A message of loyalty and pride resonated through song and speech in Lee Hall Auditorium as the university celebrated its 115th birthday Thursday morning at the Founder’s Day Convocation.
The celebration was not only a gathering to commemorate the legacy of the founders, Thomas V. Gibbs and Thomas D. Tucker; it was also a ceremony of reflection of the past and hopes for the future of the university.
John R. Haugabrook, Founder’s Day Convocation speaker and 1958 graduate, said that although the “economy is in trouble” this is an opportunity for FAMU. He also stressed the steps that the university must take to obtain this opportunity.
“The FAMU family must be on the same page,” Haughbrook said. “The FAMU family must become more politically active, volunteer services and the FAMU family must raise big money.”
Haugabrook also congratulated the university on having some of the top schools and colleges in the nation, but ranked education as the top occupation.
“Teachers have the most important job.” With the University Concert Choir’s rendition of “Wade in the Water,” several remarks given by trustees and alumni and a FAMU Address given by Student Government Association President Andre Hammel, alumni, trustees, students and officials joined in recognizing how far the university has come since its birth on Oct. 3, 1887.
Trustee member Randall Hanna said, “It’s important to come here and graduate. It’s important to get good grades. But it’s more important that you learn.”
He said that is how students can uphold the university’s legacy
Carolyn Collins, president of the university’s national alumni association, said that FAMU has to work to continue its legacy for future generations.
“We are not working for SGA, we are not working for the court, we are not working for the faculty, we are not even working for the alumni, we are working for the babies yet unborn,” Collins said.
While Collins recognized the importance of future generations, Gainous reveled in the present.
“It is an absolute honor to realize that this university has overcome adversity. You are the history makers, the beacon…” Gainous said.
SGA Vice President Tisa Holley said she believes in the “understanding and respect” that history must receive.
“History is a continuous cycle and we know history repeats itself. In the last three years there are many things that have plagued FAMU like the issue on affirmative action and the three-tier system,” said Holley, 21, a senior physical education student from Temple Hills, Md. “We need to learn from our mistakes and not only look at the legacy. The legacy must continue past Oct. 3, 1887.”
Students see the Founder’s Day Convocation as a way to pay tribute to the legacy that the founders left behind.
“It’s nice for us to see what the university has gone through. We have improved over the years, it’s good for us to look back,” said Lanedra Gaines, 22, a senior elementary education from Ft. Lauderdale.
“[The convocation] is a reflection of our founders,” said Robert Brewer II, 20, a junior business economic student from Saginaw, Mich. “The reason I came to this university was to pay tribute to our forefathers that created this university.”
President Gainous believes the founders not only set ground for this university, but also set a legacy that benefited the rest of the nation.
“We look out and we see the legacy. We are learning and thriving. Our founders have given us the opportunity to make this nation a great place to live.”