FACES OF EXCELLENCE
ALUMNI SHINE BRIGHT ACROSS THE NATION
TAKING FAMU LOVE, SERVICE AROUND THE GLOBE
RATTLERS IN THE HOUSE WHITE HOUSE, THAT IS
SEEKING BLACK JOY
PASTOR LAMAR IS TAKING IT FROM THE PULPIT TO THE STREETS
DIPLOMATIC DUO Longtime FAMU love affair spreads smiles, diplomacy around the globe
8 7 Vince Evans
His star has risen to Vice President Kamala Harris’ White House Office
11 LaToya Myles
President Robinson’s first doctoral student is now taking on a big role of her own at a prestigious NOAA lab
12 Pastor William H. Lamar IV
For this young pastor, the struggle for equal justice has led him to a historic D.C. pulpit, a jail cell and protests on the streets of the nation’s capital
14 Royal Pair
Royal Pair Miss FAMU and Mr. FAMU played a “Bigger” role this year, using their captivating voices for leadership
16 G. Scott Uzzell
He occupies the C-suite at one of the world’s top footwear companies
18 From MEAC to SWAC
A look at the history, highlights, competitors and leaders as FAMU makes the big move from one athletic conference to the next
21 Alelee Figueroa
With high grades on the books, and high marks on the field, she’s making history in college sports
22 Phillip Agnew
Journey from FAMU SGA leadership has led to a national profile shaped during his search for justice and equality
23 College of Agriculture & Food Sciences
What’s it all about? Take a look at the 1890s student scholars and the federal funds that are taking seed to benefit the program and its stakeholders
34 FAMU Program Raises Awareness of Florida’s Marijuana Laws
Read about how the University is the only Florida state-supported institution tapped to raise awareness about medical marijuana among minorities
36 Law School Dean Deidré Keller Keller makes a strong case for winning — again and again with a community plan to recruit and retain the best
36 SPRING 2021
38 André Dawson
Former Rattler slugger has hammered his way into a new realm of fame in Major League Baseball
Larry Robinson, Ph.D.
DIRECTOR OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
39 Greg Coleman
LaNedra Carroll Brian J. Howard Paul Jerome Andrew J. Skerritt Britney Smith
His nickname was once “Coffin Corner” but, now the first African-American punter in the NFL has earned an elite Black college football title
ART DIRECTION/LAYOUT DESIGN
42 Jemal Gibson
Starting with a paltry $20 in his pocket, his FAMU journey took him to a Fortune 10 company and a second term of leadership at the FAMU Foundation
Perry Albrigo Brion Eason
43 Breaking Bland
This Hollywood player — the name behind an Emmy-award winning drama series — is making his face and work something to remember as he becomes a growing force in writing, acting and production
46 Retired Lt. Col. Robert Porter Today’s National Alumni Association took shape under this leader who is remembered among other Fallen Rattlers
Cyrena Allen LaNedra Carroll Jonathan Edouard Véronique George Patricia Green-Powell, Ph.D. Mildred Graham Brian J. Howard Kamryn Marshall Kara Payne Tanasia A. Reed Andrew J. Skerritt Kathy Times
PHOTOGRAPHY Adam Taylor Nallah Brown
Andrew J. Skerritt, media relations director Britney Smith, publications director Brian J. Howard, assistant director Adam Ramgeet, marketing coordinator Vernon Bryant, special events Brion Eason, art director Aaliyah Wilkerson, digital content manager Tawanda Finley, executive assistant Lawana Clark, administrative assistant
HAPPENING ON “THE HILL”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
DEPARTMENTS 40 APPLAUSE 44 NEW FACES, NEW PLACES 47 FALLEN RATTLERS
(850) 599-3413 Twitter: twitter.com/FAMU_1887 Facebook Search: Florida A&M University YouTube: YouTube.com/FAMUTube1887 www.FAMU.edu www.FAMUnews.com FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 1
FACES OF EXCELLENCE ISSUE… An endless canvas of Florida A&M University alumni spans the globe. It is a colorful, diverse display of “Excellence with Caring.” The 3D tapestry leads right back to the fields and hills where Florida A&M University sits proudly, gleaming with the excellence that has emanated from the institution since its beginning . . .in 1887. The faces keep coming. For the Spring 2021 A&M magazine, the A&M team decided to capture a subset of the steady flow of excellence that has spilled forth for more than a century; the focus is on alumni who are the evidence of what excellence looks like today. We searched for Rattlers who comprise all dimensions of excellence in flying colors — and we had no paucity of subjects. We set out to find their faces, their stories. We now present alumni “Faces of Excellence.”
A MESSAGE FROM THE
IN TIMES LIKE THESE... EVEN NOW Even as the dark clouds of COVID-19 loomed over us for the past year, at Florida A&M University we held firm to our commitment “to the advancement of knowledge, resolution of complex issues and the empowerment of citizens and communities.” As our nation was also ravaged by social injustice, we saw an even greater need to build a learned society illuminated by the brilliance of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. We stand fast to our mission and move forward with the fortitude, commitment and aplomb needed to maintain the excellence that has defined this institution for more than 133 years. Like educational institutions across the nation, circumstances forced FAMU to undergo an amazing transformation: from a once predominant mode of in-person educational and service delivery to essentially one-hundred percent remote operation in less than two weeks during the spring 2020 semester. In the months since, it remains clear that our institution remains a haven for scholarship, service and hope. Even now. For Americans, the human toll of the coronavirus pandemic has been unfathomable. Over 30 million have tested positive and our nation has lost more than 550,000 family members, friends and neighbors. The events of the past year have caused major disruptions and economic challenges for our families and communities. Many students have been forced to either abandon or postpone their educational plans. Some chose to continue their pursuits at the University while facing the challenges of having far fewer resources to do so. In support of our community, we have hosted a community-based COVID-19 testing site since April 2020. More than 320,000 tests have been administered at the Bragg Memorial Stadium site. Since February, 2021, a vaccination site at the Al Lawson Center is inoculating residents seven days a week. I am proud to have been the first senior administrator to be vaccinated in our new Center for Access and Student Success (CASS) complex, the three-story facility that houses most of our student services under one roof. FAMU continues to be a loud voice that advocates, especially to minority and underserved communities, the importance of getting vaccinated. This University is committed to our motto of “Excellence with Caring.” Student success remain at the heart of our mission. Providing a safe, secure and robust campus life environment are key to achieving this goal. Consequently, we are planning a return to in-person classes for fall semester of 2021. We will operate our residence halls at full occupancy and dining facilities as well. We will renew student activities and on-campus events. This also means the much-anticipated resumption of fall sports. We will kick off Rattler football with the return of the historic Orange Blossom Classic in a matchup against Southwestern Ath-
letic Conference (SWAC) rival Jackson State University during Labor Day Weekend in Miami Gardens. We are excited about competing in the SWAC this fall and look forward to renewing some old on-the-field rivalries and beginning some anew. Increasing employee campus density will help ensure that we continue to provide an active and vibrant campus environment for our students, while maintaining our focus on the health, safety, and wellness of all University constituents. Coincident with our return to a “new normal,” we are asking students and employees to conduct self-assessment checks before they arrive on campus, use temperature kiosks as they enter buildings, adhere to the COVID-19 testing schedule and get vaccinated. I believe the adherence to relevant safety protocols, combined with testing and vaccinations will help us maintain a safe campus. We urge everyone to do these things for themselves, and for the FAMUly. Even as we look to the future, an important aspect in the life of our University is celebrating who we are and who we have become. As you will see in this spring issue of A&M magazine, the brilliance of some of our most valuable stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters – continues to elevate this University. Alumni continue to break barriers: Vincent Evans was appointed by President Elect Joe Biden as Policy Director to the historic Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House. Pastor William Lamar IV, pastor of Washington’s historic Metropolitan AME Church, can be found in the pulpit of the church, the streets and jail preaching about jail, justice, and joy. Calvin and Kindall Hayes follow in the rich tradition of Rattler excellence and African Americans in the diplomatic corps. G. Scott Uzzell, CEO of Converse, shares his vision of what it takes to reach the top. Florida A&M University is an 1890 Land Grant institution. Our College of Agriculture & Food Sciences (CAFS) is foundational to our identity. I am pleased that our federal lawmakers have recognized that to the tune of more than $69 million secured by alumnus U.S. Congressman David Scott, D-Georgia. This funding will help to recruit and retain the best and brightest CAFS scholars. Read about alumnus Scott and our 1890 scholars in this issue. U.S. News and World Report ranks FAMU 20th in the nation for social mobility, which attests to our success in changing the economic trajectory of our students and their families. The stories in this issue of A&M magazine illustrate the reality of that social mobility. We constantly remind our students, “you can get anywhere from FAMU.” Finally, I must reiterate that Florida A&M University is no stranger to overcoming challenges. This past year will go down as one of our toughest. Yet, here we stand even stronger. With your continued love and support, we know that even in “times like these” a brilliant journey lies ahead for the “College of Love and Charity.”
Larry Robinson, Ph.D. FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 3
LETTER FROM THE
AT A&M MAGAZINE – even as the virus rag-
es on - we have chosen to remove the mask, metaphorically. We wanted our readers to see the faces of a select group of FAMU Rattlers, more specifically, the “Faces of Excellence.’’ Our chosen lens has focused on some of the young alumni who have worn the orange-and-green in splendid style. In this issue, we have peeked into America’s boardrooms now lit with flavor and excellence of standout alumni. We have explored the halls of Congress and followed Rattlers who are moving throughout the ever-challenging politics of our time in elevated places. We then took a deep dive into a few professions, vocations, and avocations where we found a couple of married FAMUans who have delved into diplomacy and the cultures of more than 30 countries for decades. Finally, we looked at alumni who have run their race to a photo-finish as they claimed some most-coveted spots on the world’s fields, courts, and diamonds.
Andrew J. Skerritt Executive Editor
L.A. Carroll Editor/Project Manager
Britney Smith Editor
Before the last page is turned, readers can see Rattlers lighting up small and big screens, and others who are sacrificing to shine through dark moments of injustice, adversity, and incarceration for their activism. Their stories inspire us; their examples educate us; their journeys leave a roadmap for us and future generations. The A&M staff has spent the last few months working to tell a few of their stories. Faces. Faces of all colors, creeds, nationalities. Vincent Evans, James Bland. Phillip Agnew, Calvin and Kindall Hayes, LaToya Myles, College of Law Dean Deidré Keller, Converse CEO Scott Uzzell, and Aleelee Figueroa. There is no “A” in FAMU without the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS). The magazine includes a feature on the 1890 Scholars Program, a groundbreaking initiative to attract more African Americans
LaNedra A. Carroll 4 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
The A&M staff has spent the last few months working to tell a few of their stories. Faces. Faces of all colors, creeds, nationalities.
to the industry. Agriculture at FAMU is about more than farming. Read about the rapid growth of scholarship funds made possible by alumnus and Congressman David A. Scott, then see and hear from a few of the student-scholars and recruits who are growing rapidly in the field. Lastly, from the top, FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., offers a leadership view of the portraits of exceptional Rattlers. Excellence remains a FAMU imperative even as our nation and the world navigate headwinds of unprecedented force and complexity. Critically acclaimed poet and novelist Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem about 50 years after slavery was ended. “We Wear the Mask” was his reaction to what he considered a cover-up for the pain and suffering born of that dark past. Similarly, today, as COVID-19 shackles our way of life and economy, experts tell us that we must wear the mask as a last line of defense against the pain and suffering of the ugly virus that threatens our very existence as we have known it.
That is why uncovering these “Faces of Excellence” was not only a moment to exhale and be free; it also afforded us a perfect time to rejoice about this important uncovering. We hope that readers will see these faces and remember their contributions to their communities, society and the FAMU tapestry. Their excellence is striking and affects us all.
Andrew J. Skerritt
On theHill BY [ Véronique GEORGE, Pamela MOORE, Cyrena ALLEN ] COVID-19 testing site. The first person in the door at the new site was a recipient of major import: FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who rolled up his sleeve for the Moderna vaccine.
Rattler turns heads after striking a memorable pose in front of CASS Building
President Robison getting the vaccine on campus
You don’t want to mess with this big, bold snake that has tongues wagging. He is new to campus and is stopping traffic with his imposing appearance. He is also drawing crowds that want to be captured for perpetuity within arms’ reach of him. Always there, standing witness to the multitudes must pass him by. Meet “The Rattler.” Crews have installed the 1,800-pound, 42foot bronze reptile in front of the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Center for Access and Stu-
dent Success (CASS) Building on Wahnish Way. The nearly $40 million, three-story, 73,000-square-foot CASS complex is being completed with funding from the state Legislature. It is set to become a centerpiece of the University’s student success initiatives by housing most of the crucial student services under one roof. The one-stop center includes the functional operations from seven separate entities – Student Affairs, Registration, Enrollment Management, Housing, Cashier, Student Financial Services, Veterans Affairs, the Health Center, Student Success Center and Parking Services. All comprise the consolidated center, which is designed to bring student enrollment, registration, and other business processes into one seamless location, University officials said. The hard-to-miss Rattler was designed and created by Brad Cooley of Bronze by Cooley of Lamont, in Jefferson County, Fla. It was hoist-
FAMU Vaccination Site FAMU is the first approved COVID-19 vaccination site and will occupy the main level of the Al Lawson Gym & Multipurpose Center, 1800 Wahnish Way. Run and staffed by the Department of Emergency Management in collaboration with the Florida Department of Health (Leon County), the site is scheduled to be operating seven days a week and distribute up to 200 vaccine doses daily for the first four weeks. Later, the site is expected to expand to 400 doses per day. FAMU’s Health Services Director Tanya Tatum said, as Florida sought to ramp up vaccine operations and combat growing vaccine hesitancy and skepticism among African Americans and other communities of color, FAMU became an obvious choice for the first state-approved university site. “We are trying to do some targeted outreach to the Southside community and also some of our other underserved communities,” Tatum said. FAMU’s Bragg Stadium continues to be a
Meet “The Rattler”
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 5
Crews have installed the 1,800-pound, 42-foot bronze reptile in front of the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Center for Access and Student Success (CASS) Building on Wahnish Way. ed into place by a crane, then secured to a concrete base. The seven-times life-size statue was then covered with tarpaulin in anticipation of the building’s ribbon cutting early in 2021. The sculpture cost about $112,000. It is expected to become a favorite for student graduation photos and other campus memories. “It’s an image for students to come up to and get photos with. It’s something that they can take with them for a long time. This piece will be here long after we’re gone,” said Cooley, who was pleased with the way the statue turned out. “It’s going to get a lot of attention.” William Hudson, Jr., Ph.D., vice president of Student Affairs, said the new installation is a fitting symbol as the University forges ahead with student success initiatives. “The rattler embodies the spirit of the Florida A&M University community,” said Hudson, who was present as the statue was put in place. “This statue is more than a work of art. It serves as a reminder of who we are and what we can accomplish.”
“It’s an image for students to come up to and get photos with. It’s something that they can take with them for a long time. This piece will be here long after we’re gone,” said Cooley, who was pleased with the way the statue turned out.“It’s going to get a lot of attention.”
The Florida A&M University Rattlers Softball Complex
University hits a home run with new, state-of-the art softball field The Florida A&M University Rattlers Softball Complex, home of the 13-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champions, has received a major upgrade ahead of the 2021 softball season. The new state-of-the-art playing surface provided by AstroTurf at the 37-year-old complex has already been installed, replacing the clay in-field and natural grass outfield. “We are extremely excited about the first phase of enhancements to the softball complex,” said Florida A&M University VP and Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha. “Florida A&M athletics would like to thank the Hansel Tookes Recreation Center, Student Government Association, immediate past President Rochard Moricette along with current President Xavier McClinton for their unwavering support for this project.” This isn’t the first time Florida A&M has used AstroTurf as the company installed a new artificial playing surface inside Bragg Memorial Stadium during the summer of 2018. The installation is one of a handful of facility upgrades happening within the department. Currently, the Galimore-Powell Fieldhouse is undergoing a facelift with the home and visiting locker rooms, weight room, training room and coaches’ offices all being renovated. In addition, baseball, men’s and women’s track and tennis programs are preparing to move into their new locker room later this year. The softball complex also received a new Daktronics scoreboard earlier this summer, as the last scoreboard lost functionality due to being
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struck by lightning. “We are excited to implement a major facility enhancement for one of our elite programs,” said Michael Johnson, associate athletic director for Administration and Operations. “The technology of the synthetic turf will create a major competitive advantage for our program and allow for multi-purpose use for other campus partners such as intramurals or external constituents. The cost savings of annual field maintenance can now go directly back into enhancing our program.”
The new state-of-the-art playing surface provided by AstroTurf at the 37-year-old complex has already been installed, replacing the clay in-field and natural grass outfield. AstroTurf will be installing their Rhino SF playing surface, which is built for high use and noted for its exceptional resistance to wear. The project will reduce program expenses and annual maintenance cost dramatically, and afford the softball team the ability to use the surface for practice or play no matter the weather conditions. Installation of the turf project was completed in beginning of September.
RATTLER IN THE HOUSE, WHITE HOUSE, THAT IS
FAMU ALUM VINCENT EVANS JOINS OFFICE OF VICE PRESIDENT STAFF BY [ Jonathan EDOUARD ]
The political tutelage that began on the Florida A&M University campus has taken alum VINCENT EVANS to Tallahassee City Hall, the Statehouse, Congress and finally, the White House. Evans has been appointed to serve as the new deputy director for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs where he and 10 others will be assisting Vice President Kamala Harris. Evans’ appointment was announced on Twitter by Harris, a little over a week before Inauguration Day, when she explained her reasoning for how she made her selections, saying those chosen to be on her cabinet “reflect the very best of our nation and will help build a country that lifts up all Americans.” Evans soon responded to the announcement on social media. “Humbled seems too insufficient a term to describe my feelings today,” Evans wrote. “Thank you, madam Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, for the profound opportunity and honor to serve you, President-elect [Joe] Biden, your administration and most importantly, the American people.”
Evans began at the grassroots. During Barack Obama’s first presidential run in 2008, Evans organized and mobilized nearly 4,000 students to get out and vote. Evans began at the grassroots. During Barack Obama’s first presidential run in 2008, Evans organized and mobilized nearly 4,000 students to get out and vote. Having an impact on that historic race whetted his appetite for more politics. Those who know him said his political talent was obvious early on. Tola Thompson, a friend of Evans and an aide to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, quickly noticed the potential within Evans, specifically his ability to influence at any level. “Vince came on my radar while he was an undergrad at FAMU, and [I] immediately recognized that he was one of those rare individuals who possessed the substance, humility, and
ability to influence at the next level,” said Thompson, a fellow FAMU alum. “When you run across someone with that kind of talent, you have to encourage them and get out of their way. I’m proud of my friend and know that he will make an impact for the greater good.” Since graduating from FAMU in 2011, Evans has assisted several FAMU alumni and others with their political aspirations. From 2014 to 2017, he served as an aide to Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson. He walked many miles alongside fellow alum, Lawson, as the former state senator made several bids to represent the people of the 5th Congressional District. Later he joined alum and former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in 2018 as his political director in his unsuccessful bid for governor. Lawson had the opportunity to supervise Evans as he served as an aide in his legislative office and watched firsthand how the Jacksonville native’s intangibles have helped him reach his new position. “Vince is an extraordinary individual who is well prepared for this moment,” said Lawson. “I have seen his growth from an intern in my office in the Florida Senate to working in my Congressional Office. His keen political insights and judgement will serve Vice President Harris well. “He’s one of those rising stars, that we all need to keep our eye on,” Lawson added. Commissioner Richardson knows Evans on a more personal level. Both are from Jacksonville. Evans worked on Richardson’s successful bid for re-election to the City Commission. Richardson lauds Evans’ ability to coordinate and effectively plan a campaign while also praising his continued progression in life. “[Evans] did a great job organizing my campaign and he certainly turned out to be a tremendous aide to me during the time that he [worked] for me on the City Commission,” Richardson said. “He’s just continued on an upward
angle since then and I can’t tell you how proud I am of him and the fact that I played a small role in giving him that start that has led him to where he is today.” Evans was also instrumental in Biden’s 2019 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He served as Biden’s Southern political director. In that role, he was pivotal in the former vice president’s success in winning the crucial South Carolina primary, then gaining momentum to secure the nomination. Evans said his decision to back Biden was a leap of faith. “I quit my job in the Congress and went to work for a guy by the name of Joe Biden,” declared Evans on his Facebook page, “I did not know what the path ahead looked like for me, but I knew this country was worth fighting for and I had to do all I could…”. Every time Evans steps into the White House, he is making history and reminding us of what is possible today. That a FAMU grad is working for a barrier-breaking vice president — the first woman, first Asian and African American who is an alumnus of another HBCU, Howard University, cannot be taken lightly. It’s a major responsibility. It’s a role he welcomes. “I am grateful for the confidence and trust you have placed in me,” Evans wrote on Twitter. “I will go to the White House each day cleareyed about the work that lie ahead: restore the soul of this country and build back better. With deep, deep gratitude — onward.”
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CALVIN & KINDALL HAYES
ARE THE ‘FACE OF AMERICA OVERSEAS’ BY [ Andrew J. SKERRITT ]
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What began as a relationship on the “Hill” grounded on their passion for international travel blossomed into a global marriage that has taken Florida A&M University (FAMU) graduates Calvin and Kindall “Sunshine” Hayes to American diplomatic outposts in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
FOR THE COUPLE, their Foreign Service journey is more than a partnership of shared interests. It is deeply rooted in their FAMU experience and their identity as African Americans. “Being a member of the diplomatic corps, I think about being the face of America overseas and that means being able to show what America truly looks like; America looks like me; America looks like you; America looks like FAMU; America looks like the history of African Americans who have fought so that we can be representatives of our government,” says Calvin during a joint Zoom interview on a Sunday afternoon. He’d just spent two hours in Arabic language training in anticipation of their next overseas posting in Amman, Jordan. “It’s important to make sure that a person of color is not just in the room but actually sits at the table directing and implementing foreign policy,” he adds. “What we do abroad is a direct reflection of the struggles that we’ve overcome as a country, and we are not perfect.” While at home, many African Americans experience a certain unease about their Americanness, a Black diplomat overseas does not, Kindall insists. “Being in the diplomatic corps as a person of color allows us to exercise the full measure of our U.S. citizenship,” she says. But it also means carrying the heavy burden of history. Calvin talks of “the generations of Black people who have paved the way for us to be representatives of our government; that goes for the people who weren’t recognized as
citizens, to the people who fought for the right to vote, the people who integrated the State Department.” He invokes the names of African Americans such as Frederick Douglass, who served as an ambassador to Haiti, and members of the diplomatic corps like James Weldon Johnson. “We’ve gone from being recognized as threefifths of a person to now being represented in a space where we are able to influence foreign policy, implement foreign policy and show international audiences what it really means to be a part of the American fabric,” says Calvin, a former Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow who earned a master’s degree in public diplomacy at American University in Washington, D.C.
FAMU is central to the Hayes’ story. There’s the Grand Ballroom, where he first set eyes on her. He was a sophomore from Orlando running for student government. Kindall Johnson was a freshman from Tampa with big ambitions of her own. “When she walked into the room, she had on an outfit we call the bad red dress. I told my friend, ‘I’m going to marry that woman,’” Calvin says. “She came in like she owned the room.” Next time they talked, she called asking about Camp Adventure, a travel program that took him to Germany the previous summer. The following year, she headed for Hong Kong, thanks to Camp Adventure. Calvin was elected Student Government Association vice president in 2009; Kindall won Miss FAMU in 2010. Calvin graduated that year; she followed a year later. He proposed to her during the 2011 Florida Classic half time show. “You come to university when you’re 18 years old and you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what to expect,” she says. “But I think about having met Calvin and how that really made such a difference in my life. I’m so privileged to be yoked in the spiritual way, to be married, to someone who has always advo-
cated for my advancement, development, and growth. That’s big.” A conversation with the couple feels like a concert and a TedTalk rolled into one; both are in tune, both in harmony; sometimes one leads, the other follows; they change places as if on cue. Former journalism professor Dhyana Ziegler, Ph.D., isn’t surprised to see them excel. “Calvin and Kindall were excellent students and I had the honor of having them both in my Ethics class at different times,” said Ziegler, who encouraged both to pursue foreign service careers. “Calvin and Kindall are a powerful “Tandem.’” Calvin spent 2010 summer working as an intern at the U.S Consulate in Pretoria, South Africa. Another internship took him to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The couple’s first diplomatic posting was Bangladesh, then they spent two years in Colombia. While stationed in Colombia, Calvin was temporarily assigned to the embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, and they were sent on a short-term assignment together to Quito, Ecuador. After graduation, Kindall followed Calvin to Washington, where she worked on Capitol Hill before securing a position in the Obama administration. But her passion was both international and domestic. Calvin’s voice of encouragement pushed her forward. “My greatest fear in getting married was that I would be with someone who made me sit down and be quiet. Calvin is the exact opposite,” she says. “At every opportunity, he’s always said, ‘Do what makes you uncomfortable.’ Not everyone can say that.”
After the couple met fellow alum Bernard and Shirley Kinsey during a FAMU Homecoming, that connection resulted in the U.S. Embassy inviting the Kinseys to visit to Colombia in 2019. The Kinseys traveled throughout the South American country as cultural envoys to discuss their impressive art collection and the links between African-American and Afro-Colombian culture.
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They were also featured presenters at the Bogota International Book Festival, one of the biggest book fairs in South America. During that assignment, Calvin and Kindall also hosted fellow FAMU alumni James Bland and C.J.
Faison, who screened their award-winning web series Giants at an American cultural center in Medellin, Colombia. In addition to their two-year postings, Kindall has served in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Egypt. For her, the Cairo assignment was serendipitous. While at FAMU, she took classes in Arabic at Florida State University. After she received admission to an Arabic program at the American University of Cairo, the Arab spring erupted, chaos gripped the country and she couldn’t go. Kindall recalls the reaction of Egyptians when they come to the embassy to apply for an American visa and encounter a person of color. Some locals mistook her for a native of upper Egypt. “My co-workers called me Cleopatra,” she said with a mischievous smile. “No one in America or in Western culture would ever call me Cleopatra. But their worldview is such that they know that Cleopatra was a woman of color.”
The diplomatic corps is an elite, skilled, very specialized group of people who are trained and tested. Being admitted into the Foreign Service is competitive — the best and the brightest strive for admission. The foreign service exam is tough. Diplomats have to be culturally adaptable: During his assignment in Bangladesh, Calvin visited a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, a mosque and a church on the same day as part of his job managing the cultural affairs portfolio of the embassy. Additional highlights of his job have included writing speeches for U.S. Ambassadors, managing federal grants to civil society organizations and connecting young entrepreneurs to
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resources and investment opportunities. Foreign service officers are expected to remain composed under stressful circumstances. It’s also a position of immense sacrifice and privilege, Kindall says. “We’ve signed on to become public individuals in a foreign country to the point that we are always on the job,” she says. In recent years, other Rattlers have joined the elite corps. Former Famuan editor-in-chief Clarece Polke is training for her next assignment to Egypt following a posting in Kingston, Jamaica. Maurice Jackson, of Miami, followed up his assignment in Ghana with a posting in Haiti, and Jeff Simmons, a current Rangel Fellow, will be assigned to his first diplomatic assignment later this year after completing graduate school at American University. William T. Hyndman III, Ph.D., FAMU assistant vice president in the Office of International Education and Development, would like to see more Rattlers pursue diplomatic careers. “There are many opportunities for international jobs with the U.S. government, especially with the Department of State. Serving as a diplomat abroad representing the US is an extraordinary career,” Hyndman says. “Here at FAMU we are fortunate to have a Diplomat in Residence (Sebron CB Toney) who can help our students learn more about careers with the State Department.”
Passport to Success
Calvin recalls being inspired after FAMU alum and former U.S. Ambassador Teddy Taylor spoke to his School of Journalism & Graphic Communication class. Taylor, Ziegler and other mentors like then Diplomat-in-Residence Roberto Powers offered advice and encouragement on the road to the State Department. The couple knows travel is transformative. If students of color venture abroad, it can open their minds to endless career possibilities. The diplomatic duo created the HayesXChange, a podcast and platform dedicated to sharing the experiences of people of color who have traveled abroad beyond tourism. Their efforts will help 14 students receive passports in spring 2021. They are also reinvesting in the community they love. In August 2020, they bought an apartment building located in the heart of FAMU’s campus. Whatever the project, it’s always a joint mission, a shared objective. “It’s about collective success. When we met, we were living on a meal plan and a prayer,” Kindall says. “We’ve seen each other go through so much. There’s nothing like building together.”
ALUMNA NAMED DIRECTOR OF NOAA LAB,
THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TO LEAD IN ITS 73-YEAR HISTORY BY [ Andrew J. SKERRITT ] Less than two decades after she graduated from Florida A&M University, LATOYA MYLES, Ph.D., has been appointed director of the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Air Resources Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. With such a historic move, Myles’ scientific journey has come full circle. Myles, the first woman and the first African American to serve as ATDD director in its 73year history, was also the first doctoral student of FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., when he headed the university’s Environmental Sciences Institute. “I’ve always been interested in science; I’ve always wanted to understand how things work and why,” said Myles. “I didn’t hear or know about NOAA until I was at FAMU. Dr. Robinson encouraged me to apply for a NOAA fellowship. It was life-changing and career-defining for me.” In 2004, Myles earned her Ph.D. through the NOAA Environmental Cooperative Science Center, now the FAMU Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, which Robinson heads. She conducted research in collaboration with the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory for an interdisciplinary dissertation focusing on atmospheric deposition of pollutants and their impact on ecosystems. Her study had implications for both human and environmental health. As director of ATDD, Myles heads one of several field divisions of NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory. Her team tries to understand what’s happening physically and chemically in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, where we live and breathe. Researchers are also trying to understand the physical aspects, such as how winds move and change as they cross regions or countries, and how storms begin to form. “One of our programs is trying to understand why there are more severe storms and more severe weather in the Southeastern United States,” she said. “Historically, we’ve always thought of Tornado Alley being the Plains, Kansas and Oklahoma in those areas; but, in recent years, there have been more severe weather events along the border between Alabama and Tennessee, and Mississippi and Alabama,” she added. “We’re conducting research to try to understand what conditions have changed that are helping to create those severe storms.”
Getting to FAMU
Myles grew up in the small town of Kosciusko, Miss., about 70 miles north of Jackson. After high-school graduation, she headed two hours south to Alcorn State University (ASU), a historically Black College and University (HBCU). She thought of becoming a physician, so she pursued a double major -- chemistry and biology. On the Alcorn campus, after a series of internships and co-op experiences, she discovered her passion for research. Myles was mentored by Joseph Russell, Ph.D., then longtime chairman of the Chemistry Department at ASU. During the summers, Russell had done research alongside fellow nuclear scientist Robinson, who was then employed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. When Myles expressed an interest in grad school, Russell recommended one person. “The first name he mentioned was Dr. Larry Robinson. He said, ‘he has a good program at FAMU, and he would be a good fit,’ ” Myles recalled. “That’s how I ended up at the FAMU Environmental Sciences Institute, working with Dr. Robinson.” Robinson moved to FAMU full-time to lead the Environmental Sciences Institute in 1997 after a stint as an adjunct faculty member. Following her graduation from ASU with her bachelor’s, Myles went straight into the FAMU Ph.D. program. She embodies Robinson’s vision of seeing members of under-represented groups excel in the sciences. “She could have gone anywhere,” said Robinson, who was impressed by Myles’ intelligence and her work ethic. “She’s a brilliant young lady. I never had to encourage her to work hard. She has one of the most pleasant engaging personalities. All of the staff in the environmental studies program thought very highly of her.” One important lesson Myles learned from Robinson was that being a great scientist wasn’t just about science. “I learned from him to bring my whole self into my work as a scientist and to bring my experiences that I grew up with, family interactions, community interactions, what I learned at the HBCUs that nurtured me and bring all of that with me as I go throughout my career,” she said. “Those interactions are important because a lot of times, in the scientific spaces, those different perspectives are not well represented.” School of the Environment Dean Victor
Ibeanusi, Ph.D., said Myles is a great representative of FAMU’s program. Her success is an “affirmation of the active research engagements through funds from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, which has kept the School of the Environment at the forefront of training new generations of students,” he said.
Being a Mentor
Myles is committed to being a mentor herself. “It is difficult for students to envision themselves in careers where they don’t see someone who shares some of their attributes doing that job,” Myles said. “That’s one of the reasons why I like to visit K-12 classrooms.” She works with organizations that are focused on how to get students excited early on about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), specifically careers in the geosciences. Myles is also part of several National Science Foundation (NSF) funded efforts that are looking at how to recruit and retain STEM students. “We want to provide them with opportunities to grow and learn so that when they are making decisions about careers, it will feel like a natural choice to be part of a scientific research community,” she said. “They will have a network of individuals they can reach out to for letters of recommendation, for internship opportunities, for all of those other aspects that help a scientist grow in his or her career.”
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LIVING BLACK JOY
CHOOSING THE SACRIFICE OF HIGHER SERVICE FO
BOWIE, Md. — PASTOR WILLIAM H. LAMAR IV smiles broadly as he talks about his work to make America as equitable as it can be. Donning a gray hoodie, Lamar, affectionately known as “Billy,” casually exudes the black joy he says “makes the world go ‘round” during our Zoom interview on a quiet Saturday evening. Lamar is the senior pastor of the historic, nearly 2,000-member Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, which is nestled in the shadows of the White House in Washington, D.C. The voices of Paul Laurence Dunbar, W.E.B DuBois and Ida B. Wells once reverberated within Metropolitan’s sacred walls. The 183-year-old institution has been the site of memorial
services for such iconic figures as civil-rights activist Rosa Parks and contemporary journalist Gwen Ifill. Metropolitan AME still stands as a historic beacon of righteousness and justice, a symbol of endurance and hope . . . a place that has witnessed shades of dark humanity and the winds of change. On Sunday mornings, in the time of COVID-19, Lamar preaches in a virtual space using Zoom to stream on Facebook, YouTube and the church’s website — inspiring the minds and encouraging the hearts of his congregation. “I endeavor to speak truth,” Lamar said. “I endeavor to hear from God and the ancestors so that I can say something that is disarmingly true about where we are and who we are,
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but I can also punctuate the peaks and valleys of life with this incredible black joy that makes the world go round.” He is a long way from his Southern roots, a long way from Florida A&M University, which he fondly remembers visiting as a high-schooler drinking deeply from the intellectual and cultural wells that the university offered.
HIGH HILLS, HIGH CALLING
“I had a 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier,” Lamar said. “I would drive my Cavalier to campus and go to concerts. I would see Julian Adderley and the FAMU Essential Theatre put on plays.” Lamar graduated from FAMU in
1996 with a degree in public management, and a minor in philosophy and religion. It was during his time at FAMU, that he felt led to ministry. He shared this feeling with the late Professor Herbert Clark Alexander, who was also a local pastor. The Rev. Dr. Alexander encouraged Lamar to attend seminary. “What God is going to have you do is going to require you to be in conversation with the world,” Lamar recalled Alexander saying. The world stage is where Lamar now lives, using his literary and rhetorical gifts to do interviews and pen pieces for such media powerhouses as MSNBC, NBC News, the Huffington Post and National Public Radio. After attending Duke Divinity
BY [ Kara IRBY ]
OR A BETTER WORLD ABOUT PASTOR WILLIAM “BILLY” LAMAR IV, SENIOR PASTOR, METROPOLITAN AME, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Graduate of the Duke University Divinity School Born in “the transplanted African Village” of Macon, Ga. Lived and educated in Tallahassee, Fla. Co-Host of “Can These Bones,” a Faith & Leadership podcast, with the Rev. Laura Everett ■ Currently pursuing his Ph.D. with Christian Theological Seminary ■ Featured in the Washington City Paper’s 2018 People Issue as one of the “21 Washingtonians who give D.C. its distinct character” ■ ■ ■ ■
1 Pastor William Lamar IV of the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, which still stands after 184 years in the shadow of the nation’s White House 2 Before COVID-19 changed things, Lamar spread the word to a full house of his 2,000-member flock 3 Police lead the handcuffed preacher to jail after a protest for racial justice 4 This Black Lives Matter sign was destroyed in a nighttime visit from vandals who confessed and identified with the “Proud Boys.” PHOTO CREDIT: WIRES
School, he pastored congregations throughout the South and East, and also taught religion classes at FAMU. He served from 2008 to 2011 as managing director of Leadership Education at Duke University Divinity School in North Carolina. Bishop Adam J. Richardson Jr., the senior bishop of the AME Church, a fellow Rattler alumnus and Lamar’s former pastor, called him back to the pulpit in 2011. Richardson was a member of the team that appointed Lamar the pastor of Metropolitan in 2014. “Bill Lamar is a very bright light in the Christian Church, especially so in the AME Church,” Richardson said. “He is intellectually gifted and committed to social justice as part of who he is as a man and as a believer.”
ONE RECENT NIGHT WHEN HATE RODE IN ON THE WINDS OF PROTEST
In a time of great civil unrest and racial divide, the Proud Boys, labeled as a far-right, neo-fascist,
and male-only political organization, sought to dim the light of Metropolitan and two other Washington area churches. On Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, the “Black Lives Matter” sign that was prominently displayed in front of the church was vandalized. Proud Boys leaders confessed to the act. Lamar virtually addressed his congregation the next morning during worship. “They don’t want to just ruin signs, they want to destroy lives,”
Lamar said. “They want to destroy hope, they want to erase history and they’re not going to be able to do that — we won’t let them do that.” Retired Judge Ted Newman, D.C.’s first black chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, has been a member of Metropolitan for more than 30 years. “I have had opportunity to witness the abilities of multitudes of AMEC clerics and tide of other denominations,” Newman said. “Rev. William H. Lamar IV is in a class with few peers. I have watched as Rev. Lamar has greatly increased the community outreach of Metropolitan and I enjoy hearing him preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ: ‘for as much as you have done it for the least of these my children, you have done it for me.’ Metropolitan AMEC is truly blessed to have him as its pastor — a modern-day prophet!” Lamar also co-hosts a podcast, Can These Bones, which features conversations with leaders from varying backgrounds about leadership and the future of the church. “Reverend Lamar is highly regarded among his clergy colleagues,” said the Rev. Laura Everett, his podcast co-host. “It’s not that he’s fearless; he knows the insidious power of racism, sexism, empire and homophobia, all those mythologies that keeps us divided and numb. He knows his history, his Bible, his rights and his God. Rev. Lamar listens with compassion, acts with dignity and speaks with courage in the face of all of those powers and principalities.
ARRESTING MOMENTS, PRAYERS FOR REST IN A WEARY LAND
“I went to sleep on a steel slab, I used my boot as my pillow and I flipped off roaches of various sizes all night long,” Lamar said. And that was just one occasion of arrest. He jokingly discusses his long “criminal record” and says he believes he’s willing to sacrifice even more if necessary. “I try to live in such a way so that if I’m called to make the sacrifice, I don’t pass the sacrifice on to the
next generation. I make the sacrifice,” Lamar said. When Lamar is not on the frontlines of social-justice issues or speaking about liberation through faith, the 46-year-old enjoys listening to a wide range of music, podcasts, and public radio. His musical tastes range from jazz to ‘90s hiphop and his podcast playlist just might include episodes on evolution or Johnny Cash. In short, he admits to being a consumer of knowledge, beautiful words, and beautiful music. Pastor Lamar is a newlywed, married to Dana Williams, interim dean of the Howard University Graduate School. He lovingly jokes with her throughout the interview and mentions that she made the call to his parents, who live in Tallahassee, Fla., about his arrest at the Supreme Court. “What was that like?” he quips. Lamar clearly adores his parents. He says being their son “nourishes him.” He credits them with instilling in him the “importance of extraordinary service and presence.” “We encouraged him to model hard work, commitment and service to humankind for his younger siblings,” said his father, William Lamar III. “His calling to the ministry and activism was from God, through the Holy Spirit and the spirit of our ancestors.” FAMU’s sixth president, Benjamin L. Perry, at one time, inspired Lamar to be FAMU’s president himself. That is not quite the case anymore. “I feel like my best service to Florida A&M is not to be its president … my best service is to take all the black joy and fierce black intellectual energy that Florida A&M gifted me with to build the kind of world that can exist, but does not yet exist.”
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THIS ROYAL PAIR STRIVES TO BE
THE ‘BIGGER’ VOICE FOR FELLOW RATTLERS BY [ Tanasia REED ]
On the field of Bragg Memorial Stadium, nothing could stop his school spirit: Not the sweltering Florida heat during football season, not the weight of the heavy snake head made of thick cardboard to hold its shape, and not the soreness of his throat as chants rang out cheering for his beloved FAMU. Underneath the suit of Venom, the FAMU Rattler mascot, KIMANI JACKSON always had a voice to lead his school to victory. Little did he know that his start as Venom, masked and hidden from the world, would lead him to the forefront for everyone to see as the voice of the school he calls home. Jackson is a self-described motivator, who hopes to encourage people around him to become the best versions of themselves. He said
he has always had the desire to be a leader; his past experiences have pushed him to do more for FAMU students and young Black men. In Spring 2020, he was voted in by his fellow Rattlers to become Mister FAMU, an esteemed and highly competitive position. “I decided to become Mister FAMU because there was something in myself to awaken,” Jackson said. “Being involved on campus allowed me to see all the things Mister FAMU did for the school and I knew I had a voice to be him.”
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Jackson’s path to becoming the 21st Mister FAMU started long before the campaign season. He used his voice as Venom to be a symbol of school spirit and encouragement for students around him. Born in New York, Jackson founded and served as Howie the Mascot for Howard High School. Before entering college, he mentored under the New York Liberty and the Nuggets mascot Rocky. He gained experience in drawing a crowd and hyping school spirit, which he applied to his Mister FAMU campaign. Thoroughly invested and dedicated to his role, Jackson even wrote out a character analysis of who Venom was to him and to students on campus. “I am an actor,” Jackson said, “and Venom is a friend, a brother, a sister, an uncle and so much more to students. He is also noble and regal, and someone to look up to which are all the characteristics that Mister FAMU possesses.” Venom prepared him to take on the responsibility of Mister FAMU, said a friend, Shardai Sallye. “He’s been involved in a lot of organizations and held a lot of roles on campus,” said Sallye. “He cares so much about being an advocate for this FAMU family. I think that’s what makes him such a great Mister FAMU.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, students returned to a changed University: A novel kind of academic stress. Life and death worries and virus testing. No Set Fridays. No football season at Bragg Stadium. No Homecoming. They say during these times, they have needed Mister FAMU’s motivation more than ever. With spirits low, Jackson, along with Miss FAMU, ERIKA JOHNSON, devised a plan to uplift students, leading to the creation of “Bigger.” The royal students are both vocal performance scholars. They decided to use their melodic voices to relay a message that students could relate to. Their rendition of Beyonce’s Bigger reached tens of thousands of viewers on Instagram and was reposted by such popular pages as @hbcupulse and @hbcubuzz. The positive reception by viewers beyond FAMU’s campus surprised both Jackson and Johnson with how vast their influence has reached. “As a freshman coming in, I was really looking forward to experiencing all of college life and was disappointed when I couldn’t,” said Jada Haywood, a food science scholar. “But after listening to ‘Bigger,’ I realized that this difficult moment is only temporary; we have to continue to look for-
ward to something better.” Jackson said he has had a deep personal relationship with music since he was a child. He began singing with his grandmother, Beatrice Jackson, in Brooklyn when he was only three years old. At the age of 10, he was the youngest contestant to audition in Atlanta, for BET’s popular Sunday Best. From there, he worked with Tyler Perry on his stage play, Neighbors from Hell and the series, If Loving You is Wrong. It felt only right that he can now use his gift and talent for music as Mister FAMU. “I believe that music heals and feeds the soul,” Jackson said. “I have been trying to stay true to who I am. It’s a gift that God gave me, and I want to use it to heal and go beyond FAMU and touch the world.” Jackson’s participation in FAMU’s Concert Choir furthered his love for Gospel and R&B music. During his music career, he has released his single All of Your Worth on multiple streaming platforms. This busy royal Rattler said he hopes to continue to reach students with restarting his Motivational Mondays during which he instills listeners with inspirational gems to get through the week. He also has a vision to start a men’s conference at FAMU to discuss many day-to-day issues that target Black men or problems men do not speak about regularly. He continues to pursue positions outside of his comfort zone, he said, living by the motto: “You can’t have a testimony without a test.”
This Legacy Continues... Decades and Decades Later
Florida A&M University’s 114th Miss FAMU has royal blood running through her veins. A fourth-year vocal performance scholar, Erika Johnson, is no stranger to the role of Miss FAMU, of which she is intimately familiar. The women in her family have held the esteemed position dating back years before her. It is a Johnson family tradition, and she is doing everything to continue the legacy. It all started in 1981, when Johnson’s mother, Vivian Johnson, served as the 75th Miss FAMU. The royal history does not stop there. Following in their mother’s footsteps, Johnson’s only brother, Fred Johnson, served as the 11th Mister FAMU. Her only sister, Michelle Johnson, became the 111th Miss FAMU. It’s Erika’s turn now. Coming from a long line of Rattlers, attending FAMU was a given for Johnson. But after watching her brother and sister fulfill the roles of Mister and Miss FAMU, she knew what it would take to continue the family tradition. “[My family] was with me along the way,” John-
SEE THE VIDEO FOR “BIGGER” Scan this QR code to see the video on YouTube.
son said. “They helped me get out of my shyness and step into my purpose as a leader and someone who advocates for people. They really taught me the importance of speaking up and being the person who sees something that is not right and fixes it.” As a part of her platform as Miss FAMU, Johnson is also dedicated to service and establishing monthly projects to help the community and Rattlers in need. For example, Johnson planned an event called “Black Men Speak” in recognition of Mental Health Month. At this event, she invited male students and members of the community to discuss issues afflicting Black men with mental-health ex-
perts. She also participated in a fundraiser for FAMU students directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. She embraces the need to be proactive instead of waiting on someone else to make a change. Serving the community and fellow students is of the utmost importance to Johnson. Before taking on her royal duties, she was President of the Texas Club, Miss FAMU Concert Choir and Miss University Housing. One of the most influential positions she has held was Resident Assistant (RA) for FAMU Polkinghorne Village. As an RA, she witnessed the day-to-day struggles of students and sought to help them the best way she could. “I feel like I’m in a position to help a lot of people and shed light on a lot of issues I have endured or seen others endure first-hand,” Johnson said. “There is so much going on in the world, and someone needs to step up and be the spokesperson or the voice for the voiceless.” Students remembered Johnson as an RA they could always confide in; they said they knew she would listen and offer the best advice. Sec-
ond-year student, Jeremiah Nichols, was a resident at Polkinghorne Village when she was an RA there. “Erika [Johnson] always had a smile on her face and was one of the most welcoming RAs,” Nichols said. “Coming back to the Village after having a stressful day and having a conversation with her was something that really used to uplift my spirits.” Johnson also wants to be a strong advocate for the arts programs at FAMU. Being a vocal performance student and member of the Concert Choir, she has a strong appreciation for musical and artistic talents. “Through my time at FAMU I have noticed that performing arts students have not always gotten the recognition they deserved,” Johnson said. “I want people to recognize that the amount of talent at FAMU is big.” She hopes that through her work to shine light on the performing arts programs that future students will choose FAMU over prominent arts conservatories. Over the course of her four years in the program, she has seen how FAMU’s arts programs offer a high standard with a welcoming community that sets it apart from other music schools. Shardai Sallye, a political science scholar, said Johnson’s dedication to the arts programs and its students is clear. “When I joined Concert Choir, Erika [Johnson] and Kimani [Jackson] were the first two people I met,” Sallye said. “I knew then the amount of talent they each had and their dedication to a task and seeing it through. If they said they were going to accomplish something, they definitely did.” Johnson has many plans to continue to serve students using the values and beliefs instilled in her through her family. She started the initiative to get students to vote during the election season with a 10-day challenge called “Rattlers to the Polls.” Students were encouraged to post their pictures to social media after they voted for a chance to win FAMU apparel. For Kimani Jackson and Erika Johnson — Mr. and Miss FAMU — their reign is already showing itself to be much more than being a face, but more than being a part of a legacy family. It is all about being a voice for the students at the school they love. For them, they say it is all about FAMUly and being a part of something bigger.
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CONVERSE CEO G. SCOTT UZZELL STARS IN HIS OWN MOVIE
BY [ Andrew J. SKERRITT ]
G. Scott Uzzell was at the top of his game. The Converse CEO and president had just delivered a rousing ESPN-style countdown of how his alma mater prepared him to succeed. Inside the Al Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Gymnasium, the packed arena was abuzz with the crowd gathered there for the 2019 Florida A&M University Homecoming Convocation.
The CEO shares a few words of wisdom with his fellow Rattlers during a 2019 convocation
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Later, as the Marching “100” band played and alumni danced in the stands, Uzzell was mobbed by former classmates from his days as a student in the FAMU School of Business and Industry (SBI). Their picture-taking continued even as Uzzell’s hosts waited to whisk him to lunch upstairs. “Scott shared an inspiring message that resonated with students and seasoned alumni alike during our 2019 Homecoming Convocation. He is truly a role model with whom our students relate,” said SBI Dean Shawnta Friday-Stroud, Ph.D., vice president for University Advancement, recalling the excitement of the event almost a year and a half later. “It is awesome that while Scott has ascended to the top position at Converse, he has not forgotten from whence he’s come.” Uzzell’s bond with his alma mater, his former classmates and the next generation of Rattler entrepreneurs and business executives is integral to his success and his climb up the corporate ladder to become CEO of Converse, a global brand owned by Nike known for its iconic Chuck Taylor® sneakers. “FAMU provided the foundation for education and connections that are everlasting,” said Uzzell. “I stay connected to my FAMU roots weekly.” When he isn’t thinking and talking about his FAMU education, Uzzell said, he’s leveraging his FAMU network for advice and mentoring. “I probably have 50 people within the FAMU community I stay in constant contact with through today,” said the FAMU Foundation Board member in a telephone interview from Atlanta. “Yesterday, I was on a call with a couple of those folks.” To understand Uzzell’s ascent from SBI grad to being the CEO of a billion-dollar global corporation, one must know where he’s from, who he is and who he’s always been. “When I think of Scott, I think of discipline, focus, compartmentalization and being real. I have never seen him not being authentic,” said Michael Bracey, a boyhood friend and fellow Rattler who is an executive with Honda America in Columbus, Ohio. “He’s real.”
Business DNA From Virginia Origins
Uzzell grew up in Columbia, Md., but remains emotionally tethered to his ancestral roots in Norfolk, Virginia. He’s the son, grandson and great grandson of entrepreneurs, small-business owners who made a decent living in the Navy port city. Great-grandfather George B. “Big George” Uzzell operated a gas station and built homes for black families in Norfolk. His grandfather, George Cornelius Uzzell, owned a catering business and a cleaning business. His father, George Cornelius Uzzell Jr., a serial entrepreneur, owned a sheet-metal factory that made armaments for military contractors. “They were volunteers in their own lives. If they didn’t like what they were doing, they could change it. If they wanted to get a raise, they could give themselves a raise by working harder,” Uzzell said of his forebears. “And frankly, I was going to follow in their footsteps. Looking back, I mean, they are amazing role models for me.” Uzzell’s family moved to Maryland when he was about 8 years old. Even as a youngster, Uzzell was driven. Lifelong friend Bracey remembers the teenager Scott reading magazines about sales. On their way home from school, the two talked about plans for the future. In high school, the two were part of a group that started a business together. “He’s always had a drive and a uniqueness about him,” said Bracey, who graduated from FAMU in 1990. “We were always thinking about how to make a positive impact.”
Enlightened at FAMU
Although his folks attended Norfolk State, when it was time for college, Uzzell chose the legendary FAMU, to study under the legendary SBI Dean Sybil Mobley. When Uzzell came to Tallahassee, he had modest, middle-class goals, he said. He figured one day he’d get a job and later own a 7-Eleven or a gas station, and
G. Scott Uzzell is surrounded by his former SBI classmates following his convocation address.
enjoy a vacation with his wife and kids once a year. That vision was in line with what he saw in his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. “Their view and aperture of what the world could offer was not quite as wide as the view and aperture that I’ve seen in my life, working at Coca-Cola, being the president of a venture capital company and selling a company to Coca-Cola,” said Uzzell, who is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), a non-profit that opens channels of opportunity for the development of black executives to positively impact business and their communities. At SBI, under Mobley, Uzzell not only earned a degree, but also confidence and a bigger perspective of what was possible. “After going to Florida A&M, it opened my eyes to so much more the world had to offer,” he said. “That continued my learning journey for the rest of my life.” Lifelong friend Kelly Little, who graduated from SBI in 1988, agrees. “Scott has always been ambitious, but FAMU provided a vision for that ambition, and his hard work and tenacity made those visions reality,” said Little.
G. Scott Uzzell
Civic and Personal
Civic Duty: Serves on the FAMU Foundation Board, Executive Leadership Council, Boston Chamber of Commerce Board, and is a trustee of the Boston One Waterfront Project. Personal passion: sports — skiing, golf, basketball and cycling; and, spending time with his family. Family: wife Sunda, a FAMU grad; son Tanner; and, daughter Sawyer.
Climbing the Corporate Ladder
Following his graduation from FAMU in 1988, Uzzell started out in sales and marketing for such Fortune 500 consumer goods companies as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Nabisco. “Every role I’ve had ... I met people, I asked questions,” said the University of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA graduate. “I was highly curious, and it opened my view of not only what the world can offer, but [also] what I can do.” As his corporate stature grew, Uzzell returned to Coca-Cola in 2001 to hold a number of leadership positions, including global vice president New Business Development, CEO of ZICO Beverage Co., and vice president of marketing for Venturing & Emerging Brands Group (VEB), Coca Cola’s venture capital arm. In his role as president of VEB, he led the development of a portfolio of high-growth brands, including Honest Tea, ZICO Coconut Water, Health-Ade, Fairlife Milk and Suja Juice. At VEB, he spent hundreds of millions buying companies from entrepreneurs like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather who had tirelessly built businesses from scratch. Uzzell was still having fun at VEB when Nike offered him the job to lead Converse. He could have played it safe. He could have stayed at Coca-Cola. Instead, he has spent the past two years leading all aspects of the business globally and has overseen the company’s
successful return — after a decade-long hiatus — to the basketball category in terms of products, marketplace and sponsorships.” “Being the son, grandson and great-grandson of small-business owners has been a blessing and an issue,” Uzzell confessed. “I’ve always had an attitude in business that if I don’t like what I’m doing, I will quit. I quit Coca Cola three times, although it doesn’t appear that way. I quit P&G twice,” he said. “I’ve never looked at a job as something I would keep doing if I don’t like it. Such is the quintessential Uzzell. It’s what he believes, what he lives. “I have one life. I am going to star in my own movie,” Uzzell said. “In the last 10 to 12 years of my life, I’ve been looking for movies I want to star in. I don’t want to star in other people’s movies. It’s not because I have a big ego. It’s about being at my best.” At Converse, the FAMU alum is doing just that: Being his best.
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FROM FROM FROM MEAC MEAC MEAC TO TO TO SW S
BOLD NEW CONFERENCE MOVE WILL TRANSFORM RATTLER ATHLETICS BY [ Brian J. HOWARD ]
Things will look a bit different for Florida A&M University (FAMU) athletics starting in July. That’s because for the first time in more than 40 years, Florida A&M will find itself playing and competing in another athletic conference. The Rattlers have long been a staple of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). The MEAC, located in Norfolk, Va., was founded in 1969 and confirmed in 1970, kicking off its first season of competition in football in 1971. It wasn’t until 1979 Florida A&M entered the conference. From 19791984 and 1986 to present, FAMU was a member of the conference. Those years in between, Florida A&M was competing as an NCAA Division I Independent. In June, Kortne Gosha, vice president and director of FAMU Athletics, submitted a proposal to the Florida Board of Governors that outlined what a change from the MEAC to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) could look like. The Board moved quickly on June 4 and approved the decision to make the transition from the MEAC to the SWAC. “My first priority as athletic director was the student-athlete experience,” Gosha said. “[Among] the challenges that we faced as an institution was having a very large footprint of travel. We also looked into the financial details. Like most historically black colleges and universities, we’ve got to find ways to be efficient with our resources. We just did the math and, geographically, the SWAC made the most sense.”
The decision to move wasn’t reached on a whim, but rather was eight months in the making, according to SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland. “I had a preliminary conversation with AD Gosha on where the SWAC was and where our mindset was as far as future was concerned,” said
FAMU WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
McClelland. “He didn’t necessarily tip his hand to say that FAMU was interested in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, but it was more so trying to align where we were ultimately, where FAMU was and where they wanted to go.” McClelland said conversations with Gosha about the potential move to the SWAC died down until late May before building speed again. During that period, Gosha and his athletics administration team were doing research on the potential move to the SWAC or another conference. All eyes zeroed in on the possible move when decision day rolled around. Like countless alumni, fans
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and media members from far and wide, McClelland and his SWAC team watched the board meeting to see if the proposal would pass. “I wasn’t 100 percent convinced that Florida A&M was going to join the Southwestern Athletic Conference until I heard the final vote,” said McClelland. “Clearly, we
No longer will FAMU have to travel north, but, instead, the Rattlers will showcase their teams in the southern part of the nation. Not long after adding FAMU, Bethune-Cookman came calling,
The Rattlers captured 12 outdoor championships and five indoor titles
thought it would be a perfect fit for the conference and for Florida A&M. We knew it would reduce travel for Florida A&M and knew that the rivalries we have on our end would be a natural fit on top of all the other rivalries in our conference.” The move signified a 40-plus year change from the days that FAMU made trips to Washington, D.C. (Howard), Baltimore (Morgan State) and Dover (Delaware State). A change would mean that, with those three schools, FAMU teams would have to travel by air instead of bus which had often meant leaving days in advance for contests — missing classes and schoolwork. SWAC life will change the Rattler Athletics landscape drastically.
FAMU FOOTBALL 1999
which allowed the SWAC to expand from a 10-member conference to 12 members within a matter of a month. “It was important (to add Bethune-Cookman) but it wasn’t necessarily part of the plan,” McClelland said. “Bethune was not on our radar. Florida A&M wasn’t necessarily on our radar.” With the announcement that Florida A&M was making the move to the SWAC, McClelland was hap-
OWAC SWAC SWAC
Here is a closer look at the playbook: The Rattlers will compete in the SWAC East Division, which will feature Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State. The farthest FAMU would have to travel for an East Division game would be 486 miles to Itta Bena, Miss., to face Mississippi Valley State. Outside of playing its rival, Bethune-Cookman, FAMU’s shortest trip is 211 miles to compete against Alabama State University (Montgomery). Outside of divisional play, Florida A&M’s closest opponents will be Southern and Grambling State University. Meanwhile, the farthest schools will be Texas Southern (Houston), Prairie View (Texas) A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff,
py to have 11 schools in the conference; he did not know if adding yet another school right away would be the right call. OPT TRIM Once the news dropped that Florida A&M was moving to the SWAC, Bethune-Cookman jumped at the opportunity to make that transition as well, McClelland said. “Let’s take time, maybe a year or two because 11 can work for us, we have to the ability to do that,
The legendary head coach, Veronica Wiggins, took the program to 13 MEAC championships
Rattler head coach Billy Joe meets with Youngstown State head coach Jim Tressel prior to the NCAA Division I-AA playoff semifinal
we can run this conference with 11 schools. “When Bethune came and said we are interested in coming, the decision was made for us. It was a natural fit. We now own Florida, every major Division I Black college in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama is part of this new Southwestern Athletic Conference.” The SWAC, known for having large attendance at football games, now owns the top five classics (in
terms of attendance) with the addition of the Florida Blue Florida Classic (Orlando) and the re-emergence of the Orange Blossom Classic (Miami Gardens). Florida A&M is already set to begin the 2021 season in Miami Gardens against Jackson State. Not only will it be the season opener between the two teams, but the highly anticipated SWAC opener. To add to the build-up: Jackson State has a new coach with a familiar name: NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was named head coach earlier this year. The splash to add Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman to the conference adds to the value of the SWAC and how Black college sports continues to grow. The strength of the SWAC, with the additions of Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman, has transitioned it as a premier conference for football. Many are beginning to make comparisons to the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which encompasses the likes of Alabama, Florida, and the University of Georgia and LSU. McClelland takes it as a compliment to be compared to one of the best Power 5 Conferences in all of college football. “You can call it the SEC of Black College Football,” said McClelland, “but I prefer to call it the Southwestern Athletic Conference.”
which will mean about 12 hours of travel.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Mississippi Valley State Grambling State University Prairie View A&M Texas Southern
Alabama State University 211
Davonne Kendrick carries the ball during a 2019 game against Southern at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 19
FAMU BASEBALL 2019
The Rattlers came out of the elimination bracket in 2019 to capture the school’s eighth MEAC Basketball Tournament Championship
MEMORABLE MEAC MOMENTS
MEN’S GOLF Florida A&M won the program’s first MEAC Men’s Golf Championship in April, 2021. Ethan Mangum was named the most outstanding golfer and Mike Rice was selected outstanding coach.
IN RATTLER ATHLETICS HISTORY COMPILED BY [ Brian J. HOWARD ]
MEAC WOMEN’S XC FAMU VOLLEYBALL The Rattlers were dominant in the conference, winning 13 tournament titles, including a record nine straight between 2001-2009 The Rattler program won 11 cross country championships, including a record seven from 2012-2018
FAMU MEN’S BASKETBALL
FAMU MEN’S XC
The Rattler program won four MEAC Cross Country Championships, including back-to-back crowns in 2012 and 2013 20 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
The Rattlers picked up their first-ever Power 5 victory on New Year’s Eve in 2019 against Iowa State
NATALIE WHITE Natalie White led the Rattlers to a regular season and MEAC Tournament championship in 1995
MAKES FAMU ATHLETICS HISTORY IN MEAC, NCAA BY [ Brian J. HOWARD ]
Florida A&M University alumna ALELEE FIGUEROA (ALL-A-LEE FIG-UR-ROA) achieved athletic history in 2020. The former women’s track & field standout was also named FAMU’s first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Woman of the Year. Her historic feat, however, did not end there – at the pinnacle of being named in June to the highest female academic honor by the conference. Figueroa was also selected from a record 605 school nominees for the NCAA Woman of the Year honor. “Throughout her time at Florida A&M University, Alelee has shown time and time again her dedication to her academics and athletics,” said Nadia Alexander-Pompey, Head Rattler Women’s Track & Field Coach. “This is a win not just for her but [also] our track team, our university, and our conference. I hope that the rest of the team sees her success and uses it to fuel them to achieve more.”
“Being nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award was very humbling,” said Figueroa. The NCAA Woman of the Year program is rooted in Title IX and has recognized graduating female college athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership since its inception in 1991. Figueroa, an Orlando native, advanced to the second phase of the NCAA Woman of the Year process in August as the group was narrowed to 161 nominees and, in September, was selected to the Top 30 honorees. “Being nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award was very humbling,” said Figueroa. “Reading into previous winners and all they have accomplished, as well as reaching out to fellow nominees, sparked a lot of inspiration. These women have excelled not only in athletics but also in the workplace, behind the podiums, on stages and so much more. To be counted in the number of women of such influence, who have continuously conquered in their collegiate career, was an honor.” Figueroa graduated in May with a 3.90 GPA
in criminal justice, with a concentration in prelaw studies. She finished with the highest GPA in both the Military Science Course 3 (MS3) and Military Science Course 4 (MS4) classes of the FAMU Army ROTC Rattler Battalion. She was a Distinguished Scholar awardee in 2016 and, in 2017, was named both a National Society of Collegiate Scholars inductee and a nutrition L.E.A.D.S. (Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science) Scholar. Figueroa received notice in early October that she was not chosen as one of the nine finalists. ‘Although I was not selected as a finalist for the award being named a Top 30 Honoree was a blessing,” said Figueroa. “From those 30, I was one of only two nominees who came from an HBCU. Many of my accomplishments would not have been possible if I had not attended FAMU – an institution so welcoming that offered numerous opportunities for me to succeed.”
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 21
ACTIVIST, FORMER STUDENT PRESIDENT
SENDING SMOKE SIGNALS FROM MIAMI TO D.C. TO HELP BUILD BEST VERSION OF THE WORLD BY [ Tanasia A. REED ]
As PHILLIP AGNEW was growing up on the southside of Chicago, the unfairness, and inequalities that he witnessed sparked his zealousness for activism. “West Englewood is the neighborhood that raised me,” said Agnew, now 35. “In a lot of ways, it is my upbringing that makes me and pushes me to do the things that I’m doing right now. It was just so wrong that we weren’t able to have the things that other people were able to have and how my parents and family were treated and looked at.” For more than a decade, Agnew, a 2008 Florida A&M University graduate, has been viewed as a passionate community organizer whose commitment to fairness and justice all over the nation is recognized by many from followers to state politicians to national leaders. From student body president to senior advisor for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign, Agnew continues to fight for equality for the African-American community on local, state, and national levels. Agnew’s spiritual background, he said, led him to believe in the power of people when they come together. In what was something of a mantra, he said it was FAMU that gave him the confidence to take action and ‘achieve the impossible through community leadership.’ Agnew’s nationwide activist status arose as
he helped start the Student Coalition for Justice, which brought FAMU, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College students together. According to ted.com, the coalition was “formed in response to the Martin Lee Anderson case” — a 2006 case where a 14-year-old was beaten and harshly punished to death at a juvenile detention center in Panama City, Fla. Years later in 2012, Agnew spearheaded the launch of Dream Defenders after the murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy who was racially profiled and shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford on Feb. 26 of that year. The youthled organization started with fighting against injustices, such as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” but the organization expanded its vision to “safety and security for all,” according to the group’s website, dreamdefenders.org. “I was among 30 to 40 other people who came together at that moment and said, ‘we want to not just march, not just protest, and go away, but to actually build an organization that’s strong,’ ” said Agnew. “[An organization] that can move and has power in the state to determine what the state looks like for future generations.” The organization currently has six “SQUADDS” in Florida; Miami, Broward County. Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Pensacola. Marie Rattigan, a graduate student studying African-American history at FAMU and the lead organizer for Dream Defenders in Tallahassee, met Agnew six years ago. There is no question about how she views him — as not only her mentor, but also as a big brother she “can always count on.” “He is like the G.O.A.T. [Greatest of all Time]. He is a man of his words, a man of organizing, a man of pushing people out of their comfort zone,” said Rattigan. Rattigan said Agnew taught her to not only be a leader, but also a follower, to adapt the necessary skills “to lead other people in the right direction.” “Now I’m here blossoming as a leader and trying to also mentor those who are here at FAMU,” said Rattigan. Agnew has stepped down as executive di-
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rector of the the organization, but said Dream Defenders will continue to grow as an organization, and expand to other states, which is “on the horizon.” In February 2016, Agnew co-founded Smoke Signals Studio in Miami. The home studio served as an artistic space for the community to combine art and liberation through creativity. The studio held workshops, poetry festivals and served as a resource for anyone interested in publishing books. Agnew states that this gave members of the community a space to “speak more poetically, artistically, and artfully about the world that we want to see.” In the spring of last year, Agnew became U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ newest senior advisor for his 2020 presidential campaign. He previously severed as the National Surrogate for the campaign until his promotion announcement on Mar. 7. In the announcement, Sanders stated that he was excited about Phillip joining his team and named him as “one of this generation’s most critical voices on issues of race and inequity.” Agnew’s newest project, Black Men Build, started in June 2020 and is an organization focusing on unifying Black men to heal and build communities. The organization publishes WARTIME, a digital and print publication “expressing the soul of [their] communities.” He currently serves as the organization’s co-founder. Black Men Build is on its ninth mass meeting, which virtually brings together members of the Black community to openly discuss such issues such as Black love, health, and politics. With over 17,000 followers on Instagram, the organization continues to expand its work and promote healing from post-traumatic stress, anger, and systematic racism in a healthy way. As a leader recognized in EBONY magazine and The Root in 2014 as one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans in the nation, Agnew said FAMU was the “breeding ground” of his success and influenced him to become the best version of himself — a passionate activist and artist. With music and writing projects in the works, he hopes to continue his work with Black Men Build, to create a better world.
THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SCIENCES
ector, right, Dir Program W n le G Dr. t Tech ealth/Ve H l a im An
Photo courtesy of FAMU College of Agriculture
Micaia Deuell, First Year Vet Technology
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 23
What’s in a Name?
A Field of Agricultural Dreams and Promises u Photo co
The sight of roaming cows, luscious green fields
ge of Agri MU Colle
FA rtesy of
and a campus dairy were once daily reminders of one of the most integral parts of the name
The 1890 land-grant system consists of the following 19 Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs).
that now rolls off of tongues around the globe:
Alabama A&M (Montgomery, Ala.)
Alcorn State University (Alcorn, Miss.)
Florida A&M University (FAMU). ■ Literally,
Central State University (Wilberforce, Ohio)
there would be no Florida A&M without the
Delaware State University (Newark, Del.)
“A.” Yet, many do not know that “A” is for
Florida A&M University (Tallahassee, Fla.)
In 1889, many Land-Grant
Fort Valley State University (Fort Valley, Ga.)
Kentucky State University (Frankfort, Ky.)
Langston University (Langston, Okla.)
Lincoln University (Lincoln University, Pa.)
integrate. The public universities in most states responded by
North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro, N.C.)
legislating new agricultural and mechanical arts colleges for
Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas)
black citizens rather than integrate with existing institutions. The
South Carolina State University (Orangeburg, S.C.)
Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.)
Tennessee State University (Nashville, Tenn.)
passed by congress in 1890, provided for annual
Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, Ala.)
University of Arkansas Pine Bluﬀ (Pine Bluﬀ, Ark.)
appropriations to each state to support its land
University of Maryland Eastern Shore ((College Park, Md.)
grant college. ■ In this issue of A&M magazine,
Virginia State University (Petersburg, Va.)
an 8-page spread shines the light on FAMU’s
West Virginia State University (Institute, W.Va.)
rain do Mo and Alman iticulture V r fo r the Cente rch, Tallahassee at n ke Ta trap its Resea Small Fru etting up a yellow ted S ora rm a m Activity: n the Brow its and to capture rious pest of fru , a se g u b s. p k o in cr st vegetable
colleges were largely segregated. To ac-
quire federal funding public universities were required to
Act passed in 1890 gave rise to a network of often poorly financed colleges known as the ‘1890’ Land Grant Universities. This act,
1890 USDA David A. Scott Scholarship program … a few 1890 scholars and one of the program’s biggest supporters, U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Georgia. On the following pages, see what’s sprouting from FAMU, inch-by-inch, student by student. See the seedlings of this nation’s next professionals who will address food insecurity, extension programs, food engineering and more.
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SCOTT HELPS PAVE WAY FOR
USDA 1890 SCHOLARS PROGRAM BY [ Brian J. HOWARD ]
rior to the 2020 fall semester, prospective, high-achievIn the 2020 fall semester, FAMU students benefited from this new ing scholars, who were considering pursuing degrees in 1890 Scholarship Program, since it too received these federal funds to food and agricultural sciences tended to go to other largaward scholarships to freshmen, college/transfer, and returning stuer land-grant universities that offered them much better dents. The 1890 USDA David A. Scott (DAS) Scholarship Program was scholarship packages instead of attending 1890 landestablished in the CAFS, and Dean Robert Taylor, Ph.D. serves as the grant universities. Principal Investigator for the Program. CAFS received its first installIn that arena, the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) was simply not “Now more than ever, we need a highly skilled food and competitive. Therefore, United States (U.S.) Representative David A. Scott stepped up to the plate agricultural systems workforce to safely feed our growing and continued his tireless fight, over the last few population and replacing the aging American agricultural years, to even the playing field at the Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities (HB- workforce. Our education system equips students with tools to CUs) across the U.S. Through the 2018 Farm Bill, access higher education.” he secured $80 million in funding from Congress that included funding for agriculture-focused scholarships at the nineteen HBCUs across the country. These funds are ment of $752,632 in scholarship and discretionary funds in the 2020 being managed by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the fall semester. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We are extremely proud and honored to announce that we have “I am proud to see our Land-Grant HBCUs receive over $40 million for awarded 92 scholarships so far,” Verian Thomas, Ph.D., the co-Principal the 1890 Scholarship Program,” Scott said at the Florida A&M UniversiInvestigator for the Program and CAFS associate dean for recruitment, ty (FAMU) 2020 fall commencement when he was honored with a docstudent support, and alumni affairs said. “From the beginning to the end torate in humanities. “Now more than ever, we need a highly skilled food of their matriculation, scholars will be given the opportunity to graduand agricultural systems workforce to safely feed our growing population ate on time. Through our exceptional student support proand replacing the aging American agricultural workforce. Our education gram that consists of professional and leadership develsystem equips students with tools to access higher education.” opment and experiential learning opportunities, we plan “But access alone is not enough, especialto educate, retain, and graduate these 1890 USDA David ly when African Americans have been signifiA. Scott Scholars on time,” Thomas said. cantly underrepresented within the sciences. “Right now, this funding is just for four years. HowThe 1890 Scholarship Program demonstrates ever, it is Scott’s goal to make this funding perour federal commitment to cultivating and manent. graduating more diverse leaders, who will be With this new funding, the number of well equipped to address and solve future emerging scholars, who enrolled in CAFS majors, such challenges in food and agricultural sciences.” as animal science/pre-vet, veterinary techScott, a FAMU alumnus, was first elected to represent nology, agribusiness, biological systems engineering, Georgia’s 13th Congressional District in 2002. He served on food science, agronomy, agricultural sciences and entothe Financial Services Committee, Agriculture Committee, and mology, increased five-fold. This means that their debt load the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. On December 3, 2020, Scott will be reduced or eliminated,” Thomas said. made history when he was selected as the chairman of the House The qualifications to earn an 1890 USDA David A. Scott Agriculture Committee, the first African American to hold that poscholarship include having a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better, a sition. combined verbal/match score of 1,080 or more on the SAT or
“The 1890 Scholarship Program demonstrates our federal commitment to cultivating and graduating more diverse leaders, who will be well equipped to address and solve future emerging challenges in food and agricultural sciences.” — U.S. REPRES E N TAT IVE DAVID A . SCOTT FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 25
FUNDS RAISED TO DATE a composite score of 21 or more on the ACT with leadership and community service. “Chemistry, biology, and physics students were the ones getting all the scholarships because they were in the traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) programs,” Thomas said. “We are STEM too, rather STEAM (with A=Agriculture) because of the science core in our academic programs. We are in an applied science college that applies science in food and agricultural sciences. We just never got large numbers of scholarships to attract more students to our programs. We had to write grants and include scholarship funding in those grants. That is how our students got a few scholarships.” Thomas expects the academic programs in CAFS to continue growing, now that the 1890 USDA DAS Scholarship Program is in place. “We expect to get half a million dollars a year for each of the next three years, so we will be able to continue attracting more high-achieving scholars,” Thomas said. “Now that the funding has been put in place, our goal is to continually upgrade and expand our facilities within our College, and make sure that the scholars get the best possible experience.” Thomas said that the overall mission of the program is to graduate these scholars and have them ready for work in USDA or to pursue graduate or professional studies in food and agriculture sciences. “The intent of this funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to diversify the workforce in the food and agriculture industry at every level,” Thomas said. “I believe that we will be able to do so, by produc26 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
SCHOLARSHIPS TO DATE
“I want to thank Congressman Scott for his efforts, as they will have a huge impact on student recruitment, retention, progression and on-time graduation in food and agriculture sciences not only at FAMU but at each of the 1890 land-grant university campuses.” — Verian Thomas, Ph.D., the co-Principal Investigator for the Program and CAFS associate dean for recruitment, student support, and alumni affairs ing food and agriculture graduates, who have been supported by these funds, and whose future lives and that of their families will be changed for the better. I want to thank Congressman Scott for his efforts, as they will have a huge impact on student recruitment, retention, progression and on-time graduation in food and agriculture sciences not only at FAMU but at each of the 1890 land-grant university campuses.”
THANK YOU REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT! Thank you for all your hard work and effort in helping make the FAMU College of Agriculture and Food Sciences the program it is today.
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 27
18 9 0 P RO GRAM SCHOL ARS
Verian Thomas Ph.D.
Professor & Associate Dean (Recruitment, Student Support and Alumni Aﬀairs)
Shanteva Leonard Recruiting Coordinator Shanteva.firstname.lastname@example.org
“This scholarship has really made me see how important it is for me to succeed and bring value to others.”
“This scholarship means lessened hardships on my family financial endeavors.”
“This scholarship relieves my family of the financial burden of paying for college, and help accomplish my dream to become a Veterinarian.”
“The David A. Scott Scholarship has made a tremendous impact on my life not worrying about paying for college.”
28 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
“This scholarship means more opportunities for my educational advancement.”
“The 1890 USDA David A. Scott Scholarship has given me an abundance of immense opportunities in my major.”
“This scholarship empowers my academic and career goals by removing the financial barrier.”
“This scholarship is important to me. It has given me several opportunities to branch out and learn how to network, as well as internship and job opportunities.”
“This scholarship means I will be able to graduate college without debt, and that someone in power cares about black students seeking a career in agriculture.”
“This scholarship is what gives me the opportunity and chance to continue my schooling to achieve my goal of becoming a Veterinarian.”
“This scholarship is a boost to help me reach my future goals of becoming an entrepreneur.”
“The David Scott scholarship has made an impact by reducing the burden of expenses to achieve my goals. I am able to focus on my work.”
“It allows me to focus on my actual education and academic excellence instead of how I am going to pay for said education.”
Miran d Persin a ger “This sch olarship me that the financial ans stress of tuition is erased .”
Kamii’y a Car gle “This sch olarship has had a hu ge impac t on my life and I am ex grateful to tremely have received it. Witho ut the scholars hip, wouldn’t I probably even be at FAMU here .”
“This scholarship leads me on the path to a successful career.”
z Andrea t t e g Leg
“There are people who want to see you succeed in life; and, because of the David Scott Scholarship, I am on the verge of doing so.“
Nadiya h Hay es “For me, re scholars ceiving this hip mean sI changing the statu am s quo.”
“What this scholarship means to me is being able to advocate agriculture in my community and help feed the world.”
am Isa Sala scholar 0 rship means 9 “This schola ance to “To be an 18 ork but ch w e of th t g lo in a tt s ge take ial skills having the learn while builds essent in the y ed to change m that are need ell as opportunity .” cy w family’s lega workforce as es to help core principl s. rsue succes students pu
evin) Khang (K Pham rship is s hi “T schola me to l fu ng meani lows me because it al udies y st to pursue m ning that I full time mea to study me have more ti a job at the g in tt ge than en mom t.”
FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE // 29
RISING TO THE
Florida A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) provides an opportunity to work in the food and agriculture industry. Our education system equips students with tools necessary to compete in their field. The 1890 Scholarship Program demonstrates our commitment to cultivating and graduating more diverse leaders, who will be well equipped to address and solve future emerging challenges in food and agricultural sciences. We have already started to see the fruits of the land grant working and benefiting our great institution.
30 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
College of Law
Why Attend FAMU College of Law?
2020 - 2021 FACT SHEET
Tuition rates for Florida Residents: $13,816.00, fulltime and $10,207.00, part-time, per academic year; Non-Resident yearly tuition: $33,077.00, full-time and $24,332.00 part-time. Full-time is based on 30 credits, and part-time is based on 22 credits per academic year. Affordability - Tuition for in-state and outof-state students at FAMU College of Law remains among the lowest in Florida. Our tuition rate offers a remarkable value, even on a national scale. Our comprehensive financial aid program includes institutional grants and federal loan programs. All admitted students are automatically considered for institutional aid and need only submit a separate scholarship application when specifically requested. Flexibility - FAMU College of Law applicants may apply to the full-time day program, or parttime evening program, or both at the time of application. Fall 2021 Prospective Students Applications may be submitted electronically at the Law School Admissions Council website (www.lsac.org). The deadline for submission is May 31, 2021. The priority deadline to submit your FAFSA is March 1, 2021. The FAFSA code for FAMU is 001480.
Ranked in the TOP 10 for Law School Diversity in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Grad Schools and Winter 2020 issue of PreLaw Magazine!
There are 474 students enrolled for Academic Year 2020-2021
Fall 2020 Entering Class Profile Male
2.99/3.30/3.48 GPA 25th/50th/75th
1298 applications received
Values based on data as of Nov.2020
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
The Office of Transfer Student Services is Committed to Attracting the best and the brightest to the Hill “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of human history.” -- Mahatma Gandhi Gandhi’s impactful words would accurately define the Office of Transfer Student Services and The IGNITE Program staff. Though small in number, staff members demonstrate a determined spirit backed by their unquenchable passion and commitment to recruiting the best and brightest transfer students to Florida A&M University (FAMU). That sets the stage for the nation’s top-ranked public HBCU to increase the enrollment of transfer students. “The Office of Transfer Student Services and The IGNITE Program aligns itself with the strategic plan and initiatives of the University,” says Randolph Bellamy, assistant director, Office of Transfer Student Services and IGNITE Program. “In doing so, our office aims to increase transfer student enrollment, retention and completion through graduation.” In light of the current restrictions brought on by COVID-19, colleges and universities across the country have had to reassess their recruitment efforts. However, Transfer Student Services staff remains focused on their recruitment efforts and cultivating recruited students to become successful members of the “FAMUly.” Every month, transfer specialists conduct virtual information sessions with our Florida Community College (FCC) partners. Transfer specialists work in collaboration with transfer liaisons, local alumni and academic advisers of FAMU’s colleges and schools to engage potential students on transitioning to FAMU. This allows students the opportunity to obtain more information about their anticipated majors. “My philosophy is that success starts from the beginning. Engaging students earlier on allows them to make better, well-informed decisions in terms of their academic goals,” Bellamy says. “To ensure success, we provide individualized experiences to ensure that no student is left in the unknown. We take pride and personally guide every transfer student through the admissions funnel until they are admitted and ultimately enrolled.” Statistically, students coming to a four-year institution from a community college with an A.A. degree prove to be stronger academically and graduate on time. There are several benefits for students opting to attend an FCC and then transfer to FAMU: • Affordability -- In-state tuition and fees are much more reasonable than tuition and fees at four-year institutions.
• Flexibility -- Students, especially those who struggled in high school or are unsure about investing time and money in a university education, can build a better academic foundation. • School-life balance -- Affords non-traditional students (e.g., older students, parents, etc.) an opportunity to balance college with career or family obligations. • More personalized attention -- smaller class sizes mean more personal attention and more one-on-one time with instructors. • Transfer agreements -- FAMU provides guaranteed “general” admissions to students who complete their A.A. degree from a Florida College System institution. Benefits to students who join the FAMU IGNITE Program:
Randolph Bellamy Assistant Director
Lashawnda Swanigan Transfer Coordinator
Spencer Tyrus Central Region
• Guaranteed general admission to FAMU after completing an Associate of Arts degree from a Florida Community/State College • Access to FAMU transfer specialists who assist with the admissions funnel • Access to FAMU academic advisers who provide insight about degrees and programs • Access to IGNITE card, which provides a “pre-student experience” by granting free access to many on-campus events • Consideration for the Florida Community College scholarship with acceptable GPA.
College of Central Florida, Hillsborough Community College, Pasco Hernando State College, Polk State College, St. Petersburg College, Valencia College
“While we primarily focus on Florida Community College transfer students via the IGNITE program, our goal is to provide customer service excellence in all that we do, while creating an environment that fosters the success of all transfer students,” Bellamy adds. “We are student-focused professionals that execute new and innovative ways to recruit transfer students. Our vision is to surpass expectations in the work and interactions with transfer students. Lastly, we aim to build impactful relationships that will continue to make FAMU the #1 HBCU.”
Broward College, Palm Beach State College, State College of Florida
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Alberto Santiago Southern Region
Indian River State College, Miami Dade College, South Florida State College
Darel Robinson Southern Region
John Tornes Northern Region
Daytona State College, Eastern Florida State College, Florida State College of Jacksonville, Santa Fe College, Tallahassee Community College
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FAMU PROGRAM RAISES AWARENESS OF FLORIDA’S MARIJUANA LAWS
MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH AND EDUCATION INITIATIVE SERVES KEY ROLE IN AMERICA’S FASTEST GROWING INDUSTRY BY [ Patricia GREEN POWELL, PH.D. ] It seems like it’s been in the proverbial blink of an eye that marijuana has gone from being stigmatized as a dangerous gateway drug to being widely accepted as a recreational or medicinal substance. Voters in Red and Blue states reflect this change in attitude when presented with a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for whatever the purpose. Today, recreational marijuana is fully legal in 16 states, while medical marijuana is lawful in 20. Florida joined the legalization movement in 2016 when voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, allowing residents with a qualifying condition (e.g., cancer, HIV/AIDS, terminal disease, chronic pain) to be treated with medical marijuana. Tucked into Florida’s medical marijuana law (Section 381.986, Florida Statutes) is a provision entrusting Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) with the mission of “educating minorities about marijuana for medical use and the impact of the unlawful use of marijuana on minority communities.” As the only state supported Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Florida, FAMU is uniquely positioned to carry out this legislative mandate, and, in 2018, launched the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI). The MMERI program seeks to educate people and inspire them to learn and talk frankly about medical marijuana and the potential consequences of the unlawful use of marijuana. To date, the MMERI team spreads the word across the state of Florida. In 2020, the program’s educational activities, communication campaigns, and community engagements reached an estimated 8.1 million people. As the executive director of MMERI, I lead a small, but highly motivated staff, that has made significant inroads in making minority communities aware of what Florida’s medical marijuana law entails while addressing the potential impact (i.e., health and legal ramifications) of the unlawful use of marijuana. We have done this by offering a Basic Medical Marijuana Education Course, both in-person and online; conducting community forums across the state (pre-pandemic); distributing a monthly e-newsletter and informational handouts (translated in Haitian-Creole, Spanish and French); live streaming on social media Conversations on Cannabis, a virtual forum featuring experts in healthcare, law enforcement, and legal and mental health fields; broadcasting public service announcements on TV, radio and podcast platforms across Florida, and in newspapers; mailing postcards to Florida’s 30 rural communities; and reaching groups of minorities through a localized education initiative led by MMERI-trained advocates. A key objective of the MMERI program is to clear up confusion over Florida’s view of medical marijuana as lawful, and the federal government’s treatment of it as a Schedule 1 drug. For example, a Florida medical-marijuana patient carrying or using the drug on federal property, such as in an airport, could be arrested. Tenants in federally subsidized Section 8 housing could be evicted — or worse — for possessing any type of marijuana. 34 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
Here are three of the faces that are working to heighten awareness among minorities.
Furthermore, legalization of medical marijuana doesn’t mean health insurers will cover the costs of being treated with cannabis. Neither does it prohibit public or private employers from firing employees for using medical marijuana even when prescribed by a physician. Through education, community engagement, and communication — the three pillars of our program — MMERI has increased knowledge, changed attitudes, and transformed perceptions about medical marijuana. Only by remaining vigilant in our efforts can we ensure that the voices of Florida’s minority communities are heard when marijuana-related policies are made, and that these communities share in the health and economic benefits of medicinal marijuana.
FAMU’s Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) is the only program mandated by the state of Florida to engage minority communities about this subject. Get credible information and engage in a safe space to learn and talk frankly about cannabis. Partnerships are vital to our ability to raise awareness. One of our partners, the National FAMU Alumni Association (NAA), is a big supporter of MMERI. I’ve been able to present to FAMU alumni chapter members across the country, thanks to Carolyn Collins, who chairs the Governmental Relations Committee of the NAA. These engagements allow me to educate alumni about the program, update them on our progress, and encourage them to get involved by signing up for our newsletter, joining a Conversations on Cannabis live-streamed event, or listening to our podcasts, among other things. Whether you live in Florida, other parts of the country, or abroad, I encourage you to keep up with MMERI. Legalized marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the U.S. Considering the history of the drug’s impact on communities of color, we are serving an important role in this evolution. For more information about MMERI, go to http://mmeri.famu.edu/ Patricia Green-Powell, Ph.D., is the executive director of FAMU’s Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative. She has been a member of FAMU’s administration since 2003.
EDUCATE. LEARN. TALK ABOUT CANNABIS IN FLORIDA. Get credible information and engage in a safe space to learn and talk frankly about cannabis. FAMU’s Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) is the only program mandated by the state to engage minority communities and Florida’s diverse populations about this subject.
EDUCATE: TAKE THE FREE ONLINE BASIC EDUCATION COURSE Visit MMERI.FAMU.edu/Educate to test your knowledge on the global history of cannabis and how to legally obtain a Florida medical marijuana card.
LEARN: GET THE LATEST INFORMATION
Visit MMERI.FAMU.edu/Learn to download podcasts, watch videos, and access resources to learn about medical marijuana use and the consequences of unlawful use of marijuana in Florida.
TALK: JOIN CONVERSATIONS ON CANNABIS EACH MONTH
Visit MMERI.FAMU.edu/Talk to register for the monthly virtual forum streamed on Facebook Live. Get credible information from experts and ask your questions about marijuana.
Follow ‘Conversations on Cannabis’ on:
MMERI Forum Radio
MMERI Forum Radio
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FAMU COLLEGE OF LAW DEAN AIMS FOR
‘SUSTAINED SUCCESS’ BY [ Mildred GRAHAM ]
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ORLANDO — For many of us, the names Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd stir up deep emotions. For Deidré (pronounced DAY-dra) Keller, their names and stories served as catalysts for a shift in ambitions that ultimately led to her current position as dean and professor of law at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law. “I distinctly remember talking to my son after George Zimmerman’s notguilty verdict,” said Keller, the mother of six, including five young men “Then, Tamir Rice was killed two hours away from where we lived. He was the same age as my middle son. I remember thinking — as a mother, a lawyer, and a law professor — I had no answers for my children.
“That’s when I began to make a concerted effort to work on racial justice in my scholarship and through service. I was determined to show my children that I was doing my part to make a difference. Keller said, as similar cases hit the news, her life changed. “I moved into legal education administration,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to come to an HBCU law school; because of its unique history of advocacy, FAMU College of Law offered the ideal opportunity to drive positive change through the academy.” Keller comes to FAMU after 10 years at the Claude W. Pettit College of Law, a private, non-profit law school located in Ada, OH. It is the law school of Ohio Northern University, and the second oldest law school in Ohio, founded in 1885. Her teaching included Property, Intellectual Property, Law & Literature, and The Legal History of Montgomery, Alabama. Keller writes at the intersections of intellectual property, personhood, and critical race theory. Before teaching, Keller practiced law in Atlanta, with the firms of Sutherland Asbill and Brennan, LLP, and Seyfarth Shaw, LLP. She specialized in intellectual property counseling and procurement, focusing on trademarks and copyrights. Since beginning her tenure on July 1, Keller has adeptly balanced the weight of the pandemic with the challenges facing the law school that was re-established in 2002. For 20202021, Keller has articulated “Sustained Success through Community” as the College’s focus, highlighting recruiting and retaining highly qualified students; improving student outcomes; and deepening and broadening the College’s relationships with key constituencies. COVID-19 required Keller to tackle those strategic goals while prioritizing the safety of the law school community. “Within the first month of my arrival, I received a recommendation from the College’s task force on the pandemic to adjust the plan for hybrid instruction to a plan for primarily virtual instruction for the Fall. The task force’s recommendation was data-driven and took into consideration the concerns of faculty, staff, and students. Accepting that recommendation illustrates my data-driven, collaborative approach.” While the impact of the pandemic on Spring 2021 continues to evolve, Keller has leaned into the task of recruiting credentialed applicants while reaffirming the mission of acceptance. Critical to that effort is the need to secure scholarship funding sufficient to attract and retain top students.
I distinctly remember talking to my son after George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict,” said Keller, the mother of six, including five young men. “Then, Tamir Rice was killed two hours away from where we lived. He was the same age as my middle son. I remember thinking — as a mother, a lawyer, and a law professor — I had no answers for my children.”
Keller shared that critical need during the National Alumni Association’s Virtual Founders’ Day celebration on Oct. 3 and alumni responded generously, with more than $30,000 in pledges and donations. “The members of the FAMU National Alumni Association stand ready to support the endeavors of our beloved College of Law,” said Lt. Colonel Gregory Clark, president of the FAMU National Alumni Association. “The student body enrolled in our Law School is among the best in the United States, and we want to provide them every opportunity to become successful.” In addition to the focus on recruiting well-qualified students, Keller has directed attention to improving the college’s bar-passage rate and expanding career opportunities for students and graduates. Utilizing data to identify opportunities to enhance student success, and employing faculty, financial and other resources to address those specific needs, Keller has stressed continual bar pass improvement as a priority. While the most recent pass rate on the Florida Bar Exam was 61.7 percent,Keller said the goal is to achieve a bar-pass rate that is consistently above 80 percent. To increase career exposure and practical experience, the law school recently launched a Mentoring Program, matching 57 law students with 57 lawyers from across the country, including 11 judges and 24 law alumni. Since taking on her new post, Keller has also: ■ Reached out to engage constituents, hosting a town hall in September with more than 60 alumni ■ Met with more than 50 local profes-
sionals through a weekly luncheon coordinated by Dean’s Advisory Council Chair John Crossman, where she shares her vision with local law firms, including Lowndes and Greenberg Traurig Co-hosted, with the Student Bar Association, regular student town halls Promoted social justice through her service on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force of the Orlando Economic Partnership Served as a virtual panelist in September for “In Her Own Words … Perspectives from Women of Color,” hosted by CREW, Commercial Real Estate Women Served as a virtual panelist in October on “The Role of Historically Black Law Schools” at the Black Lawyers Matter Conference hosted by the University of Houston Law Center and SMU Dedman School of Law
“My plan for the College is for it to reach its potential as Florida’s only HBCU law school, one of only six in the country, and Central Florida’s public law school,” Keller said. “To do that, we must focus first on the success of our students. My plan is to be here at FAMU College of Law until we have achieved sustained success.”
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FAMU ALUMNUS ANDRE DAWSON EARNS INAUGURAL CURT FLOOD AWARD BY [ Brian J. HOWARD ]
Former Florida A&M University (FAMU) baseball player, Hall of Famer ANDRE DAWSON, was honored in the fall with the Major League Baseball’s Players Association inaugural Curt Flood Award. Flood, a former three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion outfielder who died in 1997, engaged in judicial battles to end baseball’s reserve system. Flood’s efforts laid the groundwork for player free agency. The award is given to a former player who “demonstrated a selfless, longtime devotion to the players’ association and advancement of players’ rights.” “I look at this honor, and it’s an accolade that I put up there with anything that I’ve ever achieved in this game because of what it represents and the player that it is named after,” Dawson said. “Thank you very much to each and all of the players for nominating me, Andre Dawson, for the very first Curt Flood Award.” Don Baylor, Mark Belanger, and Jim Bunning were the other finalists for the Curt Flood Award, which was voted on by a panel of distinguished former and current Players Association executives. Dawson, who was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, was also known as “The Hawk” and twice received All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Honors. He led the Rattlers in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs in 1974 and 1975. The slugging outfielder also led his teams with a 64-19 record in his three years at FAMU, including historic wins over nationally-ranked Miami three times. 38 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE
The Miami native finished third in NCAA Division II with 0.41 doubles per game and 10th in slugging in his sophomore season and hit .352 during his junior season (1975). Dawson’s professional career spanned 21 years with the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins. He was known as a player who led through quiet example and effort on the field. Dawson battled a series of knee injuries during his career and his legacy includes a memorable decision prior to the 1987 season when he handed the Cubs a blank contract and asked Chicago to fill out a salary that it deemed appropriate for his talents. The eight-time all-star was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1975 and played only 186 minor league games before joining the major league team. In June of 1977, Dawson made his major league debut as the Expos starting center fielder and was named the National League Rookie of the Year. With Montreal, Dawson won six consecutive Gold Glove Awards. Dawson won his eighth Gold Glove in 1988 and added to his four Silver Slugger awards. He played for the Boston Red Sox from 1993-94 and finished his career with the Florida Marlins from 1995-96. He posted a .279 career batting average, with 438 home runs, 1,591 RBI and 314 stolen bases.
FORMER RATTLER PUNTER COLEMAN, FIRST NFL AFRICAN-AMERICAN PUNTER,
HAS KICKED HIS WAY INTO 2021 BLACK COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS BY [ Brian J. HOWARD ]
Florida A&M University (FAMU) former punter GREG COLEMAN was among six inductees named in November to the 12th class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame. Coleman, who played for the Rattlers from 1972 to 1975, will be enshrined with Coy Bacon (Jackson State), Jimmie Giles (Alcorn State), Winston Hill (Texas Southern), Roynell Young (Alcorn State), and coach Willard Bailey (Virginia Union, Norfolk State, St. Paul’s, and Virginia-Lynchburg) as members of the 2021 Black College Football Hall of Fame class. “On behalf of the board of trustees, congratulations to the Class of 2021,” said Doug Williams, Black College Football Hall of Fame co-founder and 2011 inductee. “It is a significant achievement to be considered one of the best to ever play or coach football at a Historically Black College and University.” Coleman, who earned the nickname “coffin corner,” was the first African-American punter in NFL history. He was selected in the 14th round
of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and had a career that spanned 12 years. Coleman spent the 1977 season with the Cleveland Browns and played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1978-1987, before ending his career with the Washington Football Team (formerly the Washington Redskins) in 1988. He was selected by the fans to the Vikings 40th Anniversary Team. Votes were tallied from the 11-member selection committee, comprising prominent journalists, commentators, and historians; former NFL general managers and executives; and members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame to determine the inductees. The Class of 2021 will be honored at the 2021 Black College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and Juneteenth Celebration, presented by the Atlanta Falcons on June 19, 2021. The induction ceremony will take place at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
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ALUMNI APPLAUSE ABC News Names FAMU Journalism Alumna Network’s New President Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumna Kimberly Godwin is the new president of ABC News, a Disney company. Her hiring, announced in April, makes Godwin one of the most powerful African American women in broadcast media. Godwin now oversees ABC’s editorial and business operations for broadcast, digital, streaming and audio news across the network, which includes iconic franchises “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight,” “20/20,” “Nightline,” “The View,” “This Week, ” and FiveThirtyEight. “The FAMU community is immensely proud of her accomplishment,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “Her hard work and excellence have carried her to the pinnacle of her profession. This reinforces what we always tell our students: You can get anywhere from FAMU. ABC News will be in good hands.” “I have immense respect and admiration for ABC News,” Godwin said. “As the most trusted brand in news, they are to be commended for the extraordinary work and dedication of the journalists, producers, executives and their teams across the organization. I am honored to take on this stewardship.” Godwin was previously executive vice president of CBS News, where she had top editorial oversight of newsgathering worldwide, including the national desks, foreign desks, and bureaus. At CBS News for 14 years, Godwin served in such top positions as CBS News executive director for development and diversity and as senior broadcast producer of the CBS Evening News. She was recognized in November 2020 by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for her work. “Kim is an instinctive and admired executive whose unique experiences, strengths and strategic vision made her the ideal choice to lead the outstanding team at ABC News and build on their incredible success,” said Disney General Entertainment Content Chairman Peter Rice. “Throughout Kim’s career in global news organizations and local newsrooms, she has distinguished herself as a fierce advocate for excellence, collaboration, inclusion and the vital role of accurate and transparent news reporting.” Before she joined CBS News in 2007, the Panama City, Florida, native spent more than two decades as a leader at some of the nation’s top stations. Godwin has also spent time as a journalism educator. She was the interim director for journalism at the FAMU School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (SJGC) from 2004 to 2005 and an adjunct faculty member. She currently chairs the FAMU SJGC Board of Visitors.
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BY [ Véronique GEORGE ]
Former TCC instructor Named President of New York’s Stella and Charles Guttman Community College
Larry D. Johnson, Jr., Ph.D., will be the next president of Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, the newest school in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Johnson’s hiring was announced in February by the CUNY Board of Trustees on Feb. 1. Johnson, who is now president of Phoenix College, a public community college in Maricopa County, Arizona, will take office at Guttman on July 1. Johnson earned his undergraduate degree in English literature from FAMU before pursuing a master’s in humanities from Florida State University (Tallahassee). He holds a doctorate in humanities from Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, Ga.). Johnson began his career at Tallahassee Community College, where he taught developmental English and reading.
Wayne Township New Jersey has a New Business Administrator
Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus D. Talib Aquil was named Wayne Township (N.J.) business administrator last summer.
The Newark, N. J. native’s rise to the municipal government’s top non-elected position marks his latest achievement in a journey of overcoming a learning disability. Aquil took over as business administrator in the community of more than 55,000 people following an almost two-decade career with the City of Newark. In 2003, he was hired as an aide to a Newark city council member. He then rose through the ranks before serving four years as director of public works for Newark, the largest city in the state. As the business administrator, Aquil’s primary role is that of a liaison between the administration and governing body, making sure the Township runs efficiently, delivers quality services in a timely manner, and within the budget. “My goal is to be a difference maker and inspire my team to be difference makers,” he said. “I want to be known for always giving maximum effort. “I may disappoint someone because they do not agree with my idea or because they do not believe my position is right, but I will never disappoint in my presentation, my sincerity, or the energy I inject into anything I attach my name to. My legacy in Public Administration will be in every life I have touched.” Aquil credits the leadership and staff of what is now the FAMU Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) for transforming the prospects of a student for whom academic success seemed unlikely. Early on, Aquil was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia. He had to read schoolwork three, four, and five times to grasp the material. “I was about 11 years old before I really knew how to read. I didn’t really become a decent student until I got into college,” he said in an interview. Aquil graduated last in his eighthgrade class. He attended three different high schools and took five years to graduate; then, things
changed, he said. He managed to raise his GPA to 2.5. Despite his struggles, Aquil possessed advantages most of his peers did not. He lived with both of his parents who were college educated. His mother graduated from Seton Hall University (South Orange, N.J.), his father Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.). His parents knew about the FAMU Learning Development and Evaluation Center program for students with learning disabilities. “There’s no way I would have made it to where I am right now without the Learning Center,” Aquil said. After his FAMU admission application was initially denied, he applied to the center’s two-week summer program where he proved he could thrive in college. “That’s how I got in, and I flourished from there. I didn’t have much confidence in my academic abilities, but it was one of the things they helped with,” said Aquil, who credits then-director Sharon Wooten, Ph.D., and assistant director Annette Oliver of the Learning Development and Evaluation Center for their efforts. “They stressed we are not dumb or stupid,” Aquil said of the staff’s approach, “we just learned differently; focus on your strengths. Whatever resources we needed, they made sure we got. “They taught us how to advocate for ourselves, the importance of having accountability partners, that you’re entitled to reasonable accommodations so that you can succeed, and it helped me tremendously in life,” said Aquil, who attended FAMU from 1995 to 2000. “If I could redo those five years, I would do it in a heartbeat. It was absolutely wonderful.”
Pharmacy Grad Promoted to the Front as Rear Admiral, Becoming Assistant U.S. Surgeon General in Nation’s Capital
Rear Adm. Cedric Guyton was promoted Feb. 1 to assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). Guyton was deputy director, Division of Commissioned Corps Services, before his promotion. As the deputy director Guyton was responsible for providing leadership and oversight of the development and implementation of officer recruitment, readiness, and deployment; career management, including assignments, separations, and promotions; and training services necessary to successfully manage the 6,100 active-duty officers of the USPHS Commissioned Corps. Guyton said his promotion is an important lesson that it “does not matter where you start your journey.” “My promotion is a great reflection of the dedication and hard work of my village – my mother, my father, and my family,” Guyton said. “My family ensured that, as an African-American male, I made it out of the backwoods of Thomasville, Georgia.” In his new role, Guyton is in charge of four senior leaders, and 30 officers and civilian employees. He is also responsible for advising the director of Commissioned Corps Headquarters on the annual
$28-million budgetary development process. A two-time graduate of the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health, (COPPS), he received a doctorate (PharmD) in 1998 and a master’s in public health in 2004. “FAMU instilled in me the confidence, determination, and educational tools to survive and thrive in any professional environment. My experiences in the COPPS while obtaining my doctorate and eventually MPH, prepared me to sit in the Pentagon to present IT budgets and project plans, fill prescriptions in underserved communities, and manage and lead public-health programs within many divisions of Health and Human Services,” said Guyton, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Albany State University (Albany, Ga.).
“I was raised to never make an excuse about where you come from, but to focus on where you want to go.” —Rear Admiral Cedric Guyton “I was raised to never make an excuse about where you come from, but to focus on where you want to go,” Guyton added. “My promotion was proof that the experiences and expertise I obtained at the highest of seven hills propelled me to the top of my career within the United States Public Health Service. I have been truly blessed with a great family, mentors, and professors.” Guyton’s earlier assignments as a Public Health Service officer included serving as the lead project officer within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) Policy and Programs Group and CMMI liaison to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National
Coordinator (ONC). Prior to serving in the Center, Guyton served as Defense Health Information Management Systems director of interagency and imaging, where he was responsible for management of a $120-million budget in Health IT development, integration, and sustainment contracts. In his first Corps assignment, Guyton served as clinical staff pharmacist in Whiteriver, Ariz., and Tucson Area Indian Health Service (IHS) in 2007 as chief pharmacist of the San Xavier Indian Health Center. He also served as a Tucson Area IHS clinical applications coordinator and teleradiology program project officer during his tour. Clyde Perry Brown, D.Ph., a professor in the Institute of Public Health, was Guyton’s adviser in the master’s program. “He consistently, as his schedule allowed, came back to the Institute of Public Health. On several occasions, he gave seminars on opportunities in the Public Health Service and the Indian Health Service,” Brown said. “Dr. Guyton was always looking back over his shoulder to see who he could pull forward. He is truly a great public health professional and public servant. His humility, above all, sets him apart from others with similar achievements.”
■ Vivian Bradley Johnson,
PharmD, was nominated for membership on the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force ■ Will Packer and Chris Gees play key roles in the Wendy Williams Biopic, a made-for-television movie on Lifetime.
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HE ARRIVED ON CAMPUS WITH $20, NOW LEADS ALMA MATER’S FOUNDATION BOARD BY [ Kathy TIMES ]
More than 30 years ago, JEMAL GIBSON traveled from Chicago to Tallahassee to enroll at Florida A&M University (FAMU). He only had $20 in his pocket and no financial aid or housing. Born to drug-addicted parents in Chicago, his prospects for success were slim. Despite the odds against him, Gibson thrived at FAMU. He parlayed his education and life lessons into opportunities that resulted into an impressive ascension through the corporate ranks. Today, Gibson is Vice President of Sales at McKesson, a Fortune 10 company. In recognition of his support of the FAMU Foundation’s work to attract high-end funders and partners, Gibson was recently elected to a second term as Board chairman of the FAMU Foundation. The non-profit’s staff and Board manage a $140-million endowment — the largest of any public Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Reflecting on the unanimous vote of confi-
dence by the 31-member Board, Gibson said, “I am truly honored to lead such an extremely talented group of individuals who are passionately connected to FAMU. We developed a new vision statement: to be a global leader in the transformation of lives — one scholar at a time. This vision statement illustrates our focus is not just on how we rank among HBCUs but, all universities.” Gibson is applying the knowledge that he has acquired as an executive at such top-tier corporations as Pfizer and the Mayo Clinic, to help the nation’s top-ranked public HBCU continue rising. He credits FAMU with not only transforming his life, but also saving it. Despite living with six different families and attending 11 schools, a determined Gibson excelled and graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet School, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s alma mater. He received his FAMU acceptance letter two days before the school year started in 1987. The freshman hitched a long ride to Tallahassee with friends without understanding how to fund his education. Fortunately, a FAMU administrator helped Gibson find housing and secure an Army ROTC scholarship. That ROTC uniform came in handy. With no discretionary funds available to purchase a suit, Gibson says he was the first to wear a military uniform to forums where corporate CEOs and executives spoke to School of Business and Industry (SBI) students throughout the semester. In 1993, Gibson graduated with honors from FAMU. He returned to his alma mater in 2012 to establish a scholarship program that provides hundreds of new suits to SBI students in need. While serving as the University’s commencement speaker in 2016, he announced a pledge of $100,000 to fund the Jemal Gibson and Family Endowed Scholarship.
High-Achieving Scholars Seeking Out FAMU and HBCUs
FAMU is attracting record numbers of high-achieving freshmen. According to the University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, freshmen admitted to FAMU for the fall of 2021 had an average GPA of 3.87. Like Gibson, many are first-generation college students. The FAMU Foundation reported receiving $3.2 million more in donations this year when compared to the same time last year. Still more funds, such as multi-million-dollar dona-
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tions, corporate partnerships, endowed chairs, grants, and legacy gifts are needed to keep the endowment healthy. Income from investments help to fund scholarships and other programs used to attract and retain the best and brightest students. Remembering his journey, Gibson said, “The reality is that students are in a greater need than they are willing to tell people. Many of them come from difficult situations, and they just want to fit in. Even when you ask them, they’ll gloss over it. We have to understand that college students, especially those coming from very challenging situations, will always need our help.” Gibson hopes to spur creative philanthropy along with traditional major gifts. “Instead of telling somebody what to do, the best thing is for people to ask themselves ‘What can I do to change a life?’” said Gibson. “That’s where the creativity comes in. When I started the suit scholarship, someone else started a shoe scholarship.”
Leading Transformation During a Global Pandemic
During his first term from 2019-2020, Gibson and Board directors focused on enhancing their engagement, effectiveness, and efficiencies. They conducted a board survey consisting of more than 60 questions utilizing parameters that measured success for foundation boards. Gibson said, “When we got the results back from that survey, we saw how we could improve See Gibson, continued on page 45
BY [ Tanesia A. REED ]
FORMER STUDENT LEADER CLIMBS TO HIGHER GROUND, NOW RUNNING THE SHOW IN HOLLYWOOD JAMES BLAND is the creative genius behind the Emmy Award-winning drama series, Giants, which has gone from Issa Rae’s YouTube Channel to broadcast television on Cleo TV. The creator, showrunner, and star of his series, Bland has chosen to dedicate himself to accurately portraying the stories of Black millennials in a journey to adulthood series about three friends approaching 30. Bland is a Titusville, Fla. native and 2008 business administration graduate of Florida A&M University. During his matriculation at FAMU, Bland was Freshman and Sophomore Class Vice President even after running as a write-in candidate, President of the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Society, and Student Activities Board Chairman. He was also Student Body Vice President during his senior year and a Spring 2006 initiate of the Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Through his college years, such prominent alumni in filmmaking as Will Packer, Rob Hardy, and Anika Noni Rose opened his eyes to the endless opportunities a FAMU degree can grant a Rattler. “They [Will Packer and Rob Hardy] had gone to FAMU and they weren’t film majors — they were engineering majors,” said Bland. “Because they had left FAMU with engineering degrees and still were able to find success in Hollywood as filmmakers, I believed that I could, too.” Bland met Packer during his junior year at FAMU. Packer advised him to make his very first film to show his seriousness about getting into the filmmaking. After spending his senior year creating his first film, Dreaming in Color, which was about two teenage best friends struggling to chase their dreams, and moving to Los Angeles, Bland was offered an intern position at Will Packer Productions. As an intern shortly after graduation, he maintained the office of the producer during the production of the 2010 action thriller film Takers. “Because I’m a Rattler, I knew how to network and how to get people on my side,” said Bland as he talked about his internship with Packer coming to an end. “I made sure I talked to a few folks while I was his intern at the studio. So, when the internship ended and there were not any more opportunities to work with Will Packer, I started reaching out to people that I had met at the studio and (that) brought me back as a production
assistant [at Sony Screen Gems].” He later took a step further into the industry as an executive assistant at Sony Screen Gems in 2009, completing organizational tasks for company executives, as well as the digital producer for TV Land in 2014, where he produced the series The Soul Man and managed social media accounts. During this time, Bland produced impressive film content through different web series and short films. Afterward, he wrote, produced, and acted in his hit series, Giants, which was the first project Bland could completely call his own. “I created Giants to really show the industry and the world what James Bland could do,” he said. “It made me a power player in the industry, and it made Hollywood care what James Bland had to say.”
“I created Giants to really show the industry and the world what James Bland could do”
Bland is now the founder and CEO of James Bland Productions, “a full-service production company focused on creating purpose-driven content for film, television and digital platforms,” according to james-bland.com. He has also made time to give back to young, Black content creators through numerous educational and experience-driven programs. Through his “Creating a Giant” master class to his “Giants X LeadersUp Internship Program,” Bland has provided many opportunities for skilled youth interested in filmmaking. Bland also worked with the Entertainment Industry College Outreach Program’s HBCU in LA by supervising the final summer project — a 10-minute short film in 2019 called Uchawi. The film was about two sisters being forced to confront their past through miraculous powers and learning how to forgive. Kenya Cummins, an intern during the HBCU in LA program who worked as a producer for the short film, expressed her gratitude for the program in a Making the Film | HBCU in LA 2019 video on Bland’s website.
“It was awesome,” said Cummins, a Hampton University alumna. “Just being in the mix you learn so much, so I’m really grateful.” Alongside filmmaking, Bland has directed music videos for a new multi-genre music artist with a unique intergalactic sound, TeaMarrr. The Boston artist’s songs, Chasing Amy and One Job, are amongst the four videos directed by him. In My Mind by TeaMarrr was featured in Bland’s Giants television series and she is now signed to Issa Rae’s record label, Raedio. “There’s a trend when you look at it. Any of the videos that James [Bland] has directed are at a million-plus views. Where the others … aren’t. James [Bland] has this magical, physical touch to my brand,” said TeaMarrr. “If a video is not directed by him [Bland], it’s because we asked him first and he couldn’t do it. No disrespect to the other directors I have worked with because they’re amazing, but James [Bland] is my go-to.” TeaMarrr describes Bland as a “thoughtful dude,” who thoroughly listens to her music to visualize a video content that is always spot on with her creative vision. The artist hopes to arrange more of her music videos to be directed by Bland in the near future. Bland plans to continue living his dream of creating content full-time with bigger budgets on larger platforms. Ryan Coogler, Angela Bassett, and many other film icons are on his radar as he works toward making James Bland a household name and representing the Black community in his work.
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NEW PLACES FLORIDA GOV. RON DESANTIS APPOINTS THREE TO FAMU BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Three alumni are the newest members of the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees. During this academic year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Otis Cliatt II, Michael Dubose and Kenward “Kenny” Stone to serve on the 13-member Board. Their appointments were confirmed by the state Senate on March 30, 2021.
Otis Cliatt II
Cliatt of Dove Canyon, Calif., has been president of Pacific Harbor Line since 2012. The FAMU Bachelor of Science graduate has more than two decades of experience in the railroad industry specializing in railroad operations, safety, and labor relations. A military veteran, Cliatt served with the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces Command and with the Special Operations Command. In 2019, the former football player was honored by the National Alumni Association among that year’s class of Distinguished Alumni. Dubose, of Alpharetta, Ga., is president of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Healthcare Market Division. Previously, he held leadership positions with W.W. Grainger, Staples, Alliant Foodservice and Baxter Healthcare. Dubose has volunteered his time with the National Sales Network, Boy Scouts of America, Executive Leadership Council, and the Community Achievement Center of Atlanta. Dubose earned a bachelor’s degree at FAMU. He is also president of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fra-
ternity Nation-al Foundation, where he administers a $10-million scholarship fund. Under his leadership, as part of The Just Project, Thermo Fisher Scientific donated $2.5 million in supplies and equipment to enable FAMU to set up a COVID-19 testing lab that will serve students, faculty and staff from FAMU and Florida’s other three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HB-CUs), Bethune Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial.
Stone, co-chief executive officer of Broughton Pharmaceuticals, was appointed by DeSantis in November 2020. A resident of Savannah, Georgia, Stone graduated from the FAMU School of Business & Industry (SBI) with a bachelor’s in business administration in 2009. He later completed an MBA at Harvard University. Stone is co-founder and managing partner of SL Group Investors, New York. His career in the financial sector includes stints at Barclays Bank and Citigroup.
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JOHNSON NAMED SCHOOL OF NURSING DEAN
Shelley Johnson, Ed.D., joined the University as the dean for the School of Nursing on July 1, 2020. Johnson has designed, implemented, directed and taught undergraduate and graduate nursing programs for approximately 20 years. Her experience includes serving on the administration teams for Chamberlain, Lincoln, Rutgers and La Salle universities as well as the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. While at Lincoln University, Johnson served as the founding director and chair of nursing and health science. Johnson’s professional specialties include curriculum and instruction, assessment and community health. She is also a certified nurse executive, nurse educator and a comprehensive systematic reviewer. A native of Barbados, Johnson received a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix, a master’s degree in community health nursing from Pennsylvania State University, an executive Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. She has also received a certificate in educational leadership from Harvard University and an equity, diversity and inclusion certificate from the University of Michigan.
MILES NAMED TO PERMANENT POST AS DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
Keith Miles, former FAMU Alumni Affairs director and longtime voice of Rattler football, was named director of the Office of Communications on January 8, 2021. Miles had served as interim director since Feb. 1, 2020. In announcing the appointment, President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., said under Miles’ leadership, the Office of Communications has performed as a very cohesive unit leading the University’s internal and external communication efforts under difficult circumstances, specifically the global pandemic. The Office of Communications manages the University’s marketing, creative services, the president’s communications, media relations, publications and special events. A former general manager of WANM 90.5 Radio, Miles managed internal communications for the Office of Communications prior to his appointment as interim manager. His responsibilities have included writing speeches for the president, commencement ceremonies and other major events. He has been a FAMU deputy athletic director, and from 1988 to 1991, legislative liaison and spokesman for the Governor’s Energy Office and director of Alumni Affairs from 1991 to 1999.
Gibson, continued from page 42
NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TITLE III PROGRAMS COMES ABOARD FROM TEXAS
Erick Akins, Ph.D., is the new executive director of Title III Programs. He comes to FAMU after working years at Alamo Community Colleges with 10 years at St. Philip’s College as the Title III Director. Akins spent 16 years teaching urban-related courses at the University of Texas at Austin and two years teaching graduate courses in public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Akins is currently serving his second term as president of the National Association of HBCUs Title III Administrators. As Executive Director of Title III Programs, Akins will have administrative and operational duties over the $14.1 million per year in Title III funding received by FAMU. After spending 36 years in Texas, Akins has high expectations of taking on a new position and living in new city. “I feel honored and thankful for the opportunity to work for such a great institution. I see great things in the horizon and great things happenings in the future. I am grateful for the opportunity to work and support the mission, vision and values of FAMU.” Akins earned his bachelor’s in music education from Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.) and his master’s in Urban Studies from Trinity University (San Antonio, TX). He earned his Ph.D. in Human Services from Capella University (Minneapolis, Minn.)
the execution of the strategies that we put in place. Our efficiency in doing things faster and better was important.” The directors used the assessment results to design a workstream to improve on all of the parameters. Then, they executed their plan. Two years later, the Board took the survey again, and their scores improved across the board. The Foundation Board is developing strategic plans that will allow directors to better leverage their knowledge and networks. “This board is committed to leaving it all on the yard,” said Gibson, quoting the University’s president, Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “We’re very
on improving the lives of families and children, especially those impacted by drugs and addiction. His oldest daughter, Iman Gibson, is a FAMU senior. “My father has always exceeded my expectations of success,” said Iman Gibson. “To be a part of his legacy at FAMU is very rewarding and it allows me to understand that the world is filled with limitless possibilities. I love my HBCU.” Gibson shares his life’s challenges and successes as a motivational speaker and in his memoir, Drugs: My Curse My Savior. The former U.S. Army officer is a life-long learner and attended the Harvard Business School Exec-
“This board is committed to leaving it all on the yard,” said Gibson, quoting the University’s president, Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “We’re very fortunate to have Dr. Robinson’s leadership, which will allow our Board to get into a steady rhythm of sourcing and stewarding donations.” fortunate to have Dr. Robinson’s leadership, which will allow our Board to get into a steady rhythm of sourcing and stewarding donations. I’ve also got a great collaborative partnership with Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud, vice president of University Advancement and dean of the School of Business and Industry. She has a very hardworking staff that supports our Board.” Friday-Stroud expressed her gratitude for Gibson and the unified team working toward a common goal. She said, “It is a pleasure to work with Chair Gibson as he continues to lead the FAMU Foundation Board to greater effectiveness, efficiency, and engagement; but I cannot do it by myself. I am so thankful for our awesome University Advancement team that works extremely hard to not only meet President Robinson’s fundraising goal, but that works equally as hard to support the work of Chair Gibson and the Foundation Board.” Gibson and his family have supported many organizations around the country that focus
utive Education on Governing Non-profits for Excellence. He has also earned a master’s degree in management leadership and will complete studies for his MBA in the spring. Gibson is excited to continue using his diverse educational and leadership experiences to support FAMU. The FAMU Foundation Board will meet with the Foundation’s staff and President Robinson in May to discuss how it will help the University meet fundraising goals. “We have more contacts and connections in the donor space and look forward to fulfilling our commitment to helping the University achieve its fundraising goals through a continuous collaboration. There are some exciting announcements that will be coming over the course of this year.” Although the pandemic disrupted the implementation of some of the Foundation’s strategies, Gibson said Foundation operations are stronger, and the Board is in a better position to help raise funds and steward the money.
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FAMU MOURNS THE LOSS of DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS
RETIRED LT. COL. ROBERT PORTER WHO REORGANIZED THE ALUMNI ORGANIZATION BY [ Andrew J. SKERRITT ]
Florida A&M University (FAMU) community is mourning the loss of retired Lt. Col. Robert Eugene Porter, a FAMU National Alumni Association (NAA) Distinguished Alumni Awardee, decorated combat veteran and educator. Porter died in Jacksonville on Aug. 27. He was 88. In 1981, while serving as the president of the FAMU – State of Florida Alumni Organization, he established the NAA structure that included scheduled formal meetings and formulated plans for organizational actions and activities. Around 1984, recognizing that a number of states outside Florida had gained a large number of FAMU graduates, Porter was appointed by NAA 11th President Joseph Webster, Sr. to chair the reorganization of the Association into regions. He served as NAA vice president from 1986 to 1988. From 1989 to 1995, Porter served as then NAA Southeastern Region vice president. From 1998 to 2003, he served as the NAA first vice president under the NAA presidents Bernard W. Kinsey and Carolyn Hepburn Collins.
In 2001, the Southeastern Region officially was divided into two regions where the State of Florida became its own region and the remainder of the states of the original Southeastern Region became the Southern Region. Porter was very instrumental in that effort. Porter was named a 1997 FAMU NAA Distinguished Alumni Awardee (Military) and was among the alumni honored during the University’s Quasquicentennial Celebration in 2012. He was one of the 125 Outstanding FAMUANs honored for their outstanding achievements, financial support, and service to the NAA. Carmen Cummings, assistant vice president of University Engagement/ Alumni Affairs, said Porter combined a disciplined, distinguished bearing with a warmth and generosity that was greatly appreciated by everyone who met him. “He was the kind of alumnus who planted seeds to his alma mater. He was also very nurturing and encouraging to students and young alumni,” Cummings said. “He truly believed in giving back. I am grateful to have benefitted from his well of wisdom. I learned so much from him in his work with the alumni association.” Under the leadership of 17th NAA President Tommy Mitchell, Porter served as the NAA Sergeant-At-Arms from 2010-2015. He also served under current NAA President Col. Gregory Clark in the same capacity until his declining health curtailed his service. During NAA annual conventions, Porter was a dignified presence as he watched over the general proceedings. “The FAMU National Alumni Association Family mourns the loss of former NAA Executive Board Member retired Lt. Col. Robert Porter,” Clark said. “He
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was a stabilizing force within the National Alumni Association for many. His leadership was exemplary and cannot be duplicated. He will truly be missed.” While at FAMU, the Chicago native was a leading member of the Marching ‘100,’ a member of the Upsilon Psi chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., which he joined in 1951, and the University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AROTC). After graduation, Porter entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant, serving from 1954-1975. During his military career, Porter was a commanding officer in the renowned 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. In addition, he saw combat during the Vietnam War, which earned him two Bronze Stars for his valor in service. Following active duty, Porter began work for the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) where he trained generations of future soldiers. His stellar leadership qualities were on display as the senior army instructor at the historically black William M. Raines High School from 1975 to 1998. In 2015, William M. Raines High School named the JROTC building, the Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Porter JROTC Hall in his honor. As a member of the Omega Psi Phil Fraternity, Inc., Porter served as the 10th State Representative of the Florida Statewide Organization and later became International “Omega Man of the Year.” In addition, Porter was the State of Florida’s Talent Hunt Chairman for more than a decade. He is survived by his wife, Josephine Fiveash Porter, a daughter, and three grandchildren.
THE FALLEN RATTLERS JULY 2020
Barbara Elaine Jackson Croskey
Barbara Elaine Jackson Croskey, an Ocala, Florida native, was born in 1937. A 1959 graduate, she was married to Valene Croskey, Jr. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music education; a certificate in elementary education from Bethune-Cookman University, and a master’s degree in reading from the University of Connecticut (Mansfield). She was a member of and soloist in the FAMU Concert Choir. Croskey later began her teaching career as a chorus director for high schoolers at Fessenden Academy in Marion County. She later worked as a reading specialist and music teacher at various elementary schools. Croskey was a member of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; a founding member and first president of the Brevard County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.; and, an active member of Mount Moriah AME Church based in Eufaula, AL. Croskey is survived by her daughter, Carol Leenette; and brother, Alonzo H. (Carmen) Jackson. OCTOBER 2020
Beulah Bruce Gregory
Beulah Bruce Gregory was born in Tallahassee, Fla. on January 9, 1930 to the late Efram Bruce and Flora Hinton Bruce. She was the first daughter of their six children. She was an alumna who was a dedicated member of the FAMU National Alumni Association, a member of the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame Committee, and a former school counselor at the FAMU Developmental Research School (DRS). A mentor to countless youth,
Gregory was employed for 30 years by the City of Tallahassee. She was also a life-long member of Flipper Chapel A.M.E. Church in Tallahassee. Later in life, one of the city’s recreation centers — the Gregory Lawrence Recreation Center — was named to honor her and another longtime city parks employee. Gregory is survived by a daughter, Gwendolyn Peters; one granddaughter, Jori Peters, (Fran); a son/nephew Johnny S. James (Debbie); her beloved sister, Coline Bruce James; and a sister-in-law, Gloria Bruce. JULY 2020
John M. Davis, Ph.D.
John M. Davis, Ph.D., a Jacksonville, Florida native, graduated from Stanton High School in 1958. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Edward Waters (Jacksonville), the master’s degree from Florida A&M and a doctorate from the University of Florida (Gainesville). Davis served as dean of students at Edward Waters and president of the FAMU chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists before retiring as an associate professor of counselor education. His was a member of the FAMU Alumni Association, the National Education Association, Toastmasters International, Jack and Jill of America, and the Omicron Zeta chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Davis was also a veteran, founder and president of Educational Services Institute; and a member of Bethel AME Church in Tallahassee, where he served as an usher. AUGUST 2020
Mary Carol Abner
Mary Carol Abner earned the bachelor’s and master’s in elemen-
tary education from Florida A& M in 1946 and 1948, respectively. She was a natural educator who was recognized as “a superb inspirational teacher” at Stevens Elementary School in Quincy, Concord Elementary in Miccosukee, and Bond Elementary School in Tallahassee, from which she retired after 30 years of service. Abner was a dedicated member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and a committed leader and member of Bethel AME Church (Tallahassee), where she lent a hand in any and every way possible for more than 70 years. She proudly displayed her love and affection for her alma mater, often visible from her reserved seats at FAMU football and basketball games, and her support for all university programs. She also worked diligently as a life member of the FAMU National Alumni Association and as a member of the Leon County Chapter of the alumni association. Abner is survived by daughter Hodgetta Huckaby and two granddaughters, Jamye Brown Pruden and Jamele Brown — all distinguished FAMU alumni. SEPTEMBER 2020
Robert Wilson Sr.
Robert Wilson Sr. was born in Tallahassee on June 23, 1974 to Geraldine Miller Robertson and James Lee Wilson. He was an outstanding wide receiver for FAMU, where he set single-season records for receptions (78), receiving yards (1,161), and receiving touchdowns (10). He earned All-American honors in 1996 and was a three-time All-MEAC selection from 1994-1996. Wilson played in the National Football League (NFL) for the Seattle Seahawks (1997-1999) and the
New Orleans Saints (2000-2001). Those who knew him well said he was energetic, fun to be around and had a laid-back presence. He loved his parents and extended family. He is survived by wife Tiffany Williams Wilson; daughters, Tamani and Arie Wilson; sons, Trevor, Robert Jr. and Raylen Wilson; parents, Geraldine Miller (Ulysses) Robertson and James Lee (Kim) Wilson; parents-in-law, Donald and Deborah Williams; brothers, Michael Farmer, Scottie and Tyrone Wilson; sisters, Melissa Ellis, Sheila Farmer, Tonya (Phillip) Branch, Jameka (Stanley Sr.) Wilson, Shauna (Lawrence) Parker and Stephanie Wilson. JULY 2020
Terrell Freeman Sr.
Terrell Freeman Sr. and Mattie Lee Climes were married for 58 years. The St. Petersburg, Florida native served in the United States Air Force after high school as an administrative specialist in intelligence flight. He completed tours in Italy and Japan during the Vietnam War. Freeman earned an undergraduate degree in Spanish and French, and a master’s in counseling; he served the FAMU community as a professor and counselor for 35 years. When he was not working, he
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spent his retirement fishing, hunting, and giving back to the community through “Urban Therapy.” Survivors include Mattie Freeman, his wife; children, Terrell Freeman II and Natalie Freeman; grandchildren, Cameron, K’Mani, Kamen, Terrell III, and Lionel Leonard III; great-grandchild, Aaliyah; goddaughters, Nadia Royal and Narla Zinermon; siblings, Charles Freeman, Thelma Carswell (Willie) and Samuel Williams. NOVEMBER 2020
Bridgette Jefferson was born in Tallahassee on January 27, 1962 to Patricia Ann Smith and Eddie L. Jefferson. She is a 1979 graduate of the Florida State University School (Florida High). She majored in business management at Florida A&M. Jefferson was a longtime member of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Charmettes, Inc. Jefferson, affectionately known as Bridge or BJ, was an exceptional cook with a sincere and sweet spirit of hospitality. Jefferson enjoyed planning and hosting Sunday dinners and holiday meals. Her survivors are brother Darryl R. Jefferson; nieces, Brooke Jefferson Walker, Rebekah Jefferson and Reagan Jefferson; sisters, Angela Pease Brown and Jerina Jackson; aunts, Orynthia Ellis, Myra Rice, Twanna Smith, Lois Carrington, Barbara Jefferson Rickett, and Florine Jefferson Howard; uncles, Thomas Jefferson, Willie Deas, Renwick Barber, and Collie Nelson; cousins, Dwan Von Seigel Kornegay, Thomas Hadley, Stacie (Cory) Fields, Monika Martin, Dano Deas, Shaunte` Deas, Kenneth Rice, Kamala Allen, and Kenneth Howard. SEPTEMBER 2020
Billie Dean was born in Clermont, Florida on April 10, 1931 to Ida and Arthur Dean and was the oldest of three children. Dean, who attended Jones High School (Orlando), traveled 26 miles each day to receive an education. After attend-
ing FAMU, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as a sergeant in the Korean Conflict. In 1954, he was a double recipient of Bronze Stars with Valor for Heroism. Later, back in the United States, Dean became Apopka’s second black City Commissioner in 1979; he served as a commissioner for 24 years and as vice mayor for the last two years. He also served as a Monitor for Orange County School’s desegregation plan. He was the recipient of the 2001 Florida A&M Distinguished Alumni Award. Dean had several career accomplishments including member of the Florida League of Cities, CARET Representative for Land Grant Colleges and Universities on behalf of Florida A&M, and 100 Black Men of America. Dean’s survivors include his wife, Isadore Moye Dean; children, Sabrina Dean Brockenbury, Kimberly Dean, Kitrina Dean Henderson, and Ryan Lewis Dean; grandchildren William Brockenbury, Justin Isom, Tyler Isom, Jacob Henderson; sister Amy Dean Jones; aunt, Taisy Parker; brother-in-law Isaac McCall; sisters-in-law, Ametta Moye, Daisy Saunders, Beth Dean, Juanita Johnson, and Corine McCall; devoted niece, Deanna Darlington; goddaughter, Jennifer Neal Mitchell, godsons, Michael Wilkerson, the Rev. Alexander H. Smith, Sean Bradford, and Pastor Timothy L. Ford. NOVEMBER 2020
Chauncey Holloman, a 1992 graduate of Tallahassee’s Godby High School, is an alum who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in applied social sciences with a concentration in public administration. He worked in the registrar’s office at Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman University and Edward Waters College. (both, respectively, in Jacksonville, Fla.). Hollaman was born in Fort Lauderdale on August 8, 1975 to Carol and Charles Holloman. Holloman gained notoriety throughout the Big Bend Area and beyond through-
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out his teenage and young adulthood as a singer in groups Deep ‘N Harmony and 4 Sure. In addition, he continued to perform as a solo artist, where he won many talent showcases. He is survived by his mother Carol; son Cameron; his son’s mother, Sharell Calvy-Holloman: sister, Carla: and brothers, Charles Holloman II and Cedrick Holloman. SEPTEMBER 2020
William Wilson, Jr.
William Wilson, better known as “Chicken Shack,” played on the 1961 undefeated FAMU Rattlers National Football Championship team. He served as a physical education teacher, driver education teacher, football coach and track and field coach at Gifford, Vero Beach and Sebastian River High Schools in Florida. Wilson’s honors include being a 14-time conference track-andfield coach of the year, the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) Outstanding Assistant Coach Award (1993), a FACA Lifetime Membership Award recipient and was inducted into the Florida A&M Sports Hall of Fame (1984), USA-Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame (1994) and FACA Hall of Fame (1995). Wilson was born in Tallahassee on March 8, 1939. He is survived by Kathryn, his wife; daughter, Yolanda; son, Billy (William III); granddaughter, Brandi, and grandsons, William IV and Wesley. DECEMBER 2020
Deacon Willie Bruce Simmons
Willie Bruce Simmons was born on August 31, 1929 in Tallahassee. He was a member of Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church for more than 50 years where he served as devoted member of the Deacon Board and a soloist in the church’s signature choirs. For decades, he was known throughout the community as “Deacon Simmons.” Simmons worked in the Office of University Housing at Florida A&M for many years until his retirement. He was an outdoorsman who
loved farming, hunting, and fishing. He also served as a high-school basketball official for many years and, for decades, loved to follow and support the FAMU Rattlers football and basketball teams. Simmons is survived by his wife of 67 years, Bernice Littleton Simmons; daughter, Gwendolyn Yvonne Norton; son, Renwick “Ricky” Darrell Simmons (Sherrie); a sister, Versie Mae Webster; one grandson, Nolan Jarell Norton; and two godchildren. DECEMBER 2020
Reuben Hepburn, a 1996 graduate, was born December 12, 1970 in Miami. He followed in the footsteps of his grandmother, mother, and uncle in education with the Pinellas County School District as a history teacher at Lakewood High School. He received a master’s in educational leadership at the University of South Florida (Tampa). Hepburn became an assistant principal at Northeast High School and at Gibbs High School. He later became principal at Dunedin High School and, in 2015, returned to Gibbs as its principal. Hepburn won the 2020 Pinellas County School District Principal of the Year honor. Hepburn was involved in the community and He was also ordained as a minister in 2008 and served in various capacities at St. John Primitive Baptist Church and Gateway Christian Center. He is survived by wife, Maribeth Hepburn; son, Joshua Townsend; daughter, Mariela Myrick; mother, Christina; and sisters, Rodrika Lacy, Regina Forbes and Renae Strozier.
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625 E. Tennessee Street, Suite 100 Tallahassee, FL 32308 Phone: (850) 412-5755 www.universityadvancment.edu