Alcorn graduates encouraged to have fun, take a stand
LORMAN — With Myrlie Evers-Williams’ admonition to have fun but live well ringing in their ears, nearly 700 Alcorn State University graduates walked across the stage in the Davey L. Whitney Complex Saturday and received their diplomas.
Evers-Williams addressed the graduates after being awarded Alcorn’s highest accolade, the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
The widow of slain Civil Rights icon Medgar Evers — and an icon in her own right — Evers-Williams is the past chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is also Alcorn’s Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence.
Evers told the graduates they should have the determination when they leave Alcorn to make something of themselves so they can make something of their communities.
“I am sure in some ways that (your time at Alcorn) has not been easy, in other ways it has been interesting, in other ways it has been challenging and it has been fun,” Evers-Williams said.
“Did you have fun while you were here? Did you progress while you were here? Because education is not just about books, it is about living, it is about giving, it is about receiving. All of those components came together to get you to where you are today.
“My question to you is what do you plan to do once you turn in your caps and gowns?” she said.
Evers-Williams encouraged graduates to give back to the community and stand for what is right.
“We look at those who have said we can turn the clock on progress backwards, how many people have told them ‘Over my body you will?’” she said.
“Look at the progress of our people, the progress of those who believe and want goodness, and say to the systems that are determined to turn us back, say ‘No, I am one of a class of 700 at Alcorn State, and I am willing to take my stand.”
Even with the determination to do right, Evers-Williams said graduates should have fun living.
“Don’t have so much fun that you don’t forget where you are now,” she said. “Have fun enjoying life, but make it a part of being strong and making a change in Mississippi, making a change in America and making a change in the world.”
Alcorn’s Executive Vice President Samuel White said the class of 2014 ranged in age from 20 to 62. Eighty-eight percent of the graduates were from Mississippi, but graduates fared from 18 states and five foreign countries.
The average age of those receiving bachelor’s degrees was 27, while the average age of those receiving graduate and professional degrees was 35.
Male graduates were up 10 percent over last year, with the class being 33 percent male and 67 percent female, and 9.5 percent of the historically black college’s graduates were from non-black groups, White said, an increase of 1.5 percent over last year.
“We have a fourth generation Alcornite graduating in agribusiness management, and we have a father-daughter duo graduating in this class,” White said.
Alcorn President Alfred Rankins Jr., who took over as the 19th President of the university earlier this year, encouraged graduates to dream big.
“If you remain grounded on the foundation of faith and family, great things are on the horizon for you, for you are an Alcornite,” Rankins said.
The ceremony also included the commissioning oath for four members of the military.