Jackson State University President William B. Bynum Jr. said during the 2017 Fall Faculty and Staff Seminar on Thursday that “it’s a new day” at JSU as he trumpeted his keynote theme “Living the Dream: Fulfilling Our Promise and Purpose.”
Speaking to nearly 1,000 colleagues in the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium, Bynum described himself as a servant leader who decries organizational silos, and he wants groups “working across divisional lines.” For an operation to thrive, he said it must engage in teamwork and practice collegiality.
“Today, and henceforth, I ask that we all understand why we’re here and why Jackson State University exists,” said Bynum, alluding to the students and vowing to be accessible, encouraging, empowering and student-oriented.
He touted the university’s promise in providing a quality education, calling it “the biggest game changer we have.”
For example, he said, those who possess a bachelor’s degree earn more than $1 million more during the course of their lifetime than those without one. He also noted that college graduates are more likely to be homeowners and investors. Bynum said they, too, become informed citizens who vote at a much higher rate than non-college graduates. He suggested that the voice of the ballot box is the key to our democracy.
Meanwhile, he urged faculty and staff to join him by making sure “we’re student-centered in all we do and that we significantly enhance our customer service. … We are Jackson State University, and we must fulfill our promise.” Otherwise, he said faculty and staff should ask themselves: “If not me, who? If not now, when? If not here, where?”
Bynum also urged university personnel to further educate themselves and recommit to “the academy of Jackson State University by being true to the earned degrees that we possess.” He told them that they must be truth-bearers with a duty to use scientific methods and avoid a rush to judgment. He also insisted that colleagues raise expectations and the level of discourse by “imparting knowledge and wisdom and adding to literature and research.”
Bynum quoted sage words of late poet Maya Angelou to cement his message about harmony and respect. Angelou, he said, once stated that “people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Waxing philosophical, he invited the crowd to join him in the pursuit of excellence by raising the bar academically and operationally. This time, however, he cited a noble expression of the late civil rights icon and minister Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who famously said, “Not failure but low aim is sin.”
So, Bynum reminded JSU faculty and staff that they must successfully fulfill the institution’s purpose to educate all students. He told them that Mays recognized that every man and woman is born into the world to do something “unique and distinctive because if he or she doesn’t do it, it will never be done.”
Since recently turning age 55, Bynum said he now has a sense of urgency that will drive his legacy, especially since – as he puts it – the life expectancy of a black male in the U.S. is just 71.8 years. That’s compared to roughly 76.4 years for white men.
Bynum said part of his legacy will include him and his wife, Deborah, establishing an endowed scholarship in his mother’s name. It will be called The Christine Bynum Smith Scholarship for Academic Excellence and Campus Ministry. He said the scholarship will assist an “academically performing student with an awesome campus ministry who brings that spirituality to the campus.”
Also, the couple will join the JSU Development Foundation’s Drum Majors for Academic Excellence Campaign. The goal of the development organization is to present a check totaling $250,000 to the university during homecoming.
The president said he is also building a legacy for his descendants: his 5-year granddaughter and the twins of his expecting eldest daughter.
Basking in the joy over the impending growth of his family, Bynum said he’s also ecstatic about his wife’s platform and planned outreach efforts as the first lady of JSU. Deborah Bynum, a longtime corporate manager for AT&T, will establish an initiative called the Clothing Closet. The collection of wardrobe will provide attire to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, allowing them to dress professionally at all times. Deborah Bynum also will champion a university-wide recycling program.
Overall, President Bynum said he sees a great future for JSU and is excited to lead the university “as long as God sees fit.” So, he’s urging faculty and staff to join him in a crusade to maintain the urban HBCU’s legacy.
“We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We owe it to them, our loved ones and to God Almighty to fulfill our promise and our purpose,” said Bynum, who rallied the crowd to repeat his oft-spoken mantra: “Together we can; together we will. Together we can; together we will.”