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Wiley celebrates 144th convocation

By Robin Y. Richardson
March 18, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Wiley College's Miss Senior, April Parker, sings as the featured soloist as the The A Cappella Choir of Wiley College performs the melody, "Sweet Home," at Friday's annual Founders Observance Convocation.

A sea of purple and white filled the Julius S. Scott Sr. Chapel, Friday, as Wiley College celebrated its 144th Founders Observance Convocation, joined by a host of alumni, students, faculty and friends.

"These doors have been open for 144 continuous years, serving individuals and enhancing the lives of this community and those that it has touched," Charles A. Taylor, a 1967 graduate and master of ceremonies for the occasion, said as he reflected on God's faithfulness.

Taylor said when he came to Wiley in 1962, there were turbulent times in America, in the South and in the city of Marshall.

"Water hoses and dogs were used on Wiley students. Lunch counter sit-ins and stand-ins were held in downtown Marshall, Texas," said Taylor. "Civil disobedience was the hope for equality.

"Wiley College that has been here for 144 years offered the hope, the spirit, the energy and the vision for a better tomorrow," he said. "Not just for the Wiley community and the Marshall community, but also for America."

Taylor said the spirit of Wiley College has, for the past 144 years, empowered and equipped many individuals.

"The contributions to society of her (Wiley's) sons and daughters are too numerous to count," he said.

Wiley College President Dr. Haywood L. Strickland acknowledged all, including former Wiley College president Dr. Julius S. Scott Jr., his mentor. Strickland especially thanked the college's board of trustees for their guidance.

"These are the folks who help us understand what Wiley is and what Wiley can be and help us continue on our path as we strive to make Wiley a great institution," he said.

Strickland noted that as a result of the board's leadership, the school raised approximately $150,000 at its fundraising event, hosted Thursday night at the home of Wiley trustee Patsy Ponder and Gene Ponder.

During the Gene Ponder Garage Mahal Fundraiser guests were given a tour of one of the most renowned car collections in the US, following a catered dinner.

Taylor said for a half of a century, Wiley College has instilled in him a thirst for knowledge and service to mankind.

"I am proud of the character and the virtue she (Wiley) has created in me," the master of ceremonies said.

Taylor said there is something special about coming back to the campus. Nolan Anderson Jr., president of the National Wiley College Alumni Association and member of the class of 1969, concurred.

"It's always good to come back home to Marshall, Texas and particularly at Wiley College, our dear alma mater," Anderson said, welcoming all, particularly the special "golden class" of 1967.

Golden class reflections

Giving reflections on behalf of the special honoree class of 1967, alumna Theresa Frazier Hudson reminisced on her tenure at the college, filled with good times, good memories and an inspirational journey.

"I stepped on this campus as a result of my grandmother who was educated by the Presbyterians and was insisting on me attending a church-related school that had similar values as the Presbyterians," said Hudson, noting her English teacher also influenced her choice, as well as the college's then-president, Dr. T. Winston Cole, who was her high school commencement speaker. "All of that, combined with a scholarship and financial aid, I had no other choice but to come to this great, historical institution."

Hudson recalled the dozens of buildings, including the Carnegie Library, which now houses the administrative office.

"Because I was from a small town, Valliant, Oklahoma, this was amazing to me," she said.

Hudson also recalled the Wildcat Inn that was later torn down as well as the old gymnasium, an old airplane hangar, where she would go to hear the Wiley Collegians jazz band.

"That was a favorite time for me," said Hudson. "And now we have the Strickland Life Learning Center that stands in its place; and, that's a good thing.

"Those were the days that I remember," she said.

Hudson noted that the administrative staff was diverse then as it is today, boasting a multiracial makeup.

"It's even more inclusive today," she said.

The alumna observed how enrollment has increased from about 500 students 52 years ago to an enrollment of more than 1,300 students with varied ethnicities, nationalities and religious backgrounds.

"Now how awesome that is for a college - 144 years old," Hudson said. "That's a good thing."

She reminisced on the etiquette classes, early curfews, social gatherings, Sunday evening vesper services, and high standards teachers set for their classrooms.

"There was a standard of attitude not expected, but demanded in the classrooms," she said.

Hudson said there's so much more she could reflect upon, but the most important reflections that have made an indelible mark upon their lives are the lifelong lessons they learned as a result of having attended Wiley College.

"Those lessons came as a result of our focus intent to finish a course that has been laid out for us by the dedicated faculty," she said.

"Fifty years is more than just memories," Hudson said. "It is the past in which we have been a vital part of. A past that reflects the history of an institution that stands today more vibrant, educationally equipped, technologically advanced, world renowned and more beautiful than ever. A past that embraces doctors, lawyers, scientists, politicians, musicians, educators, etcetera, that have put Wiley College on the map as never before in this present time."

Future

As Taylor, the master of ceremonies, welcomed all back "home," he urged them to continue to return and support their beloved institution.

"Founders Observance is a time when we pause to pay homage to our forefathers who, in 1873, dreamed there could be a Wiley College," said Taylor. "144 years later, this institution is still carrying out the educational mission for which it was founded. I am sure that you will join me and all Wileyites all over the nation when I say that we are committed to ensuring this institution will continue to survive."

Erica Hall, a Wiley College student and the reigning Miss National United Negro College Fund, thanked all alumni for their presence.

"I stand here today proud to be a student of Wiley College. "Because of your dedication, commitment and unrelenting (support), we know what excellence is," Hall said. "I have no doubt that our Wiley College will continue to stand and become better each year."

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