Alcorn to celebrate 140 years

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

NATCHEZ — When M. Christopher Brown dons the appropriate regalia Saturday, he wants the moment to be a celebration of Alcorn State University, not him.

A full slate of inaugural events across three counties will begin Friday and continue through Sunday afternoon to formally welcome Brown, the university’s president since January.

“I didn’t want any inaugural activities, but I figured out why we need them,” Brown said. “We are really celebrating 140 years of Alcorn.”

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Merging those years of history with the needs of the future is a goal Brown said the inauguration will celebrate.

Brown doesn’t consider himself simply the Alcorn president, instead he’s only the 18th president in a long line of great leaders, he said.

With three presidents and two interim presidents in five years, the university lacked consistent leadership, Brown said, and had to endure some tough times.

“Every day has not been rosy,” he said. “We’ve had some rough moments. This is an opportunity to say, we’ve endured those years, and if we pause and look at these markers, the future looks bright.”

Festivities kickoff with several events in Vicksburg Friday before moving to Lorman and then Natchez.

Saturday events in Lorman include an 8 a.m. ecumenical prayer service, a 10 a.m. Alcorn family gospel brunch and the presidential investiture ceremony at 1 p.m.

All three events are open to the public.

The 1 p.m. ceremony will be at the Davey L. Whitney Complex. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, state Sen. Willie Simmons and state Rep. Alyce G. Clarke are expected to be in attendance, among others.

The university has also made a concerted effort to involve students in the planning and ceremonies; 64 students will be a part of the inaugural processional.

Those planning to attend can RSVP by e-mailing or calling 601-877-6111.

Events on Saturday continue with a private dinner at 5 p.m. and the Purple and Gold Presidential ball from 7 to midnight. Tickets to the ball at the Whitney Complex are $50 and will be sold at the door.

Sunday the celebration moves to Natchez with an 11 a.m. presidential inauguration worship service at Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. Alcorn’s first president — Hiram Rhodes Revels — served as pastor at Zion.

The weekend’s events conclude with a public reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on the bluff.

The university began soliciting private donations to fund the weekend’s events months ago. Brown said the community has responded.

“The Natchez community and Southwest Mississippi business community was very generous,” Brown said. “We couldn’t have done it without Natchez.”