University leader leaves large legacy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lorman &8212; Alcorn State University President Clinton Bristow Jr., 57, died Saturday evening while walking on the school track.

Several students found Bristow on the track and contacted campus security, who tried unsuccessfully to revive him. He was later taken to the Jefferson County coroner&8217;s office, Director of University Relations Christopher Cason said.

Bristow died about 9 p.m., and an autopsy is planned, according to the Associated Press.

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&8220;It was so sudden,&8221; Cason said. &8220;There are still a lot of questions still remaining to be answered.&8221;

Bristow was president of Alcorn for 11 years and left behind a legacy of improvement. During his time in office, graduation rates increased and construction projects began.

Bristow&8217;s death was a tremendous loss to the entire state, Commissioner of the Mississippi Institute for Higher Learning Thomas Meredith said Sunday.

&8220;He was a great fellow, a great man and a great president,&8221; Meredith said.

Despite Bristow&8217;s death, classes will begin today as scheduled, Cason said.

&8220;We&8217;re making a point of stressing that we&8217;re not canceling classes,&8221; Cason said. &8220;He wouldn&8217;t have wanted that. Even though we are in mourning, he would have wanted business to continue as usual.&8221;

Students moving into dorms carried suitcases and hampers full of clothes Sunday. Many heard the news when they woke up Sunday morning.

&8220;It was quite shocking,&8221; Vito Williams, a senior majoring in music education said. &8220;I was in a state of disbelief. I didn&8217;t know what to say.&8221;

Williams said he thought one of the president&8217;s greatest accomplishments was &8220;the visible improvements in construction on campus.&8221;

Deneisha Beasley, a senior in mathematics education, said she didn&8217;t expect to see full classrooms today.

&8220;We don&8217;t think many people will be in class,&8221; Beasley said. &8220;Everybody is in mourning.&8221;

Melanie McReynolds, a sophomore in pre-graduate biochemistry, said she and some friends saw Bristow jogging around the track earlier in the day Saturday.

&8220;The last 11 years he&8217;s been here, things have changed for the better,&8221; McReynolds said. &8220;I don&8217;t know what direction it will move in now.&8221;

Although he did not know him well, Jon Williams, a freshman studying business, said Bristow&8217;s death was saddening. He said he had seen him Saturday at the freshman convocation.

&8220;It was so random,&8221; Williams said. &8220;(Saturday), he congratulated us and wished us luck.

&8220;He was real nice, too. On my spring visit, he gave us dinner and breakfast. He was a real nice guy.&8221;

According to Meredith finding a permanent replacement will take some time.

&8220;It takes four or five months if you do it quickly,&8221; he said.

A memorial service will be planned in the next couple weeks, but nothing was final as of Sunday, Cason said.

Alcorn, founded in 1871, was the nation&8217;s first state-supported institution for

black higher education, according to Alcorn&8217;s Web site.

In addition to the main campus in Claiborne County, the school has campuses in Natchez and Vicksburg.