Over 400 scholars received degrees during the 2024 Spring Commencement Ceremony held Saturday, May 11, at the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex, Alcorn State University.

Two ceremonies were held. The first began at 9 a.m. featuring graduates from the Golden Class of 1974, as well as 2024 graduates of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, Graduate Studies, and the School of Nursing. The second ceremony began at 1 p.m. and included graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, and School of Education and Psychology.

Montell Jordan, renowned recording author, pastor, and philanthropist delivered the address.

During his speech Jordan shared his personal testimony toward completion of a bachelor’s degree. Due to personal distractions and financial hurdles, he initially participated in commencement at Pepperdine University while 12 credits shy of completion. He went on to achieve critical acclaim, but the knowledge that his degree folder didn’t hold a diploma lingered. “I was functioning in a degree without the degree,” he said.

Three decades later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grammy-award winner Jordan completed a degree in organizational communication with a minor in business.

Jordan shared these inspiring words with the graduates. “Finishing takes discipline. Discipline is the gift you give to yourself. Deadlines are the gift others give to you when you lack discipline. Be the kind of human that doesn’t require deadlines to be disciplined.“

After his speech, Interim Provost Joyce Buckner-Brown, Ph.D., and Dr. Tracy M. Cook, president of Alcorn, presented Jordan with the Doctor of Humane Letters, the University’s highest degree.

Dr. Cook conferred, posthumously, the degree of Tamarian Leflore. A senior elementary education major at the time of her death, Leflore was beloved by many and active on campus as a member of the senior cabinet, Girls Coalition, GQ Modeling Squad, and the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Also honored during the ceremony were the Golden Class of 1974, the Alcornite of the Year and the Student of the Year.

The Golden Class of 1974 were the first class to have degrees conferred from Alcorn State University rather than Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College. The largest golden class in the history of the University, 125 participants received golden diplomas to commemorate their 50th graduation anniversary. Dr. Marcus Ward, vice president for institutional advancement, spotlighted the golden graduates as having the largest golden class endowment with $375,000 presented to the University. The class also had the largest lifetime giving award with 1.5 million dollars donated to the University.

Dr. Dennis Thomas, a native of Heidelberg, Miss. and member of the Golden Class, was honored as Alcornite of the Year.

This award is presented to a prominent alum who has achieved distinction through their exceptional contribution to Alcorn’s international, national, and community welfare.

From left, are Dr. Dennis Thomas, Alcornite of the Year; Dr. Shirley Evers-Manly, dean of the School of Nursing; Kennedi Fitzgerald, Student of the Year; Dr. Tracy M. Cook, president of Alcorn State University.

Thomas then presented Kennedi Fitzgerald, a nursing major from Vicksburg, Miss. with the Outstanding Student Award of Excellence.

The Outstanding Student Award of Excellence recognizes a student for their contributions and achievement in scholarship, demonstrated leadership, participation in extracurricular activities, and record of community and public service.

Dr. Shirley Evers-Manly, dean, School of Nursing, expressed her enthusiasm and the qualities that made Kennedi the top student to receive this year’s recognition.

“Kennedi exhibits everything you envision when thinking about what a nurse should be,” said Evers- Manly. “She is “old school” in her work ethic. She showed compassion to every community that we served as well as the patients that she interfaced with during her clinical rotations. She has volunteered at several COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinics for the Alcorn Department of Athletics, in the Mississippi Delta, and for surrounding communities in Mississippi. She recently joined me in Washington, D.C. making an impact on Health Policy for nurses and health disparities in Mississippi at Congressman Bennie Thompson’s and Senator Cindy Hyde Smith’s offices. Kennedi’s day-to-day interactions with some of the more challenging situations never seemed to deter her from the mission of providing quality care. Because of her academics, honor, and service, she will be inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society.”

The Commencement Ceremony ended with words from President Cook. “Stay focused. Be great. Remember the people who supported you. Give back. Don’t forget our beloved Alcorn State University and most importantly, give thanks. We wish you great success and blessings.”

For more information on the 2024 Commencement Ceremony, or to watch the replay, visit www.alcorn.edu/commencement.