JANS – Jackson State University celebrated 146 years of legacy during its 2023 annual Founders’ Day Convocation held Tuesday, Oct. 17. Community members, alumni, faculty, staff, and students gathered on the Gibbs-Green Pedestrian Walkway to reflect on the history and future of Jackson State, with keynote speaker and JSU alumna Jennifer Love.
“This is a time to pay homage to our past as we carry forward the JSU legacy and the rich traditions that lie at the very heart of who we are as Jacksonians. We started in 1877 from humble beginnings with a handful of students to become one of the largest high research activity HBCUs in the country. That alone should let you know that overcoming is very possible for us,” said Acting President Elayne Hayes-Anthony, Ph.D., during welcome remarks.
Heartfelt sentiments and themes of overcoming trials and tribulations were woven throughout the program as the JSU community mourned and honored the life of Jaylen Burns, a senior industrial technology student from Chicago, who was the victim of gun violence. Burns was a member of campus organizations such as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Collegiate 100; and Men of Excellence.
Hayes-Anthony closed, “We are a campus community that unites in times of tribulation. We forge new paths if we encounter an obstacle we cannot move. We embrace change and use those experiences to improve life for others and all of the students that we touch. So let us strengthen our resolve and continue to prop up one another as we strive to create a better future and a better tomorrow.”
Love dedicated her speech to the 2023 Homecoming theme “Thee Legacy Continues…,” while noting tales of her grandfather, a Mississippi farmer and self-proclaimed “third-grade scholar,” who taught Love that she was a “genius” and could be anything she wanted to be. According to Love, this became evident when she was sworn into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a special agent “on a cold day” in January 1987.
Love mentioned alums such as GMA3 anchor DeMarco Morgan, U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler, and entertainment entrepreneur Cortez Bryant, who are making monumental strides in their respective fields and further serving as examples of the ongoing legacy at JSU.
In 2014, Love was recognized as one of the most powerful women in Cable and served as senior vice president and chief security officer for Cablevision Systems Corporation. During her 25-year-long FBI career, she received awards such as the 2010 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service, conferred by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
She held numerous managerial and leadership positions in the field and at the FBI Headquarters, including managing two FBI Field Offices as the special agent in charge, and as assistant director of the security division upon retiring. Today, she is the vice president of Kristi House, an organization dedicated to healing and eradicating child sexual abuse and trafficking of children in Miami.
The “unapologetically Christian” global thought leader and motivational speaker encouraged all present to lean on the community in their times of need, especially on the road to success.
In September 2022, Love established the $100,000 Jennifer Love Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is meant to encourage HBCU students to pursue an education aimed at criminal justice careers while encouraging HBCU alumni to give to HBCUs nationwide.
In closing, Love explained that the roots of many trees – old trees, young trees, and in-between trees – may graft themselves together, creating an interdependent foundation hidden under the grass. In this way, the stronger trees share resources with the young trees, making the whole forest healthy.
“That’s legacy, an interconnection across time with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us. Today, on this Founders’ Day, let’s plant some trees so the legacy continues.”
Editor’s Note: On Friday, October 20, members of the Jackson State University Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Marshall Task Force, and the Columbia Police Department arrested Jamison Kelly Jr. of Columbia, Miss., as a second suspect in the shooting of JSU student Jaylen Burns. He was transported to the Raymond Detention Center. Additionally, suspect Joshua Brown appeared in Hinds County Court, where he was denied bond. Brown and Kelly are not JSU students.