Florida A&M’s homecoming convocation welcomed students, alumni, faculty and staff to the Jake Gaither Gymnasium. Speaker and alumnus John Michael Lee Jr. encouraged students, faculty, staff and alumni on how to give back to FAMU to promote moving forward.
Lee is the vice president for the Office of Access and Success at the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).
Lee acknowledged the decreasing value and funding of historically black colleges and universities.
“Many HBCU’s are probably underfunded by or behind one or four of the following reasons: disruptive management by governing boards, distant… leadership by presidents and chancellors, the archaic teaching by a group of faculty… and the lack of financial support from alumni, young and old,” Lee said.
Will Miller, who graduated from the FAMU School of Business and Industry in 1999 with a concentration in accounting, said Lee’s words were a “strategically important message for HBCUs in terms of being engaged.”
“It pertains to how being an alumnus engaged in not only giving back monetarily but mentally, spiritually of our gifts to the university,” Miller said.
The alumnus voiced that FAMU cannot work with gradual change, but expeditious change, and 1950s thinking must be replaced with a 21st century mindset to keep FAMU fresh and competitive.
Lee said rather than standing on the premise of “this is the way we’ve always done it,” FAMU should enforce new strategies and thinking to invigorate the school.
“The change I am referring to is the change that is needed for FAMU,” Lee said. “We must let go of the past, redefine who we are and what we want FAMU to become. We have to accept new roles and we have to accept a new reality.”
Laquita C. Blockson, a 1992 graduate, said the speech was “very riveting and very inspiring.”
“It gave us alums a charge to really support the university and to support it with full force.” Blockson said.
Lee provided a two-step plan to keep the university moving forward: faith and innovative leadership.
“We must have faith in the eleventh president of FAMU, Dr. Elmira Magnum.”
Within the in the first 48 hours on the job, Magnum fought to keep FAMU-FSU College of Engineering alive.
“Have faith that she is doing what is best for FAMU. Do not undermine her… by doing so you undermine Famu. We must rule as one FAMU.”
“I want all Famuans to be innovative,” Lee said. “We need more alumni like Cecka Rose Green.”
Lee addressed the importance for alumni to be physically and financially supportive of FAMU. His message to the graduates promoted sustaining involvement with the university regardless of the scoreboard at athletic events.
“Winning should not be a prerequisite for your support, your support should be a prerequisite for winning.”
Nathan Cohen, a 2003 alumnus of Allied Health and Sciences, said Lee’s speech was stimulating.
“The speech was actually very inspirational,” Cohen said. “It really gave a new outlet for us even as alums for the university to really push us to give back.”
Shaakira White, a junior business administration student and Miss Zeta Phi Beta from Tallahassee, Fla., said the hits all the right points to keep Famu progressing.
“It was a lot of information that alumni and students needed to hear and also faculty and staff,” White said. “I hope they listen and actually take what he said so we can make an improvement with the school.”