Alcorn celebrates spring and fall 2020 graduates with two Commencement ceremonies

The University celebrated its spring and fall graduating classes of 2020 with two outdoor Commencement Ceremonies Saturday, Nov. 21, at Jack Spinks Stadium-Marino Casem Field. Graduation is a treasured tradition for Alcorn’s students and their families, and the University remained committed to honoring their academic accomplishments in a safe environment.

Following safety protocols, Commencement officials required everyone present to have their temperature checked upon campus entry, wear masks, and remain socially distant. The event was also live-streamed through the University’s social media channels.

This year’s speaker was Bonner Upshaw III, CEO, and co-founder of Trion Solutions. He began his speech by encouraging the students to overcome challenges and avoid allowing mistakes to define their future.

“Mistakes are a part of life’s journey,” said Upshaw. “We can’t beat ourselves up over those mistakes or allow them to erode our belief that anything is possible. You can’t let mistakes that define you on the road ahead. It’s the journey and our ability to adjust, learn, and grow. That’s what makes us who we are today.”

Upshaw proceeded to give three critical points for students to remember to achieve success. His first point was staying focused, a lesson he learned while playing for legendary Alcorn Men’s Basketball Coach, the late Davey L. Whitney. He spoke about the importance of honing your skills.

“I learned early about focus, discipline, and hard work from Coach Whitney. He was a tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian. Everyone has natural talents, but it is a mistake to rely solely on those talents. It’s foolish to think that talent or skills beat hard work and discipline. So remained focused and work hard.”

Being passionate about something was Upshaw’s second key to success. He learned the importance of having passion while being roommates with the late Alcornite and star of the movie, “The Green Mile,” Michael Clarke Duncan. He recalled how Duncan was passionate about everything he did, and he challenged the graduates to adopt that same love and dedication to their passion.

“Every morning, Michael would wake up, look in the mirror, and yell to himself, ‘Who wants it! Me, that’s who!’ He defined passion and how important it is to find something we love doing and pursuing it with total commitment. So, I encourage you to find something to be passionate about and go for it.”

Upshaw concluded with his final point, which focused on taking risks. He talked about how all of his success came from taking leaps of faith, including becoming an entrepreneur and growing Trion Solutions, Inc. into the top Black Human Resources payroll organization in the United States. He assured the graduates that taking chances could result in reaching their goals.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. You’re going to face many forks in the road where you need to make important decisions about taking jobs, moving to different cities, pursuing graduate degrees, supporting causes, or marrying your mate. It takes risks to pursue a passion, and it takes risks to pursue your dreams. Believe in yourself, no matter how rocky the road. I’m excited for all of you, and I wish you success in your journey ahead.”

Graduating from Alcorn was a dream fulfilled for Lashonda Jackson, a Natchez, Mississippi native who earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies. She’s proud to be an Alcorn alumna.

“Graduating from Alcorn State University has been my dream since I graduated high school in 1995,” said Jackson. “As quoted from author Napoleon Hill, ‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.’ I believed I could do it, Alcorn afforded me the opportunity, and I have finally achieved my goal. I am Brave strong.”

The students were impressed and grateful for the University’s willingness to give them a proper graduation ceremony. Jamarius Brown, a Canton, Mississippi native who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology pre-medicine, expressed pride in his University for acknowledging the students.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my institution,” said Brown. “Alcorn understands how serious students take graduation. I’ve been looking forward to this occasion since my freshman year. I appreciate them listening and letting us walk for our graduation. I am forever grateful for the chance to participate.”

Members of Alcorn’s spring class of 2020 were also excited about returning to walk across the stage. Keaundria Milloy, a Mount Olive, Mississippi native who earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications in May, was happy that her prayers for a traditional graduation were answered.

“I am so excited and thrilled to walk at my college graduation ceremony finally,” said Milloy. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I was disappointed that my class wouldn’t have the opportunity to finish our final weeks as seniors at Alcorn. I continued to pray for this once in a lifetime opportunity, and God answered my prayers. I believe Alcorn did right by promising us the one thing we look forward to at the end of our four years. Other classes endured a struggle, but the 2020 graduates survived a pandemic, and no one can top that.”

Other Commencement highlights included the recognition of the Golden Class of 1970. Thirteen members of the class participated in the ceremony.

Alcorn President Felecia M. Nave praised the graduates for completing their educations during the pandemic. She encouraged them to cherish their moment.

“I encourage you to live in the moment and bask in your accomplishment,” said Nave. “This accomplishment is one of many to come. This day has been years in the making. You deserve all of the praise and recognition for completing this step in your educational journey. We salute you for your resilience. You will join more than 25,000 proud alumni who treasure this institution for what it has been and the story that is yet to be written. You represent the richness of our history, and you are our hope for the future.”