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Alcorn Bravery: M. Christopher Brown II inaugurated as the 18th President

Brown installed

M. Christopher Brown II, 18th President, Alcorn State University.

In a ceremony full of Alcorn tradition dating back to the year of the University’s founding, 1871, Dr. M. Christopher Brown II was inaugurated as the 18th president of Alcorn State University at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 16th in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex. Delegates from more than 60 universities around the country, academic associations, learned societies and civic and elected officials joined the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, Alcorn faculty, staff, students and alumni on campus to celebrate Dr. Brown’s formal installation as president.

Dr. Brown’s investiture saluted the University’s 140 years of rich and storied history and during the ceremony the audience enjoyed a tribute to the past 17 presidents and interim presidents of the University. The program began with the inaugural procession accompanied by the War March of the Priests by the ASU Symphonic Band. Over the course of weeks, Dr. Brown received numerous resolutions, letters of congratulation, and proclamations from colleges, universities, officials, organizations and individuals from across the nation, including a designation of April 16, 2011, as Dr. M. Christopher Brown II Day in the state of Mississippi and Nevada.

Congressman Bennie Thompson was among program participants, and he wished Dr. Brown a successful presidency on behalf of President Barack Obama and the United States Congress. IHL Commissioner Hank Bounds requested that past president George E. Ross and interim presidents Malvin A. Williams Sr. and Norris Allen Edney escort Dr. Brown to the stage for his investiture. IHL President Bettye H. Neely conducted the formal investiture presenting Dr. Brown with the Chain of Office.

Dr. Mark Keenum, president, Mississippi State University, robed Dr. Brown with the official presidential regalia and Dr. Alpha Morris, ASU faculty marshal, presented Dr. Brown with the official University mace. “Our institutions are the only two land-grant institutions in the state of Mississippi. We share a bond, partnership and a history of working together for all Mississippians. We will continue to work together to move our great state of Mississippi forward,” said Dr. Keenum.

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Dr. Hank M. Bounds, IHL commissioner, stated, “Dr. Brown’s leadership experience and stellar academic accomplishments has prepared him to lead Alcorn State University as it builds on its rich history to create an even brighter future. He has a head for research, hands for teaching and the heart for service, reflecting Alcorn’s mission. As he becomes the 18th president of the university, there is no question that he is the right man to serve Alcorn State University.”

Paul E. Winfield, mayor of Vicksburg, said, “Dr. Brown is strong, highly educated man with a lot of energy and great vision that will take the University to a newer height.”

Percy O. Norwood Jr., president, ASU National Alumni Association, announced, “Today, as we install new leadership in our beloved institution, Alcorn State University, on behalf of alumni, we pledge our support and cooperation to you, Dr. Brown as the future of Alcorn State University is in your hands.”

Dr. Ronyelle Bertrand Ricard, former student of Dr. Brown, said, “To my advisor, my mentor, my teacher and friend – thank you for sharing your wisdom and demanding excellence without excuses from your students. Because of you, I became a published author and the first in my family to earn a doctorate degree.”

“We look to your {M. Christopher Brown II} leadership to guide Alcorn closer to excellence,” said on behalf of Alcorn student body Tasheena Galmore, first vice president of ASU Student Government Association.

Donna Hayden, president, Staff Senate, compared the University under Dr. Brown’s leadership to a “tree planted by the Mississippi River, that nor heat, nor drought, nor budget cuts, no threats of merger can destroy”.

Dr. Brown during his inaugural address spoke to the University’s transition in leadership as an ideal time to re-focus our efforts on academic excellence, re-energize our alumni and donor bases, and revitalize our institutional brand within the national higher education landscape. “Alcorn has unexplored possibilities to create a more student-centered campus. We have unfettered platforms for enhanced capacity in technology and infrastructure. We have unprecedented promise in the arena of community and civic engagement. And under my presidency, there exists unparalleled propensity for effective campus governance systems and processes that promote sound stewardship of limited fiscal resources and maximize the synergy resulting from transparency and responsibility. These new ‘possibilities’ frame a strategic ‘pursuit of excellence’, and guide our actions toward becoming a premier university. We are engaging possibilities and pursuing excellence.”

Dr. Brown shared the Alcorn Ambition, “The Mississippi Mandate, which responds to the statewide demand to increase overall baccalaureate degree production; the Vicksburg Vision, which expands our delivery of services in a critical market area with an eye toward criminal justice and nursing majors; the Natchez Intention, which delimits widespread expansion of synchronous instruction in favor of new models of instructional delivery via technology; and the Lorman Legacy, which reifies the importance of the main campus as a cauldron of global learning and the steady production of high quality outputs.” At the close of the ceremony, Alcorn State University family and distinguished guests saluted Dr. Brown with a round of applause.

The University started three days of inaugural events with a Symposium on the Future of Black Colleges in America, panelists included well-known researchers and other policy makers from around the nation: Dr. James Earl Davis, Temple University; Dr. Boyce C. Williams, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; Dr. James T. Minor, Southern Education Foundation; Dr. John Michael Lee Jr., The College Board; Dr. Kassie Freeman, Southern University System; Dr. Eurmon Hervey Jr., Edward Waters College; Dr. Carol Camp Yeakey, Washington University and others.

At the symposium, participants shared their perspectives on some of the key challenges HBCUs face today. Dr. James Earl Davis alerted the attentive audience about the declining percentage of African Americans receiving degrees from HBCUs.

Dr. Kassie Freeman critiqued the enrollment model that is being used by HBCUs and suggested using a progression model instead. “HBCUs should be great mentors and ensure students graduate,” said Dr. Freeman. “We need to restore original missions at HBCUs before our social and cultural capital is lost. We have to be more global, mobile and green.”

The symposium was followed by a tribute to the 18th president’s mother and family at the First Mother’s Luncheon featuring Herman “Skip” Mason Jr., the 33rd general president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated as the keynote speaker. “Dr. Brown you have come to help Alcorn open and write a new chapter in its history. You now join the ranks of another great Alpha brother {Dr. Walter Washington} in leading this historic University forward, we salute you and your mother for sharing you with Alcorn State University.” An emotional Dr. Brown honored his mother and his family with a video presentation during the luncheon.

The inaugural weekend continued on Sunday, April 17th, in Natchez with a worship service at Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church. Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, presiding prelate for the 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church preached the inauguration sermon and musical selections were offered by the Greater Faith Worship Center Choir of Fayette, Mississippi. Bishop McKenzie encouraged Dr. Brown to remember the past presidents of Alcorn State University and their leadership and “do as Isaac did; be not afraid to dig ditches (Genesis 26:18).”

“A Taste of Natchez on the Bluff” reception at the Smith-Bontura House concluded the inaugural weekend of events.