Alcorn honors the legacy of Dr. Walter Washington at Founders Day

Alcorn State University students, faculty, staff and alumni convened to reflect on one of the University’s legends, Dr. Walter Washington.

Alcorn celebrated 145 years of excellence at the 2016 Founders Day Convocation Wednesday, Sept. 21 in the Oakland Memorial Chapel. This year’s theme was “A Salute to Dr. Walter Washington,” in honor of the University’s longest tenured president. Washington retired form Alcorn in 1994 after 25 years of service.

The keynote speakers for the event were Dr. Josephine Posey, Dr. Norris Edney, Mr. Wiley Jones and Dr. Malvin Williams. Vice President for Student Affairs Emanuel Barnes Sr. served as the event’s moderator. The speakers focused on their days of working under Washington.

Alcorn History Research Associate Dr. Josephine Posey remembered Washington as a leader who stressed good customer service.

“Commitment to excellence was his philosophy from day one,” said Posey. “Improving the image of Alcorn was his major concern. He once said that the difference between working at a university and selling a product in the corporate world is the satisfaction of helping people. He maintained that the primary product of Alcorn was good customer service. He left a legacy that is remembered in Alcorn’s history.”

Edney, who has served as Alcorn’s acting president twice, said that Washington was a private man with a strong work ethic. He credits Washington for being the leader he learned the most from.

“I’m humbled beyond measure to come here and talk about President Washington,” said Edney. “I learned more from him than anyone else could ever teach me. He was very private, so to learn his principles, you would have to pay attention to his actions. He was very meticulous and there wasn’t’ an excuse for failure. He was a wonderful person and the best administrator I’ve ever seen, and that was because of his consistency.”

Jones, who worked under Washington during his 25-year tenure, recalled his negotiating prowess and love for Alcorn’s students.

“He was a great negotiator,” said Jones. “I saw him get things done that I never would have imagined. He raised and changed the academic standards of Alcorn by raising the ACT score requirements. When he did that, people thought that a drop of enrollment would occur, but after they saw the success of the new standards, he was later applauded for his decision. I applauded him for that. He was concerned about the students. He would walk through every dorm room to make sure the rooms were livable. He was a great leader who I learned a lot from, and I still use those lessons in my life today.”

Williams, who also served as interim president at Alcorn, reflected on Washington’s drive to bring exceptional academic programs to Alcorn.

“We knew who was in charge,” said Williams. “He had a relationship with the board and legislature that was unmatched. In terms of academic programs, Dr. Washington wanted all programs at Alcorn to be professionally accredited. He was about making sure that we had not only new programs, but quality programs.”

President Rankins admired Washington for assuring that Alcorn was always in a good place financially. Rankins said that he made a personal promise to maintain the University’s financial stability.

“Dr. Washington was a conservative man, and he was keen on Alcorn being financially sound,” said Rankins. “His legacy is that he made Alcorn a financially sound institution, and it has remained that way since his time as president because of the many additions that he put in place.”

“I remember my first day as president when I walked into Dr. Washington’s old office. I saw decorations that were still on the wall from when he was here. At that moment, I made a commitment to myself that under my leadership, Alcorn will continue to be financially sound.”

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