Founders’ Day, COVID-style

University leaders stand behind the wreath honoring 133 years of FAMU’s legacy. Right to left: Student body Vice President Carrington Whigham, Student Body President Xavier McClinton, First Lady Sharon Robinson, President Larry Robinson, Former President Fred Gainous, PROVOST Maurice Edington, Miss FAMU Erika Johnson, Mr. FAMU Kimani Jackson. Photo by Kamryn Marshall

Despite drastic changes to protocol as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Florida A&M University celebrated 133 years of its academic legacy this morning with a wreath ceremony at the Eternal Flame. Approximately 30 university leaders, staff and community members  — all wearing protective masks — gathered at the Eternal Flame in front of Lee Hall to commemorate the institutions history.

The Founders’ Day wreath ceremony is an annual re-commitment to uphold the universitys history and values. President Larry Robinson, former President Fred Gainous, Vice President of Student Affairs Maurice Edington and Student Body President Xavier McClinton gave a responsive reading identifying the founders and values of the universitys legacy.

To start the ceremony, Mr. FAMU Kimani Jackson and Miss FAMU Erika Johnson carried the Founders’ Day wreath to the Eternal Flame.

We have to be careful not to take any of this for granted,”  Robinson, FAMU’s 12the permanent president, said when asked about the universitys legacy and founders. We are going to have to work just as hard as they did to ensure the next 133 years.”

FAMU was founded as the State Normal College for Colored Students on Oct. 3, 1887 with 15 students and two instructors. Today, the highest ranked public HBCU holds numerous accredited graduate and doctoral programs with student enrollment hovering just under 9,000.

Johnson, Miss FAMU, said the ceremony is important to the university’s history.

The wreath ceremony is a reminder of past leadership and the hardships FAMU has endured as a college and then a university,” Johnson said. Its just a reminder of our rich legacy and our perseverance.”

In the wake of a pandemic the university canceled one of the most anticipated traditions in celebration of its founding day. In recent years Founders’ Day took place during the same week as  Homecoming, which brings alumni back to the “Hill” with a week of events including a football game. A traditional pinning ceremony for incoming freshmen also didnt occur in order to maintain social distance practices.

 Although this year looks a lot different for university leaders and students, FAMU still believes this event is important to honor. The university plans to incorporate as much normalcy and culture as possible for students considering virtual learning and pandemic protocols.

I dont have any concerns or worry about what the culture is going to be like in the next couple years,” McClinton said when asked about university plans in maintaining traditions following the pandemic. Were going to be right back picking up where we left off as soon as this is all over.”