Homecoming celebrations blend Tuskegee's rich military heritage | Events
In a dramatic and graceful start to this year’s homecoming game at Tuskegee University, the latest alumnus to become a general received the game ball from the Silver Wings Aerial Demonstration Team from Fort Benning in Georgia. The ecstatic crowd in Cleve Abbott Memorial Stadium repeatedly shouted “U.S.A.” as the last member of the parachute team floated down on the field to deliver the ball to Brig. Gen. Mark A. Brown and Tuskegee president, Gilbert L. Rochon, on Saturday, Oct. 20. The Golden Tigers went on to obliterate the efforts of the Kentucky State University Thorobreds in a 37-0 blowout.
Brown had not been back to Tuskegee for about 10 years and said his return to campus was “inspirational.” He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1986 and was also commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program. Calling it “a great investment,” Brown said one of the unique aspects of a Tuskegee education is the focus on teaching leadership and pride.
“I did some graduate work at other schools and what they don’t teach you is how to be proud of yourself. You learn that at institutions like this and that carries you a long way,” he said.
Brown is the comptroller for Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. As the commander’s chief financial officer, he is responsible for more than 35 percent of the Air Force Appropriated Budget. He has served in staff positions at all levels of the Department of Defense and his global experience includes service in England, Iraq, the Philippines, Spain and Turkey. His awards and decorations include: Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters; Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit; and Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters.
Alumni gathered for several events on campus to share memories and rekindle connections. Former ROTC members held a reception in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University on Friday, Oct. 19. Rochon gave an overview of the university’s military legacy and shared personal stories of his family’s connections to the armed forces. The alumni said the reception was a launch for a planned military hall of fame and an alumni association for former students in the ROTC programs.
The Tuskegee University Engineering Alumni Association unveiled their Wall of Fame in Luther Foster Hall as part of homecoming activities on Oct. 19. The engineering alumni also received status reports from all of the engineering student organizations and clubs and discussed their support for campus-wide peer development programs for student success. And, the association members pledged to raise $1 million by 2015 for engineering student scholarships.
“We intend to help Tuskegee students continue their personal aspirations toward completing their degree in engineering,” the association’s president, Burt Rowe, ’73, said.
Keepers of the legacy
Alumnus and Tuskegee University Board of Trustees member, Felker W. Ward, Jr., urged alumni and the university community to be good stewards of the institution’s heritage during his address for the Charter Day/ Homecoming Convocation Sunday.
“A legacy is a living organism that continues to grow and to expand and to redefine itself,” Ward said in the University Chapel. “And, therein lies the challenge for today.”
Ward is a principal in the investment advisory firm, Pinnacle Investment Advisors, LLC. He said several steps are necessary to help propel the university forward and build upon its legacy including: improving the physical infrastructure, increasing enrollment to 5,000 students; adding more faculty, staff, laboratories, and housing; and growing alumni participation in the capital campaign.
“Never has your support as alumni been more critical for a campaign’s success than our ambitious ‘Programmed for Excellence’ campaign,” Ward said. “We need to see giving as an opportunity and not as an obligation.”
Commitment to giving
After his address, Rochon presented Ward with the Tuskegee University President’s Award for Exemplary Service. Alumni William D. Collins, ’43, and Col. LeVaughn Jenkins, ’53, were the two recipients of the Alumni Merit Award presented by Kimberly L. Woodard, associate vice president in the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development. Collins was the first certified public accountant in Los Angeles and Jenkins, lettered in football and track and field at Tuskegee and later spent 28 years in the United States Air Force where he earned the Legion of Merit honor.
“I would ask all the alumni to get behind the president so we can make Tuskegee University all that Tuskegee University can be,” Jenkins said.
The reunion classes of 1977, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2002 and 2007 presented Rochon with a check for a total of $147,104.96 in donations and pledges. Walter Wortham, ’71, president of the Tuskegee University National Alumni Association, pledged that the alumni would aid the campaign by raising $30 million.
“We are changing our mindset and we want you to give until you feel good,” Wortham said. “When you feel good about what you’re giving to Tuskegee then you know how it feels to feel good.”
Honoring the legacy
After the convocation, some alumni and Tuskegee staff gathered at the gravesite of the university’s founder, Booker T. Washington, to honor him as well as, former board of trustees chair, Andrew F. Brimmer, and several deceased alumni. In a brief ceremony, the late classmates were remembered with a prayer and poem reading.
“Certainly during this time of celebration, it is an appropriate occasion for commemoration and consecration of our lives as we consider those who have touched our lives,” said Rev. Gregory S. Gray, dean of the chapel. “And, been a part of the greater Tuskegee experience and left an indelible impression upon our lives.”
Source: Tuskegee University Media Office
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