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It’s Homecoming, y’all: Livingstone hosts annual events

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY – From freshmen experiencing it for the first time to alumni like Nigel and Sarah Alston who graduated in 1974, a familiar phrase has been spoken repeatedly at Livingstone College this week: It’s Homecoming, y’all.

Indeed it is.

Homecoming activities began Monday at Livingstone and conclude tomorrow with several events, including a Gospel Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the institution’s School of Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts in the former Holiday Inn on Jake Alexander Boulevard.

Today’s highlights include the Homecoming Parade, which features Rowan Little League as the Honorary Grand Marshals and begins at 9 a.m. at Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, and the football game against Fayetteville State University, which begins at 1:30 p.m. inside Alumni Memorial Stadium.

There’s no mistaking the excitement at Livingstone College this week. It’s on students’ faces, the faces of alumni and on the faces of faculty and staff, including many who have worked tirelessly to ensure this year’s Homecoming, The Return of the Blue Bear, is the best yet.

At historically black colleges and universities, Homecoming is much more than a football game or a chance for alumni to spend a few days waxing nostalgia. In fact, to some it’s nearly sacred.

“When you look at the origin of HBCUs and consider why they were created in the first place, to educate the children of just-freed slaves, it’s easy to see why Homecoming is such an endearing event,” said Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr. “I’m certainly not saying that Homecoming isn’t important at other institutions, but rather that at HBCUs it takes on a life of its own. Next to commencement, it’s probably the biggest event we have on campus each year. We’re always happy to welcome home the alumni who have helped to make Livingstone College what it is today, and we trust they’ll be pleased with the many improvements that have been made at their beloved alma mater.”

Although one of the smaller HBCUs in the state, Livingstone has produced many giants over the years. Like George E. Battle, Jr., Senior Bishop in the AME Zion Church and Chairman of Livingstone’s Board of Trustees. Battle has met with six sitting U.S. Presidents, served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board for 17 years, created an afterschool program that has been in existence for 40 years and in June 2014 was enshrined in The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum.

Also hailing from Livingstone is Dr. William C. Grant, who says Livingstone adequately prepared him to obtain a master’s and a Ph.D. in zoology from North Carolina State University. In his 41-year tenure at NCSU, Grant has been assistant director of academic programs and an associate provost. Currently, he’s a professor of biological sciences and director of the institution’s biological sciences program, which has 1,800 undergraduate majors.

On Friday, Grant delivered the keynote address at Alumni Convocation, which was held at 11 a.m. in Varick Auditorium.

Grant received applause several times throughout his address, particularly when he recalled some of the nicknames of members of his class of 1965. Names like Fathead, Moose, Dick Tracy, Aloysius, Kingfish, Johnny Mathis, Pee Wee, Magoo and Research.

He evoked smiles from alumni as he reminisced about late-night treks to the Frank’s Chicken Shack, memorable sporting events and family style meals in the dining room in Goler Hall.

“An occasion such as this invariably evokes memories, and we all have many pleasant memories of Livingstone and our experiences here,” said Grant, whose wife Harriet Wilks Grant is a member of the class of 1967. “Livingstone afforded us many positive, life-changing opportunities and experiences that shaped our present and our future.”

Grant was introduced by his classmate Mary Roseman Williams, who said in an interview that “it’s always good to be back at Livingstone College where excellence prevails.”

Williams, a staunch Livingstone supporter, lives in Maryland and tries to always make it back for Homecoming.

And just like virtually everyone inside Varick Auditorium during Alumni Convocation on Friday, she chuckled and smiled when just minutes into his speech Grant proudly proclaimed: It’s Homecoming, y’all.

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