“There are so many people who have given their all for us,” says Myrlie Evers, former Alcorn student and renowned Civil Rights activist. “Bodies in front of trucks, washed by fire hoses, chased by dogs, and fired on by bullets. We must remember our history and make sure this generation is prepared to stand up and take the same just stand.”
Alcorn students, alumni, employees, local elected officials, state legislators, visitors from Chamberlain Hunt Academy, former classmates and family members of Medgar Wiley Evers ’52 gathered in the Oakland Memorial Chapel for Founders Day 2011 Convocation where his wife Myrlie Evers delivered the convocation address.
Alcorn President M. Christopher Brown II presided over the convocation and Executive Vice President and Provost Samuel L. White delivered the summons to convocation. “We are gathered here today in honor of founding principles of Alcorn and to celebrate 140 years of greatness,” proclaimed Dr. Brown. “For the greatest knowledge is not just learned in text books and the classroom, but is enhanced by knowledge inherited from our ancestors and how we transform that knowledge into service.”
President Brown presented the highest award granted by the University to an individual whose life exhibits tenacity, fortitude, and excellence, the Hiram R. Revels Achievement Award, was accepted by Dr. Rudolph E. Water Sr. and he received a standing ovation. The Revels Achievement Award pays tribute to the superior achievements of an individual in their chosen field/industry of endeavor or their lived example.
Mr. James Charles Evers, brother of Medgar Wiley Evers, was honored with the Levi J. Rowan Heritage Award that is bestowed upon a son or daughter of the University in recognition of exceptional merit. The recipient of the award must be acclaimed for a special and outstanding service to the institution; or who, by personal achievement, has brought great honor and distinction to the University. His daughter Patricia Evers accepted the award on his behalf.
The Alcorn Bravery Award was presented to Mrs. Myrlie Evers. This award is granted to an outstanding individual who may be singled out for their records of service as public servants or agents for social change. The Alcorn Bravery Award recognizes an abiding concern for the welfare of others, exemplifying the spirit of an individual whose efforts inspire society through their work or actions toward the promotion of peace, humanitarianism, social or scientific progress and/or human understanding.
The recipient of the Oakland Memorial Chapel Award that recognizes corporate and/or non-profit entities that consistently demonstrate exemplary support to civic, collegiate, or charitable institutions in order to advance the aims and ideas of higher education, was Dr. Hank Bounds, commissioner, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
Presidential Citation for Excellence was awarded to Mr. Jake Ayers Sr. (posthumously) and to Mr. Stephen LaTreal McNair (posthumously). This citation celebrates the accomplishment of individuals whose actions enrich the reputation and stature of Alcorn State University. It is reserved for alumni and friends whose dedication and commitment have impacted the institutional history.
During the convocation, Mrs. Evers spoke to the audience about how determined Medgar was to make a difference in the lives of others and how she met Medgar on Alcorn’s campus in front of the Old President’s Home on her first day. “Medgar was so intelligent, bright and insightful. He was very mature and knew what he wanted in life,” shared Mrs. Evers. “He ran around this campus interrupting dances and other fun activities encouraging students to stand up and register to vote.”
Mrs. Evers thanked the students who were in attendance today, “You give me hope, strength and I see the future in you. Medgar was right – once we achieved our rights it would be even more difficult to keep them.”
“Stepping onto the campus of my parents’ electric connection, it is just overwhelming and much appreciated,” said Reena Denise Evers, daughter of Medgar and Myrlie Evers, accepting the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters presented in memory of her father. Dr. Norris Allen Edney was also recognized for his dedication and service to the University during his tenure as interim president.
“We came here to reflect on our past, celebrate our present, but most importantly, focus on our future,” said Dr. Alpha Morris ’52, chairperson for the Department of Social Sciences and Medgar Wiley Evers’ classmate, referring to the founding of Alcorn. “As we look back 140 years, I say a miracle happened in southwest Mississippi in 1871…a seed that was planted developed into a premier land-grant university.”
Percy Norwood, president of the Alcorn State University National Alumni Association brought greetings from Alcornites around the world.
“As students we feel that it is important to be here today, be a part of Alcorn’s history and pay a tribute to the founders of the University and Medgar Wiley Evers, a fellow Alcornite and a hero,” shared Laterra Wilson-Fleming, a senior majoring in elementary education.
Earlier today, Mrs. Evers also participated in the official Ribbon Cutting and Dedication Ceremony of the Medgar Wiley Evers Heritage Village, a state-of-the-art student housing complex that includes four residence halls and an amenities building that opened to students in 2010. The complex was named by students in honor of Evers’ courage, leadership and service.
Mrs. Evers’ words echoed throughout the Chapel, “When the challenges come, because there will be many roadblocks. Don’t give up – remember, perseverance is a part of your being. It took more than 30 years to bring Medgar’s killer to justice and that justice led to 18 more civil rights cases being brought to justice.”
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