After SC State's debate exposure, alumni anxious for first-hand look

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The students walking the campus of South Carolina State University Friday had a slightly different skip to their step.

A few gray hairs peppered the tops of some heads while hair for others was a forgone memory. Most were parents, some were grandparents and all were diehard Bulldogs.

Hip hop culture gave way to old school sensibility as the South Carolina State University National Alumni Convention continued on the university's campus. The convention began Thursday with a host of alumni moving into the new Andrew Hugine Suites, a 755-bed, student, apartment-style housing complex. On Friday, alumni attended various workshops at Staley Hall and the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center aimed and informing and growing alumni nationwide.

Delores L. Henry sauntered out of one of the sessions, all smiles. She is a graduate of the class of 1961. She is among the "students" staying in the dorms on campus during the convention. Things have certainly changed, she said.

"It's nice; it's one of the latest in dormitories and compared to where we were when I was here ..." she laughed. "How much more improved it is really. The cafeteria is the same, it hasn't changed any. The convention has been very informative and we have been going over a lot of stuff. Being an active alumni keeps you abreast of what is going on. Alumni need to be active and be there to give support to the university."

The mission of the SCSU National Alumni Association is to actively support the university's missions and goals. Chapters exist across the nation. Wilburn Gilliard of Charleston, class of 1968, arrived a bit early for an alumni workshop he planned to attend. Attending the SCSU National Alumni Convention is very important to the past president of the Charleston Alumni Chapter. He said it means keeping in touch with your school, showing pride in it and keeping its heritage going.

"We have a moral obligation to support our school and be active in the alumni organization," he said. "It's been real nice. I participate in it every year. If we don't support our school, then who will? It's up to all of us to keep it going."

South Carolina State enjoyed an enormous amount of exposure in March when it was host for the first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential debate. Beatrice W. Barrett, class of '55, said her husband, who is not an alumni, was as eager to come from Miami to the convention as she was after watching the debate on MSNBC. They saw how nice the campus looked and wanted to see the improvements in person.

"I have enjoyed it and everything has been very well-planned, and I'm especially excited to be here for my husband," she said. "He's not an alumni but was interested in coming because of the debate. To come from the institution and we liked what we saw on the coverage on MSNBC. We plan on coming back to the Florida A&M game. A lot of people are interested because of what they saw at the debate.

"It's a good feeling," she said of being back on campus. "It's good to be back and meet friends and classmates who make a commitment to the university."

Deborah Robinson Herring, a native of Orangeburg and a member of the Atlanta alumni chapter, seemed like a youngster as a member of the class of 1980. As she looked for the room where her workshop would be held, she proudly said her son is now a student at SC State and answered the charge at convocation. Like many there, her commitment to support the university extends to her entire family.

"It's been a phenomenal experience for me," she said. "The subjects have been very informative and I'm excited to be an alumni and for what I have learned and what my family and I can do to enhance the university and its students."

The alumni convention will end today with a Life Member Luncheon beginning at 12:15 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center. Coach Willie Jeffries will by the speaker.

Retrieved from The Times and Democrat. T&D Special Assignments Writer Charlene Slaughter can be reached by e-mail at cslaughter@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5529.