The College is now in full preparation for Commencement 2014 and other exciting events that will follow. We have experienced an invigorating spring semester. Our graduating seniors are anticipating their next steps beyond these hallowed grounds. Many of them have already received offers from graduate schools. It was so rewarding to hear one of my students share the offers he had received and the process he used to decide on which to accept. My students are entering a world replete with endless opportunities. Without question, they have been prepared to excel and empowered to change the world. As an example, Kisa Harris, one of our Gates Millennium Scholars, was recently selected as an All Star student by the White House Initiative for HBCUs. Also, four of our students have been named Mellon Undergraduate Fellows.
Garry W. Bridgeman, financial advisor and institutional consulting director for Graystone Consulting, a business of Morgan Stanley, was the speaker for our Annual Business Luncheon, held on February 28, 2014. The luncheon was well attended by corporate, government and education officials. Cullen Dubose and James W. Loewen were inducted into the Society of Corporate Philanthropy, comprised of individuals who have made major contributions to the College of $100,000 or more. The Chairman’s Award was presented to Former Supreme Court Justice and Tougaloo alumnus, Reuben V. Anderson, for unrelenting dedication to his alma mater.
Our Concert Choir experienced a successful spring tour in Detroit, Chicago, and Memphis during March. The Choir was absolutely magnificent. The students are some of our best ambassadors – telling the Tougaloo story through songs, evidenced in their poise, composure, good manners, effective communication, respect, civility, discipline, confidence, and unmistaken intelligence. We applaud Dr. Kathy Castilla for her excellent work in directing these remarkable young people. Our alumni in all three areas were the front-end planners and on the ground organizers. Our alumni are sources of truly amazing inspiration for our students.
The Commencement Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on the campus green and this year’s speaker is Dr. Christina Hull Paxson, President of Brown University. May 2014 marks the 50th anniversary for the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership. The Baccalaureate Service will be held at 8:00 a.m. in Woodworth Chapel, and The Reverend Dr. Marcus Cosby, Pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas will be the speaker. We invite you to join us for both events and bear witness to the flock of new eagles Tougaloo will release to soar without boundaries.
As we continue to commemorate the season of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, Tougaloo College will present the Two Rivers Gala: Tougaloo Honors on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at the Jackson Convention Center, beginning at 7:00 p.m. This year’s honorees are: Attorney Isaac Byrd, Businessman LeRoy Walker, Philanthropist and Humanitarian Ruth Batson (posthumously), and former Chaplain at Brown University and Humanitarian Charlie Baldwin (posthumously). The commemoration of this transformative period in America’s history is not only about paying homage to our past; it is also an opportunity to recognize those who continue to break down the barriers of separatism in their daily actions. In doing so, we lift up the courageous men and women who took the brave risks so we today could experience what it means to enjoy full citizenship in America. It is the investment of their blood, sweat, tears, and even lives that brings us to this time in history and challenges us to continue our commitment to advance a more just and humane world for all humankind. We remain committed to the issues of social justice and continue to educate our students for democracy.
Tougaloo is joining with the Mississippi NAACP and the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement to sponsor activities to commemorate the 50th Anniversary for Mississippi Freedom Summer. These activities will be held during the week of June 25-29 on our historic campus. As people from across the nation gathered at Tougaloo in the summer of 1964 for safe refuge and to organize and train the many workers who would go out into the vineyards of oppression to register African Americans to vote, people will come again in the summer of 2014 to commemorate, celebrate, and recommit to the posterity and preservation of our democratic ideals through purposeful discussions and plans.
Amidst the changing environment of higher education and accompanying challenges, Tougaloo remains an institution of distinction – we manage our limited resources very well and optimize the impact of our collective work, realizing remarkable student learning outcomes. The Center on Higher Education Reform issued a recent report on Access, Affordability and Success: How Do America’s Colleges Fare and What Could It Mean for the President’s Ratings Plan. Tougaloo College, the only HBCU on the list, is among 19 exemplary institutions, identified from a field of 1,700 U.S. institutions, in terms of percentage of Pell enrollment (access), net price (affordability), and graduation rates (success). This means we hit favorable marks on all three ratings.
While we know this is not the full story of our institutions, especially HBCUs, it does inform us of where we need to maintain our focus for continuous improvement. This is indeed our aim – to prosper in all areas of higher education and to continue to produce the leaders who will change the world. Your support aids our progress and for that we are eternally grateful.