Alumni have mixed feelings on Bristow

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 20, 2001

AP and staff reports

Some members of Alcorn State University alumni said a closed-door session Saturday did little to ease concerns about the direction that President Clinton Bristow Jr. is taking their alma mater.

&uot;Dr. Bristow has not exemplified the type of leadership that is essential,&uot; said retired Vicksburg schools superintendent Jim Stirgus Sr., a past president of the ASU National Alumni Association.

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Stirgus and other Bristow critics didn’t hide their feelings after emerging from the meeting with Bristow, Interim Athletic Director Marino Casem and other school officials. The group met in a private meeting room at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

Meanwhile, Alcorn alumni living in the Natchez area continued to mull over their feelings about Bristow’s performance and debate surrounding it.

Alumnus Royal Hill of Natchez, who did not attend Saturday’s meeting, said he understands that having a successful athletic program is essential to attracting students.

&uot;Kids want to be associated with a winner,&uot;&160;Hill said. And he believes Bristow could do a better job of communicating his plan to alumni and getting their input on the college’s direction.

&uot;Still, I&160;think he’s done a good job overall,&uot; Hill said. &uot;And most people I’ve talked with feel pretty much the same way.

&uot;He’s done well with changing the attitude of the students and changing the awareness that Alcorn can offer quality programs,&uot; he said. &uot;And he’s been able to garner outside help in doing that – reaching out to the business community, for example.&uot;

After Saturday’s meeting, Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, a member of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee, says Bristow has excelled, but remains in a tough spot due to last year’s winless football season.

&uot;Dr. Bristow is one of the top ones (presidents) in the system,&uot; Frazier said. &uot;But football is still a religion in Mississippi, and going 0-11 is sacrilegious. He can redeem himself by having a winning season.&uot;

Bristow is up for an evaluation this fall.

Others left the meeting upbeat about Bristow’s leadership and the school’s future. .

&uot;I support the president,&uot; said ASU graduate Jerry Paige of Shreveport. &uot;It was a real good meeting.&uot;

Said Angeline Roberson of Brookhaven, the ASU national alumni association first vice president, &uot;Dr. Bristow has done an excellent job. We did not come here to ask for the president’s resignation, or have him fired.&uot;

A Northwestern University graduate and former Chicago State University business dean, Bristow said little after fielding questions from alumni leaders.

&uot;It was a very positive meeting. The discussions were on family issues,&uot; Bristow said. &uot;We discussed family issues like we always do at Alcorn and keep those things in the family.&uot;

Others, like Alcorn graduate Lucious Turner of Bentonia, said family concerns need to be brought out into the open.

&uot;It’s poor administration and leadership,&uot; Turner said of Bristow’s job performance. &uot;He’s a smooth talker.&uot;

The ASU faculty &uot;is scared to talk,&uot; Turner said. &uot;We are not getting suitable answers from Dr. Bristow and the athletic director.&uot;

Casem, who’s back on the Lorman campus as interim athletic director after leaving Southern University in Baton Rouge, acknowledges that ASU alums are upset.

&uot;We know the natives are not happy. Coach (Johnny) Thomas knows what he’s got to do. He’s got to win. We’re working to solve the problem,&uot; Casem said.

Casem also defended Bristow. &uot;The man’s got great conviction. He’s a very smart leader who is committed to excellence. He knows what it takes to win.&uot;

Alumni, though, have been upset at Bristow after he didn’t fire Thomas after the end of the Braves 2000 season. The Braves open the 2001 season at home against Grambling Sept. 1.