Fall Convocation officially launched an academic year that Livingstone College leaders hope will forge a way forward with progressive grace and reformist strides. With leadership transitions, and extensive health and safety measures shifting campus activity in modified forms, all who are familiar with the institution, recognizes the strength of Livingstone College lies within her history, values, and traditions. These traits and more, were introduced to the newest members of the Livingstone College family on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. in Bishop James Varick Auditorium during the college’s official opening ceremony.
Board of Trustee members, administrative staff, and faculty processed in academic regalia to Felix Mendelssohm’s “War March of Priests” tuned by campus organist Dr. Lawrence Quinnett. The Student Government Association officers, Senior Class, and members of the freshman class followed; as 12th President, Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., opened officially declaring Fall Convocation as a ritual as old and as sacred as the institution. In efforts of a goodbye, the president recognized this would be his final event as an active college president and stated, “May the work I’ve done, speak for me.”
The audience collectively sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift E’vry Voice,” following the scripture reading of 1 Peter 2:1-10 by Rev. Dr. Dwayne Walker, member of the Board of Trustees and pastor of Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bishop Hilliard Dogbe, Presiding Prelate of the Western West Africa Episcopal District rendered a prayer of grace and thanks for guiding strength and leadership. Directed by Pastor Christopher Gray, with solo artist Virginia Rush, the Livingstone College choir sang Donnie McClurkin’s “I Call You Faithful.”
Greetings were extended to the audience by Senior Bishop and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Kenneth Monroe, Faculty Assembly President, Rev. Dr. Johnnie P. Henderson, and Student Government Association President, Michael Gilyard. In absentia of Miss and Mr. Livingstone College, Miss Oak Denayih Coleman and Mr. Maple Darion Graham, offered greetings on behalf of the Royal Court of Livingstone College. Following greetings, Executive Assistant to the President, Dr. State Alexander recognized distinguished guests, and President Jenkins followed with the speaker’s introduction.
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III proclaimed to the Class of 2026, “You have nothing to lose. You are your ancestors wildest dreams, and the nation’s greatest hope and fear.” With great eloquence, undergirded with faith, and guided by historical research and analytical design, Moss illustrated inspiration and challenged students to take off the chains, celebrate, and “live up to who God calls you to be.” He continued, “This is a freedom institution . . . Black man was made by God’s grace . . . Black people have swagger and extra flavor . . . There would be no America without you, even though you are on stolen land . . . There’s power being a part of an HBCU.”
At the conclusion of the presentation by Moss, all in the atmosphere were inspired and lauded with a standing ovation and thunderous applause; and President Jenkins presented Moss with the President’s Award. The Livingstone College Choir followed Moss, and under the leadership of Teresa Moore-Mitchell, sang Jennie Wilson and Franklin Eiland’s “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” with freshman soloist, Kaiyon Courtney leading.
The Freshman Class engaged in a candlelight ceremony, pledging to include; wisdom, love, compassion, tenacity, truth, justice, art, beauty, character, equality, knowledge, faith, hope, and scholarship, as tenants of their thoughts and living practices as growing young men and women.
Incoming 13th President Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Davis, and current President Jenkins, recognized the achievements of alumnus Dr. James R. Gavin III, Board of Trustee member and President and CEO of Healing Our Village, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Gavin was nationally recognized for his work with Partnerships for A Healthier America (PHA) that expands twelve years of service with former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Gavin, a foremost expert in diabetes, led the leading non-profit organization impacting the overall health of over seven (7) million Americans. In an effort to acknowledge his achievements, PHA wanted to place a dedication bench at Emory University; however, Dr. Gavin insisted the bench be placed at Livingstone College. Dr. Gavin recognized his wife Dr. Annie Gavin of 57 years, who he met at Livingstone College. President Jenkins affirmed, “This is the type of leaders Livingstone College produces.”
Senior Bishop Kenneth Monroe continued to thank Dr. Jenkins for 16 outstanding years of leadership and acknowledging the president’s words, “I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking for a mission.” Monroe introduced the 13th President of Livingstone College, Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Davis who graced the stage with poem “Hold Fast to Dreams” by Langston Hughes. Davis too acknowledged President Jenkins stating, “Mission accomplished.” Davis continued stating he is happy to serve, honored he was selected, and humble to be in position. “To God be the glory for the people who pushed me and the prayed for me,” stated Davis. Davis continued extending thanks to his family present, his wife of 34 years, Jacqueline Davis and his children. Moreover, he expressed his eagerness to get started and engage in work that unites the community and church so all can be, “resilient, relevant, and ready.”
Bishop Kenneth Monroe shared President Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., will be formally recognized as President Emeritus and that Livingstone College was ready for “a quantum leap in the future as we make a transition.”
The ceremony concluded with The Alma Mater “O’ Livingstone” followed by the Benediction administered by Bishop Dennis V. Proctor, Presiding Prelate of the North Eastern Episcopal District; who prayed the students of the college would not wild out, but be the ancestors’ wildest dream. “Give them the anointing for the assignment,” he beseeched.
Participants recessed to Jeremiah Clarke’s “Trumpet Tune,” and gathered at Dodge Hall for the bench dedication in honor of Dr. James Gavin III. All present prayed for the new edifice whereas President Jenkins stated a statue of Gavin would soon be added to the bench. The recognition concluded with a $50,000 donation from CEO of Ottendorf Labs, Rev. Dr. Laticia Hill Godette, Presiding Elder of the Camden District New Jersey Conference in the North Eastern Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church.