Livingstone alumni celebrate homecoming
By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
SALISBURY — Saturday afternoon in Alumni Memorial Stadium, Livingstone College, alumni hugged, reminisced and enjoyed being back in Salisbury for Homecoming 2011, “The Experience.”
The football game between Livingstone College and Fayetteville State University was one of the last events of Homecoming 2011, which featured many activities, including a concert by national gospel recording artist Tye Tribbett, a bowling party, the coronation of Miss Livingstone College, a UNCF luncheon, an alumni convocation, a concert featuring R&B artists Lloyd and Teedra Moses and, of course, a homecoming parade.
Fraunsa Wooten Eley of Pasadena, Md., a 1976 Livingstone graduate, attended the game with her husband, Calvin, also a member of the class of ’76. The couple met during their freshman year at Livingstone when Calvin was a fullback on the Blue Bears squad. They sat with classmate Ruthie Lawson Bynum and her husband, Larry, of Haw River.
“It’s been exciting but bittersweet being back on campus,” Fraunsa Eley said. “You remember the closeness you had and how we were like family. But now you don’t get to see everyone everyday like you used to. And of course, some of our class members have passed.”
Even so, Eley was happy to be back on Livingstone’s campus for the first time in five years. She made a special effort to attend this year’s homecoming because it was her class’ 35th anniversary.
Eley, like other Livingstone alumni, expressed gratitude over the facelift that has taken place at the school, where President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. strives to “Take Livingstone College to the Next Level.”
She said the fence lining Monroe Street, the Blue Bear Plaza on the front lawn and renovations to Goler Residence Hall are welcomed additions. Her husband noted improvements to the football field and the Jumbotron on which patrons watched Saturday’s game.
Bynum said this year’s homecoming parade was one of the best she has seen.
“I enjoyed the variety of groups, the community involvement and the different marching bands,” she said. “There was also a group of students from a mentoring program, and it made me feel good to know the college is doing community outreach, particularly with young children.”
As Bynum spoke, Livingstone blocked a Broncos’ field goal attempt and returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown to go up 6-3, bringing Bynum and most of the crowd to their feet.
In between the first and second quarters, Jenkins and Interim Athletic Director Tim Orr stood on the sideline with 10 of the 13 members of the 2011 Athletic Hall of Fame class. “We’re so proud of our newest members of the Livingstone College Athletic Hall of Fame, and we were glad to give them a chance to be recognized at the game and show off their new blazers,” Orr said in an interview.
Livingstone lost the contest 17-7. Alumni would have loved to win, but the defeat put only a small damper on homecoming.
“It’s only returning to Livingstone when a graduate can more fully appreciate the full dimension of being part of such a wonderful college family,” said Constance Taylor Hudson, a member of the class of 1956. Her husband, Dr. Roy D. Hudson, graduated a year earlier in 1955 and served as interim president of Livingstone for two years in the mid-’90s.
“Homecoming is more than the football game,” Constance Hudson continued. “It greatly pleases us to see the physical plant improve and grow … and we appreciate Dr. Jenkins’ leadership, which has manifested itself campus-wide all the way down to the students.”
Since Oct. 16, the action on campus had been virtually nonstop. On Oct. 19, the coronation of Miss Livingstone College, Jakeniqua Manning, was held in Varick Auditorium. State W. Alexander III, executive assistant to the president and director of public relations, emceed it and the Oct. 20 Hall of Fame Banquet.
On Friday, an Alumni Convocation sponsored by members of the Class of 1961 featured a keynote address by the Rev. William E. Simmons, a class member and president of the Livingstone College National Alumni Association.
“I believe when all is gone, but God, God is still enough,” Simmons said. “To those of us who have come through turmoil, struggles, difficulties and hardships, my Bible says if you hang on, you’ll be okay. The class of ’61 is gold because of the struggles.”
Simmons said he arrived at Livingstone College after standing on a Greyhound bus over a hot engine for hours, “even though there were empty seats up front.” He had $125 he’d been given from his father.
“This is all I have to give you,” Simmons quoted his dad. “The hopes of this community are riding with you.”
Simmons’ speech was peppered with laughter and applause. Afterward, many alumni attended a tree-planting ceremony in memory of deceased Livingstonians and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Athletic Hall of Fame Wall.
One of the most popular homecoming events was the Friday night “Old School New School Homecoming Step Show Showdown: The Sequel.” Delta Sigma Theta sorority and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity won the step show contest.
On Saturday, Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins served as grand marshal for the homecoming parade, which featured about 30 children from the mentoring and afterschool program of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Salisbury Inc.
“We wanted to be in the parade to give the children a college experience so they know this is available to them,” said Executive Director Esther Atkins. “If you get kids acclimated to college from an early age the likelihood of them actually going to college is greater.”
Atkins gave special thanks to Patty Petteway, the program’s mentoring coordinator, and Livingstone’s Student Government Association “for partnering with us and making this happen.”
Zahria Bickley, 9, a fourth-grader at E. Hanford Dole Elementary School, said participating in the parade felt good.
“I liked when we stepped and when we got judged,” she said. “It was fun being on Livingstone’s campus and seeing some of the homecoming queen court members.”
Joshua Howell, 18, a North Rowan High School senior, choreographed the routine performed by Zahria and the others.
“It was exciting seeing all the kids enjoying themselves and being able to do what they wanted to do,” Howell said. “We know we made some mistakes, but people were still screaming and hollering and clapping throughout our whole routine.”
The award for best marching band went to Morris Brown College of Atlanta. Best overall parade entry was snagged by the High Point Andrews Marching Band. Essence Dance Group of Winston-Salem and African Pearls of Salisbury tied for best dance/step/drill team, said parade chairman Kevin Reese.
Jenkins said Homecoming 2011 was a success.
“It’s always great when Livingstone College alumni return to campus to reminisce, get re-acquainted and walk among the Maples and the Oaks,” Jenkins said. “I’m very grateful for the support Livingstone alumni give this institution, and I trust that support will continue as we ensure our students defy the odds, persist to graduation and leave here ready to take their rightful place in today’s global society.”