Students look forward to Alton Jay Harris’ 2017 Spring Commencement Address
For Alcorn State University senior and mass communications major Darren Walker, receiving the advice from ESPN’s Alton Jay Harris at the upcoming 2017 Spring Commencement is an honor. He believes that Harris’ speech will inspire him to one day pursue his interest in sports journalism.
“I can’t wait to receive the message from a seasoned journalist who works for a major network,” said Darren. “His position with ESPN gives me hope in my pursuit to make journalism my career. It inspires me, and it helps me to realize the possibilities for my future.”
Harris is set to deliver the commencement speech Saturday, May 6 in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex.
A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Harris was named one of the anchors for the 7 a.m. SportsCenter: AM program in February 2016. He joined ESPN in February 2003 as an anchor. Prior to his current role, Harris was a news anchor and reporter at WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Harris has more than 25 years of experience in television and radio, including morning news anchor at WAMO-FM and national news at American Urban Radio Networks, both in Pittsburgh, and at WOMI-FM in Norfolk, Virginia. His work outside of sports included the trapped coal miners near Pittsburgh, and while in Virginia, the fatal USS Iowa battleship explosion.
Dr. Donzell Lee, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said that Harris is the perfect choice to deliver the message to the graduates.
“Jay Harris is an astute journalist who is a great communicator,” said Lee. “Considering his many years of experience as a broadcaster, and particularly his current assignment as an anchor with ESPN’s SportsCenter, he will be able to inform and challenge our graduates with a great message. His intellectual acumen, combined with his down-to-earth demeanor, made him an easy choice for our May 2017 commencement.”
Some of Harris’s honors include being part of SportsCenter’s Sports Emmy-winning efforts in 2004 and 2005. He was also a recipient of the Silver World Medal from the New York Festival Awards, Robert L. Vann Award from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation and an EXCEL Award from the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals. He was also honored by his alma mater, Old Dominion University, with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003.
Monique Mansfield, also a senior, mass communications major, believes that seeing a successful African-American journalist will give aspiring journalists the confidence they need to pursue their dream jobs.
“It’s empowering to see an African-American journalist who has made his way to national media,” said Monique. “It shows us here at Alcorn that there are a ton of options in the media world for us. It will also give future sports journalists here some insight into what to expect.”
After meeting a few Alcornites in Atlanta, Georgia during the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in 2015, Harris was impressed with their welcoming and friendly personalities. His interaction made his decision to deliver the commencement speech an easy one.
“I accepted the invitation to give the 2017 Spring Commencement speech at Alcorn because of the friendliness and professionalism from people I’ve gotten to know from the University,” said Harris. “There is a palpable love for, and a genuine pride in the University and its students, and I wanted to be a part of that, even for just a day.”