Homecoming weekend blend of history, plans for the future



Matthew Jenkins, center, receives the honorary
Doctor of Science degree from Gen. Charles E.
Williams, Board of Trustees chair; and Tuskegee
University President Gilbert L. Rochon at the
Charter Day/Homecoming Convocation on Sunday.

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (November 7, 2011) — Tuskegee University alumni and other supporters were greeted with a chilly but rousing start to homecoming weekend activities. Despite brisk fall winds on Saturday, spectators lined the streets to view the annual pre-game parade. The event was marshaled by Tuskegee Airmen Booker Conley and Oscar C. Gadson Jr., and R&B singer Chrisette Michelle. Among the hundreds of entrants were student club floats, high school bands, local businesses, pageant winners, the university’s Marching Crimson Pipers Band, and Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon and his family.

Afterward, alumna Beatrice Sowell presented the university with a $10,000 donation during the pre-game brunch. Sowell, a 1961 graduate, presented the gift from The Bea Sowell Presidential Scholarship Fund to Cheryl Thomas, Tuskegee’s vice president for development.

Tuskegee supporters had even more to appreciate at the game. The Golden Tigers defeated Miles College 27-25 in their last home game for this season. That evening, members of the reunion classes of 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006 celebrated at a number of festivities held at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University.

On Sunday, hundreds gathered at the University Chapel for the Charter Day/Homecoming Convocation. Alumnus Matthew Jenkins, chairman of SDD Enterprises, was the keynote speaker.

Jenkins, who said, “My DNA is deeply embedded in Mother Tuskegee,” recounted how he was reluctant to leave his duties at his family’s farm and follow his mother’s wish for him to attend Tuskegee.

“I was literally devastated because I was having so much fun. I realize many years later she had much more wisdom than me,” Jenkins said of his mother.

He credits the lessons from his mother as being the foundation for his family’s philanthropy. The Matthew and Roberta Jenkins Family Foundation has given more than $10 million to various educational organizations. He and his wife, Roberta, have also given to Tuskegee and sponsored the recent campus hotel renovations.

“Always give service to humanity. That’s who we are,” he said. “That’s how we were taught. We don’t know any better.”

In his address, Jenkins encouraged others to make monetary, legacy or service gifts to Tuskegee. He said help is needed for the university’s capital campaign. He also identified three areas where the university is in need: funding, organization, and communication and public relations.

“If we’re going to meet this challenge, we all have to pitch in,” he said.

Jenkins also said a campus-wide change in attitude is key to Tuskegee being successful. He urged all Tuskegee faculty and staff to be personable ambassadors of the university and to do their jobs with professionalism and passion. Also, he stressed that employees should want to show the best that they can offer.

“We want that ‘wow’ factor not just from President Rochon, but from everyone,” Jenkins said.

After his address, Jenkins was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Rochon. Two Alumni Merit Awards were given to Mariah B. Brymer (’48) and Willie M. Burnett (’68), respectively, for their service and support to the university.

The reunion classes presented the university with a gift of $206,016.53.

Tuskegee Airmen, (left to right, back seat) Booker Conley and Oscar C. Gadson Jr., serve as grand marshals of the annual homecoming parade on Saturday.

The Tuskegee University Golden Tigers defeated the Miles College Golden Bears 27-25.










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