Colonel Timothy W. Holman ’92 dare graduates to dream during 2021 Spring Commencement Ceremony

Alcorn State University’s newest alumni were encouraged to dare to dream during the University’s Commencement address.

Nearly 500 graduates earned degrees during Alcorn’s Spring 2021 Commencement Ceremony Saturday, May 8, at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. Engineer Officer Colonel Timothy W. Holman ’92 gave the ceremonial address, in which he motivated the graduates to work hard to achieve excellence at the highest levels.

He began his speech by telling the story of his humble beginnings growing up poor in Marks, Mississippi, and how he beat the odds to accomplish his dreams and more. He used his story as an example to motivate the graduates to achieve excellence beyond their goals.

“I told you my story to say that if a little black boy from Marks, Mississippi could one day sit in the company of kings, presidents, congressmen, and senators, then what you dare to dream is not only possible, its probable,” said Holman.

Some of today’s greats, such as Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan, were mentioned in Holman’s speech as he went on to highlight how their greatness was born out of overcoming challenges and mistakes. He spoke about the inevitable challenges that the graduates will face and encouraged them to rise above the obstacles.

“I can’t tell you that life won’t challenge you. I won’t tell you that you won’t make mistakes along the way, but I will tell you that some of the greatest success stories ever written were born out of opposition, mistakes, and failures.”

Holman also encouraged the graduates not to be afraid to leave a path that would not create a unique path for them to find success.

“The great Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and make a trail.’ Of course, this is much easier said than done. Some of you may find yourself following a path that’s not yours. You are young enough to fail in life and recover, but you’ll never experience your true level of greatness until you get off that path and make your trail. You only have one life to live, so make every minute count.”

Now that the students have earned their degrees, Holman said that they have the power to create a great path that includes unlimited success.

“You now have what it takes to write the rest of your story. I dare you to give your story an amazing ending. Be relentless in your pursuit of perfection, and don’t allow anything to prevent you from daring to dream.”

Alcorn President Felecia M. Nave applauded the graduates on their milestone. She expressed confidence that the new alumni will make great strides in making the future better.

“This day has been years in the making, and you deserve all of the praise in completing this step in your educational journey,” said Nave. “You represent the richness of our history, and you are the hope for our future. We are proud of you and will continue to watch your success. We are here to support you in any way we can.”

The ceremony had other notable highlights and award presentations. Robert Gage IV, chair for the ASU Foundation, Inc. and CEO of RiverHills Bank in Port Gibson, Mississippi, presented the annual Student Award of Excellence to Emmanuella Kyllians, a Lagos, Nigeria native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.

The award is a testament to Kyllians's commitment to achieving high honors during her journey as a student at Alcorn.

“It feels unreal,” said Kyllians. “I had anticipated this day since my first year on campus and had set goals that I wanted to achieve by the time I marched across the stage. I am proud that I achieved my goals and more. Though there were times when it got tough, and I wanted to stop, I credit my success to God, my family, and friends for giving me strength and continuing to motivate me.”

Commencement also included the annual celebration of Alcorn’s Golden Class, as 80 members of the Class of 1971 received their golden diplomas to commemorate their 50th graduation anniversary. In addition, this year’s class donated over $150,000 to the University, which is the largest donation by any Golden Class.

Golden Class member Willie Mae Jones, a retired teacher who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, was happy to see her classmates and experience the special moment with them.

“I was elated to march with the Golden Class of 1971,” said Jones. “I am very proud of Alcorn, and it was a privilege to see my classmates after 50 years and share more memories with them.”