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Alcorn kicks off 150-year anniversary with Sesquicentennial Celebration

Over a century of excellence at Alcorn State University was honored during the University’s sesquicentennial celebration.

The University celebrated its 150th anniversary with the Sesquicentennial Celebration Kickoff Thursday, May 13, at the Oakland Memorial Chapel. Alcorn, the nation’s first public historically black land-grant institution, was founded in 1871 and has created a storied history of greatness and distinction.

The ceremony featured several testimonials and odes to the beloved University from students, faculty, staff, and notable alumni from diverse fields and walks of life.

Melissa Faith Payne ’98, evening anchor for WLBT and Fox 40, served as the event’s host. Being a part of the kickoff celebration brought out her pride in her alma mater.

“Today, the Alcorn family celebrates the 150th anniversary of an institution with an amazing and trailblazing legacy,” said Payne. “From the beginning, Alcornites have dared to succeed and defy odds. We have dared to be brave and aspire for greatness. While the Alcorn family is a humble group, we are a force to be reckoned with. There’s great strength in our humility and its impact extends far beyond Mississippi. Hearing the well wishes and acknowledgments of Alcorn’s accomplishments from others make me proud.”

Alcorn’s excellence was highlighted during a panel discussion that included Alcorn President Felecia M. Nave ’96, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr. ’93, and U.S. Army Chief Diversity Officer Colonel Timothy Holman ’92.

Starting with the success of Alcorn’s students, Nave showcased the quality of education that students receive in several degree programs that are equipping them for educational and career ascension.

“From a STEM perspective, we overperform with graduates that we produce in STEM fields,” said Nave. “If you did a profile of our incoming freshman class, many of those students have chosen a STEM degree as their major. We also overperform in students who go on to pursue doctorates, and I believe that sets Alcorn apart. When you look at our rich history in nursing and education, and the workforce that we train for the state and the nation, Alcorn has done an exceptional job at producing excellent nurses and teachers that have gone on to do fantastic work.”  

Alcorn graduates are known for their work ethic and ability to adapt. Rankins talked about these and other qualities that Alcornites get during their journey as students.

“Discipline is a characteristic you’ll see in most Alcorn graduates,” said Rankins. “You are taught discipline as a student at Alcorn. Secondly, you must be resourceful. We’re not in a metropolitan city, so that comes with challenges but also, a lot of opportunities. Those challenges teach you to be resourceful as a student. Lastly, once you graduate, you’ll leave with a true love for this University."

Leaders are made at Alcorn, which is where Holman honed his leadership abilities as a former member of the Braves Battalion. He spoke about the principles he learned at Alcorn that he applies to his career today.

“I’ve spent time trying to hone my craft and give back, whether it’s to the cadets at Alcorn or to the soldiers that I lead,” said Holman. “I think of the idea of being humble, but strong. And, allowing people to see you for who you are and letting them talk about you instead of you talking about yourself. Lead by example and make sure people see you for what you say you’re going to do and watch you do it versus you talk about it and never do it.”

Students gave their perspective on the Alcorn experience during a panel discussion moderated by Brandon Rook ’12, the public relations manager for Newman’s Own Foundation in Westport, Connecticut. Christopher Epps, a junior and Port Gibson, Mississippi native, spoke about the bond formed by Alcornites on campus.

“Alcorn gives a sense of home,” said Epps. “As soon as you step on campus, you feel the family atmosphere. Teachers are like mentors who are constantly by your side.”

Recent graduate Heather Alemekdad ’21, a Fayette, Mississippi native who earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, agreed with Epps’s take on teachers mentoring students. She credited her former teachers in the Department of Mass Communication for preparing her for life after Alcorn.

“Mr. Larry Sanders helped me by challenging me every day and teaching me to reach deadlines,” said Alemekdad. “Also, Mr. Curtis Aaron helped me by giving me equipment whenever I needed it.”

For more reactions during the sesquicentennial celebration, visit Alcorn’s YouTube channel to view today’s ceremony.