nearly 90 members of this year’s Golden Class of 1966 were recognized for their 50th graduation anniversary. The class received golden diplomas and donated $117,167 for their class endowment.

Dr. Shelby Wilkes, secretary for the ASU Foundation Inc., presented the Award of Excellence to DeAnte’ Spann, a Morton, Mississippi native who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. DeAnte’ was awarded a gift of $1,000.

President of the Alcorn State University National Alumni Association, James Stubbs, presented the Alcornite of the Year Award to Neddie Winters, a 1972 graduate who currently serves as president of Mission Mississippi.

Winters, along with his wife Tommie, donated a $2,016 gift to the ASU Foundation Inc. on behalf of this year’s graduating class.

View Commencement 2016 photos here.

  • 2016 graduation speaker resized.jpg
  • DeAnte Spann commencement resized.jpg
  • Neddie Winters resized.jpg