Thursday, November 26, 2009
143rd Founders’ Weekend
By IRVING R. SMITH
The convocation speaker for the joint Rust College 143rd Founders’ Convocation and the 104th Mississippi Industrial College Commemoration did not mince words in his address to the faculty, staff, and students in attendance, Sunday, Nov. 15.
Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore, alumnus ’64, Jackson State University political science professor and immediate past mayor of Jackson, challenged the Rust College administration to do more in helping students succeed at the college.
McLemore said the reality of today has brought a new paradigm, and trustees and administration of the institution must rethink the college and instill rigors of intellectual endeavor in the students.
He referred to the contributions of former Rust presidents, Dr. William McMillan and Dr. Earnest Smith, and suggested the administration should adopt the intellectualism of Smith combined with the pragmatism of McMillan in moving the college forward for generations to come.
McLemore, a former student leader and political activist in his student days at Rust, and whom Rust president David L. Beckley in his introduction called “the walking encyclopedia on civil rights issues in the South,” also reflected on his experiences as a young adult at Rust. He credits the college for encouraging students to progress and to take advantage of the freedom available to them.
“Rust College is a special place, and special places should be treated as such,” he said.
He talked about his connection to the institution and how much of a pivotal role it played in his life.
“Rust gave me my wings to fly, and I am still flying because of Rust College,” he said.
McLemore expressed that the Rust alumni classes of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s have the greatest overall wealth than any graduates at Rust.
“With the wealth that most of us have, we all should give back to Rust College,” McLemore said.
He called upon the school administration to not only recognize the men who have impacted the college but also the female leaders who have contributed immensely to the institution.
“Rust would not exist without the strong women who have come and gone from Rust,” he said. “Let us recognize the importance of women in leadership roles on this campus.”
McLemore received a big applause from the audience when he highlighted programs that should be added or reintroduced to the curriculum at Rust, such as service learning programs where students go out into the community to help and serve in Holly Springs and Marshall County.
“Students need to know that studying abroad is not just going to Africa; it’s going down on Memphis Street and solving problems here,” he said.
He added every student at Rust should have a laptop computer and that the cost should be included in the tuition.
“We need to have our students prepared to not only compete but exceed in the 21st century,” McLemore said. “We have to instill inside our students an intellectual rigor. Let us rethink Rust College.”
The speaker was presented with the 37th Tower of Leadership Award, along with two other notable alumni present at the occasion, Willie B. “Wazir” Peacock of San Pablo, Calif., (38th), and Mayor W.J. Jones of Coahoma (39th).
Editor’s Note – Contributing writer Irving Smith is a print journalism major at Rust College, and writes for the campus newspaper, The Rustorian.
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