Alumnus, Retired Col. Jennifer Riley Collins to keynote Alcorn’s 2019 Fall Commencement

An Alcorn State University graduate who became a celebrated Army veteran and a distinguished attorney will empower the university’s fall graduates with a motivating speech.

Jennifer Riley Collins ’87, who graduated Magna Cum Laude, will be the speaker at Alcorn’s Fall 2019 Commencement Friday, Dec. 6 in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex at 9 a.m.

Collins, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, retired from the United States Army in June 2017 as a colonel after 32 years of distinguished service as a military intelligence officer. She served on active duty for 14 years and as a member of the U.S. National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve for 18 years. Her responsibilities included deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as stateside deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2018, she was recognized by the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association as the 2018 Hidden Figure.

Collins earned a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Central Texas in one year while serving on active duty as a primary staff officer. She also earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Mississippi College School of Law in December 1999. She was licensed to practice law in 2000. Collins was recently a candidate for Attorney General for the state of Mississippi.

As someone who once stood in the shoes of the graduates, Collins understands the excitement and anticipation that the students will experience. She feels privileged to give words of encouragement to the latest class of Alcorn alumni.

“Alcorn State University is where I was nurtured, molded, and held accountable for the talents with which I had been blessed,” said Collins. “To speak into the lives of students who have also been nurtured, molded, and held accountable as they prepare to step beyond the shade is an honored opportunity. I look forward to reminding them never to allow themselves or their talents to be delayed, detoured, or denied.”

President Dr. Felecia M. Nave is grateful to attorney Collins for returning to her alma mater to encourage and impart wisdom gained from her life experience with graduates.

“We are proud to celebrate our graduates at the Fall 2019 Commencement Exercises and greatly appreciate Colonel Collins taking time to come home to Alcorn to serve as the keynote speaker. As an alumnus and seasoned military veteran, she has a broad background and wealth of experience that will both challenge and motivate our new Alcornites to be successful leaders of the future.

Dr. John Igwebuike, interim provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, describes Collins as the ideal Alcornite to bring the message at the graduation ceremony.

“Alcorn’s mission is to prepare graduates to be well-rounded future leaders of high character,” said Igwebuike. “Attorney Collins epitomizes the manifestation of our mission. She’s an alumna, a committed community servant-leader, a decorated Army colonel, a civil rights attorney, and mother of an Alcorn student. She has dedicated her career and life to protecting Mississippians, fighting for justice, and ensuring voting rights. As we prepare for our sesquicentennial celebration, Collins is an example of the excellence that Alcorn graduates have put forth for nearly 150 years.”