Jackson State’s record-breaking Homecoming includes investiture of 12th president
Thursday, October 14, 2021 at 10:00 a.m., the ceremony that culminated in the investiture of Attorney Thomas K. Hudson began. It was held on the Gibbs-Green Pedestrian Walkway on the campus of Jackson State University. The crowd was large and the ceremony impressive, complete with an Inaugural Procession and Recessional led by the faculty in full academic regalia.
The roster of people offering welcomes or reflections included: Congressman Bennie Thompson, Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Institutions of Higher Learning Board Member Dr. Steven Cunningham, Texas Southern University Professor Dr. Edward Bell, Jr., JSU Faculty Senate President Dr. Dawn McLin, JSU Staff Senate Member Dr. Latoya Reed, JSU National Alumni Association President Dr. Earlexia Norwood, and JSU Student Government Association President Tyra McCormick.
The Oath of Office was administered by Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr., Commissioner of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. The Presidential Chain of Office was presented by Dr. J. Walt Starr, President of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. He was assisted by Dr. Cunningham.
Music was provided by the Jackson State University Orchestra, Senior Voice Performance major Donte Wright, and the JSU Chorale. Dr. Chip Henderson offered an Invocation, and Dr. Dwayne Pickett offered the Benediction. Dr. Alisa Mosley, Provost and Senior Vice President of JSU, presided over the ceremony. The highlight was the Inaugural Address by President Thomas Hudson.
A large amount of the address was devoted to a history of JSU, which was most appropriate since it was also Homecoming week, which celebrated the 144th year of the institution’s existence.
(1) Hudson noted that it had moved from a small private college for preachers and teachers in Natchez to its present status as the fourth largest university in the state and one of the largest HBCUs in the country. He concluded that portion by indicating that the university now offers 45 bachelors, 34 masters, 1 specialist, and 13 doctoral degrees and that it is the state’s research intensive, urban university, which recently had its regional accreditation reaffirmed without any recommendations.
(2) He used a part of the speech to expound on his six-point agenda to elevate JSU, part of which has to do with the building of a new stadium.
(3) He proudly indicated that the university had improved financially, going from budget cuts to budget investments, thanks to sound management and a very successful fund-raising campaign.
(4) In the course of the speech, he thanked family and friends, faculty and staff, alumni and students, IHL members, and various governmental entities.
The address was well received, as had been the welcome and reflections that preceded it. In addition to the address, comments made by several program participants, including President Hudson, drew attention to some otherwise unspoken concerns, raising questions for the immediate and long-term future.
Realizing that a high-level administrator in the area of student affairs was released just weeks ago, comments made by both President Hudson and Dr. Reed regarding the student experience and customer service were duly noted. Supposedly, those are areas that will be closely monitored.
In a similar manner, in the course of his address, President Hudson indicated that, among other things, his administration would operate on the principles of shared governance. Those comments were perhaps directed to the faculty senate, since shared governance has been a topic of great concern at least since the administration of Dr. James Lyons.
Thirdly, there were comments made by several speakers, including President Hudson, about his being an alumnus of JSU and being from the area. One speaker even indicated that it was a decision made at long-last by the board of trustees. This, of course, had reference to the fact that the college board had seemingly deliberately avoided appointing such an individual to the presidency since the ouster of Dr. John Peoples in 1984. Such comments appeared to have been designed to placate JSU alumni and well-wishers, even if the board still has the power to pull the strings of whomever is appointed as president. One speaker went so far as to indicate that they would have Hudson’s back. That was more than a throwback to the contentious relationship that has long existed between the board and the campus community, with the president caught in the middle.
Finally, there were comments made by the federal, state, and municipal representatives regarding money to build JSU a new stadium. Those comments appeared to be designed to allay fears or deep concerns on the part of many that believe that state officials are determined to oust JSU from Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, contrary to the spirit of the Ayers’ settlement. There is a fear that there will be no equivalent facility provided to replace the current stadium and that Hudson will be pressured to accept whatever is presented.
As President Hudson proceeds to lead the university, it is the prayer of many well-wishers that he will have the autonomy to lead as the wisdom of the faculty, students, alumni, and administrative staff dictates rather than being mired down by any racist or overly conservative dictates emanating from IHL and other state leaders.
Jackson State University celebrates Homecoming
Jackson State University Homecoming took on a different air this year as the Deion “Prime Time” Sanders era has gone into full swing. The week was dubbed “THEE Comeback” as it was the first full celebration since the COVID pandemic caused the cancelation on the 2020 football season. In addition to the highly anticipated matchup between JSU and Alabama State University, the week also included fan favorites such as the street jam, Yardfest, the annual parade, and an on campus concert featuring national acts Lil Durk and Flo Milli. (Photos by Anita Young, Jay D. Johnson, and Charles Smith)