Alcorn closes 150th year with a celebratory gala

Alcornites and friends from near and far convened to celebrate the ending of one of the most historical years in the institution’s existence. 

Alcorn State University hosted its Sesquicentennial Gala to celebrate 150 years of excellence.  

“Alcorn State University remains a pillar in the southwest Mississippi community and beyond,” said Dr. Felecia M. Nave, president of Alcorn. “Throughout our existence, we have shattered glass ceilings in almost every field imaginable, from STEM to athletics. The University has served as a beacon of hope for the underserved. Our graduates have impacted our nation and the world by delivering positive contributions to society.” 

News anchors Maggie Wade and Troy Johnson served as the evening’s hosts and began the night with highlights of Alcorn’s history as a trailblazer among higher education institutions in the nation.  

Bria Fells, the 96th Miss Alcorn and a fourth-generation Alcornite, professed her love for Alcorn and the many opportunities she has been granted because of the institution.  

Also, a multigenerational Alcornite and SGA President, Christopher Epps, guided the audience through what makes the University a special place for generations of alumni and their families and numerous institutional accolades. 

As the nation’s oldest historically Black public land-grant institution, the event closed 15 months of celebratory events and activities, including the inauguration of the University’s first female president, celebratory kickoff, Founders’ Day Convocation, the 100th anniversary of Braves Football, the 50th anniversary of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, among a host of other events.

Alcorn’s Concert Choir, led by Dr. Alona Alexander, choir director and assistant professor of music, euphonious sounds cast a jovial and stately mood on the evening.  

Funds from the gala benefit students, faculty, and staff with much-needed support for scholarships, research, and programming to advance the institution’s strategic plan goals. 

Mrs. Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of Medgar Wiley Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams, and Dr. Malvin Williams, former ASU interim president, delivered reflections of Alcorn’s legacy. 

Evers-Everette recalled her parents having fond memories of their meeting on the Alcorn campus and the beauty that existed.  

Dr. Williams reflected on living on Alcorn’s campus for 70 years. During this time, he attended the grade school and the University as an undergraduate student. 

Guests were in for a musical treat as Charlie Wilson, who began as a founding member and lead singer of the legendary GAP Band (“You Dropped the Bomb on Me,” “Outstanding,” “Party Train,” and “Burn Rubber on Me.”) 

As a solo artist Wilson has topped the R&B charts with 13 number one singles, 13 Grammy nominations, a New York Times and Washington Post best-selling memoir, “I Am Charlie Wilson,” a BET Lifetime Achievement Award, a Soul Train Icon Award, a Soul Train Certified Soul Award, and a NAACP Music Makes a Difference Award. He was also honored with a star on the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame in 2022 and will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2023. 

Over the years, the University has expanded its offerings to nearly 50 majors housed in five schools — Agriculture and Applied Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Psychology, and Nursing. 

Its Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, serves as a voice for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and ensure data-driven information is available for Congress and other stakeholders. 

The University is home to champions and scholars amassing a stellar championship record in sports, having captured the 2021-22 SWAC Regular Season title with the Braves Men’s Basketball team. It was the first championship title for the Alcorn Men’s Basketball program since 2002. 

The Lady Braves received their first championship title in program history, finishing first at the 2021 Women’s Cross Country Championships. 

Alcorn clinched the SWAC East Division crown and appeared in the SWAC Football Championship game in all six seasons in which the team participated, taking home the conference title four times (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019). 

In women’s tennis, Alcorn won the SWAC Championship in 2016 and appeared in the title match in back-to-back years (2018, 2019). 

In the spring, nearly 150 student-athletes had at least a 3.0 grade point average. This year, Alcorn graduated 67 student-athletes.

One of the evening’s highlights was the Women of Courage honor, which is presented to women who have demonstrated courage in overcoming challenges and obstacles and positively influenced the communities they serve. This year’s awardees are Carla Kirkland, CEO of the Kirkland Group; Dr. Josephine Posey (posthumously), Alcorn administrator and historian; and Iris Kyle, a professional bodybuilder. 

Kirkland is the founder and CEO of The Kirkland Group, an educational consulting firm comprised of highly qualified instructional coaches who are experts in building teacher capacity and improving student performance. A leading service provider for K-12 College and Career Readiness (CCR), The Kirkland Group dedicates itself to advancing academic performance for at-risk and struggling students and supporting teachers and administrators through data coaching, teacher coaching, professional development, and audit preparation. Kirkland has nearly 30 years of educational experience and holds membership in educational and service groups while actively involved in organizations like the Education Industry Association, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and The Links, Inc. 

Iris Kyle, an American professional bodybuilding champion, has been recognized as the most successful female bodybuilder in history, with 10 Ms. Olympia wins and seven Ms. International wins. She was the top-ranked best female bodybuilder on the IFBB Pro Women’s Bodybuilding Ranking list. 

Dr. Josephine Posey authored two books on the University’s history, “Succeeding Against Great Odds: Alcorn State University in its Second Century” and “Against Great Odds: The History of Alcorn State University.” Posey also authored the paperback, pictorial history documenting Alcorn and notable alumni, “Alcorn State University and the National Alumni Association.” She detailed in her books the history and significant contributions and accomplishments the University has achieved. 

In a career that spanned nearly 40 years, Posey dedicated her life to educating young people. She made her mark on the University’s history in 1984 when she became the first female to serve as the dean of the School of Education and Psychology (a cabinet-level position at the time) and interim vice president for Academic Affairs in 2007. She also spent time as the special assistant to the president at Alcorn, professor, and department chairperson.  

The evening brimmed with dignitaries from government officials to CEOs of major corporations.  

Alcorn received acknowledgments and congratulatory sentiments from U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, Dr. Alfred Rankins, Commissioner of Higher Education; Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, City of Jackson; Mayor Dan M. Gibson, City of Natchez; Mayor Willie White, City of Port Gibson; Mayor Londell Eanochs, City of Fayette; Mayor George Flaggs Jr., City of Vicksburg; Dr. Charles McClelland, Commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference; Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University along with Alcorn’s National Alumni Association President Anthony Tuggle and Alvin Moore, president of the A-Club.  

The University’s stellar reputation places it as a leader among the nation’s best higher education institutions. The institution’s Strategic Plan – The Path Forward: Forging Ahead – sets the stage for another 150 years of excellence for Alcorn State University as the University continues to set the standard as a premier institution.