Alcorn celebrates 151 years during the annual Founders’ Day Convocation

The storied legacy continues for Alcorn State University, as it celebrated 151 years of excellence during its annual honorary event.

The 151st annual Founders Day Convocation, hosted by the Cora S. Balmat School of Nursing, was held Friday, Sept. 30, at the Oakland Memorial Chapel. This year’s theme was “Forging Ahead to a Brighter Future.” Alcorn is the oldest public historically Black land-grant institution of higher learning in Mississippi. The University was founded in 1871 due to Mississippi’s efforts to educate the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans.

Dr. Phyllis Polk Johnson, CEO/executive director of the Mississippi Board of Nursing, and Madison Sharble, a senior nursing major at Alcorn, gave past and present perspective speeches during the event.

Johnson has 40 years of experience in nursing and healthcare leadership. The Mississippi Business Journal selected the Mississippi Board of Nursing in 2021 as one of the “Best Places to Work in Mississippi.” Johnson was recently elected president-elect of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. She holds the distinction of being the first Black woman to be elected to the leadership position. Johnson also received the Madison County Economic Development Authority’s 2021 Visionary Leadership Award last October.

Sharble is a University Scholar recipient who maintains a 3.76 GPA. Sharble has volunteered at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, California, sending out bereavement letters and attending support groups for those who lost loved ones. Sharble was a four-year basketball team member at Gilroy High School, earning an all-league Honorable Mention for the best defensive player. She was also a member of the National Honor Society.

Johnson praised the University for succeeding despite the many challenges that have arisen over the years.

“You dreamed that you could make it from great odds, and then you made your dreams come true,” said Johnson. “I encourage you to keep the dream alive. The odds have tried to deter your dream, tried to kill your dream, and tried to drown out your dream, but I encourage you to keep the dream alive and keep forging ahead.”

She gave the University two methods to continue strengthening its pursuit of excellence in the future: Hope and Power.

“Hope keeps tired eyes open and drooping ears listening in the stillness of the darkest night. Hope keeps weary feet moving and a fatigued brain thinking and imagining creatively. Hope never dies, so hope that visionary leadership continues envisioning; Hope that bright minds continue to enroll; Hope that brilliant faculty and staff continue to inspire students; Hope alumni and philanthropic supporters continue giving.

“Power is the capacity to do or accomplish something. Power is Alcorn’s God gene. I call Alcorn God’s country because it has not sat idle. Alcorn has forged ahead with power, the capacity to act, and the ability to do.”

Although tragic, her great-grandmother’s passing lit Sharble’s passion for nursing and caregiving. Sharble said losing a loved one is one of the reasons why she pursues a nursing career.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, my mother called and told me that my great-grandmother passed,” said Sharble. “All I thought about is how my mother told me that if only she were in good care. Since that day, my great-grandmother has been my motivation. I knew I wanted to become a nurse and provide the best care possible to all I encountered. I want to go above and beyond for my patients. I also aim to do the best for the patient’s family. By ascribing to this philosophy, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m giving the care that I wanted my great-grandmother to have gotten.”

Sharble’s second reason is watching her resilient mother complete her nursing degree and reach her goals in the field. Her mom’s dedication motivated her to attend Alcorn’s School of Nursing, a program that Sharble said was the best choice for her.

“I watched my mother return to school to earn the title of a nurse practitioner. With her expertise and advice, she encouraged me to pursue my goal of becoming a trauma nurse in an emergency room. Alcorn’s School of Nursing was my first choice because its philosophy mirrored mine. They have graduated some of the top nursing leaders in the country. I wanted to be a part of a stellar school with an awesome legacy.”

Alcorn President Dr. Felecia M. Nave applauded the School of Nursing staff for hosting. Nave also praised the School for contributing to the University’s legacy and world.

“Our nursing program is embarking upon 45 years of celebrating its bachelor’s and associate programs, and we are excited about what they have contributed to the Alcorn legacy,” said Nave. “Our nursing program is one of our signature programs that continues to rank and represent locally and across the world. Alcorn nursing is known for producing the finest nurses, administrators, and leaders.”