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President’s Inauguration Celebration Dinner reels in nearly $305,000 for scholarships

Renowned national gospel artist Marvin Sapp, left, belts out praises as he inspires the audience through his musical testimony. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Renowned national gospel artist Marvin Sapp, left, belts out praises as he inspires the audience through his musical testimony. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

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JSU’s Division of Institutional Advancement presented President William B. Bynum Jr. with a check that far exceeded expectations. The scholarship funds will help defray expenses for students. Bynum is pictured with inauguration committee members: Constance Lawson, co-chair, left; David Howard, co-chair; Veronica Cohen, chair; and Maxine Greenleaf, co-chair. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

JSU’s Division of Institutional Advancement presented President William B. Bynum Jr. with a check that far exceeded expectations. The scholarship funds will help defray expenses for students. Bynum is pictured with inauguration committee members: Constance Lawson, co-chair, left; David Howard, co-chair; Veronica Cohen, chair; Maxine Greenleaf, co-chair; and Carol Woodson, co-chair. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Jackson State University will provide nearly $305,000 in student scholarships thanks to donors who supported President William B. Bynum Jr.’s Inauguration Celebration Dinner that featured renowned gospel artist Marvin Sapp on Thursday night.

The event in the Jackson Convention Complex followed an investiture earlier in the day. That ceremony officially installed Bynum as JSU’s 11th president.

Bynum graciously accepted the check presented by inaugural chair Veronica Cohen, vice president of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs. The president also offered gratitude to dozens of donors, saying, “Because of your support we’re going to be able to change a lot of lives at Jackson State.”

Bynum illustrated the importance of their benevolence.

‘FOR most of our students, the difference between being enrolled and not enrolled is usually only about $500 to $1,000. … To a lot of our families that might as well be $10,000 or $15,000 because it’s that impossible,” said Bynum, who said he came from a family that struggled similarly.

The ballroom of the Downtown Convention Complex was transformed into a wonderland. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

The ballroom of the Downtown Convention Complex was transformed into a wonderland. The elegant evening for guests included a candlelight meal, soft lighting and soothing ambience. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

He reminded the audience that he was born and raised in the projects of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He and seven siblings were raised by a single mother.

Despite people’s tribulations, Bynum – a two-time president – suggested that the campus community “go back to the future.” He used the oxymoron to hammer his message about restoring JSU to its fundamental foundation as an institution “built on God Almighty.”

He reflected on the problems faced by students, and urged the campus to treat them right, put them first and “let them know that they don’t have to check God at the gate.”

Bynum added, “God is that important. He is the foundation, and he is the way that we’re going to achieve great things in life. So, I want to see this campus on fire for God Almighty,” whom he credits for making mankind “nicer” and “more respectable.”

President Bynum and first lady Deborah display their spiritual reverence for every blessing impacting JSU as well as their lives. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

President Bynum and first lady Deborah display their spiritual reverence for every blessing impacting JSU as well as their lives. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Furthermore, Bynum said, “It is our duty and responsibility to breathe life into students and make sure they achieve everything they desire and make sure they receive a return on their investment.”

ADDRESSING sponsors, he presented a litany of accomplishments by the university, which he described as “truly one of the treasures of higher education.” Among JSU’s attributes:

  • One of the largest and highest-ranked HBCUs in this country
  • Designated as Mississippi’s public urban research university
  • Carnegie classification as a higher-research institution, offering bachelor’s, master’s, specialist’s degrees and 14 doctoral degree programs
  • The No. 3 university in the country in bestowing doctoral degrees on African- Americans
  • A successful executive Ph.D. program that has produced six current sitting HBCU presidents
  • Honda Campus All-Star National Champions
  • Home to four NFL Hall of Famers: Lem Barney, Robert Brazile, Walter Payton and Jackie Slater
  • Home to the greatest band, the Sonic Boom of the South

Despite all these accomplishments and accolades, Bynum stressed that his biggest mission is to make sure that “every son and daughter at Jackson State is treated the way that I want my son and daughter to be treated.”

Inauguration co-chairs were Maxine Greenleaf, David Howard, Constance Lawson and Carol Woodson.

Sapp gives a stirring, soul-wrenching performance that captivated the audience.  (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Sapp gives a stirring, soul-wrenching performance that captivated the audience. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)