Alumni: Washington put students first

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 1999

Miss-Lou alumni and faculty of Alcorn State University are remembering former President Walter Washington, who died Wednesday, as a visionary and respected leader who always put Alcorn and its students first.

&uot;He was a powerful leader, a man who had a wonderful vision for this university and made it come true,&uot;&160;said Frances Henderson, dean of the Alcorn School of Nursing in Natchez, who was hired by Washington 14 years ago.

Funeral services for Washington, who died at St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson, will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Black’s Chapel Church in Jackson, with Collins Funeral Home handling arrangements.

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A tribute service is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at Oakland Memorial Chapel on Alcorn’s Lorman campus.

Washington retired from Alcorn in 1994 after 46 years as an educator, including 25 years as president of Alcorn and, before that, 12 years as president of Utica Junior College.

Alumnus Michael Winn of Natchez remembered Washington as someone who led by example. &uot;He was really able to motivate and inspire,&uot;&160;Winn said. &uot;He would talk to students about getting up early and giving it all you had. And you respected that discipline.

&uot;He had character you could see in the way he presented himself before the Legislature and students. It was in the way he handled himself even when things didn’t go his way.&uot;

His confident leadership style stemmed from the fact that he knew the educational system inside and out, Henderson said. &uot;He worked with schools at various levels, and those life experiences made him a good leader,&uot;&160;she said.

She also described him as visionary, a view alumnus Royal Hill shares. Washington, he said, knew what potential the School of Nursing at Natchez had and was dedicated to developing it.

&uot;He was very proud of the school,&uot;&160;Hill said. &uot;He knew the direction the university and the community were going in, and it was something he looked forward to.&uot;

Several alumni said high academic standards were a hallmark of Washington’s administration. For example, under his leadership Alcorn was one of the first state universities to raise its ACT score for admission above 12, Winn said.

&uot;He had a commitment to excellence,&uot;&160;Hill said. &uot;He was always ready to raise the bar in all types of ways.&uot;

His first priority was always the needs of students, said Rita Winn, Michael Winn’s wife and herself a 1980 graduate of Alcorn. She described Washington as a &uot;mentor.&uot;

&uot;He was always in touch with the needs of young people,&uot;&160;Henderson said. &uot;He and his wife (Carolyn) never had children of their own. In a way, I think the students were his children.&uot;

And in the late 1960s, a turbulent time for many universities, Washington was a stabilizing influence, Rita Winn said.

&uot;He was really a driver in changing the atmosphere at Alcorn,&uot; said Fred Marsalis of Vidalia, who was a senior at Alcorn when Washington took office. &uot;He had a lot to do with building the Alcorn we have today and forgetting the one we had then.&uot;