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Alfred Rankins Jr. to be invested as university’s 19th leader

The 19th president of Alcorn State University Alfred Rankins Jr. talks to a packed crowd Thursday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

The 19th president of Alcorn State University Alfred Rankins Jr. talks to a packed crowd Thursday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Family, veterans and Alcorn State University’s 19th president, Alfred Rankins Jr., were honored Thursday during a Family First Luncheon.

Community members and city officials gathered at Alcorn’s Graduate Business Building in Natchez for lunch as preparation is under way to officially invest Rankins as Alcorn’s 19th president during the Investiture Ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday at the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex.

Not only was this a celebration to honor Alcorn’s 19th president and his family, but also this event served to focus on education and veterans, said Adams County Board of Supervisors president and Alcorn assistant professor of biology Darryl Grennell.

Monica Morrison, a U.S. Navy veteran and assistant dean of career at Copiah Lincoln Community College in Natchez, was honored along with U.S. Air Force veteran and former Wreaths Across America coordinator Oscar Seyfarth for their military service.

“I trust that each of us today can say that we feel a special sprit of service here in this room — we’re surrounded,” said Alcorn assistant vice president for educational and community partnerships Ruth Nichols.

Seyfarth said it was an honor to receive the award.

The 19th president of Alcorn State University Alfred Rankins Jr. shakes the hand of Marie Norwood during a luncheon at the school’s Natchez campus Thursday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

The 19th president of Alcorn State University Alfred Rankins Jr. shakes the hand of Marie Norwood during a luncheon at the school’s Natchez campus Thursday. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

“I’ve never done what I do for accolades,” he said. “It’s very special to be a part of honoring military families.”

Rankins gave his closing remarks at the event following the award presentation to two Natchez veterans.

“Our goal is to help improve the quality of lives for people in Southwest Mississippi,” Rankins said.

Rankins has administrative control for Alcorn’s 1,700 acre Lorman campus and branch locations in Natchez and Vicksburg, which include more than 120 buildings, totaling nearly 2 million square feet and a $110 million operating budget.

Rankins is a native of Greenville, having received a bachelor of science degree from Alcorn and both master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees from Mississippi State University.

Before taking the reigns as Alcorn’s 19th president, Rankins served as deputy commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs for the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, where he advised the IHL board on all matters relating to academic programs, policy and planning — student access, readiness and success — and faculty affairs.

Rankin’s wife, Juandalyn, and their two children, Aftyn Elise and Alfred Elijah, were also acknowledged Thursday.