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New Student Convocation includes moment of silence in loss of football player, inspiration

With a football placed on an empty chair, a moment of silence is observed during New Student Convocation as students pay respect to incoming JSU football player Leroy Hawkins, 17, who died tragically in early June in Dallas. He was a Top 300 offensive lineman and, reportedly, was 34th in Texas. (Photo by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

With a football placed on an empty chair, a moment of silence is observed during New Student Convocation as students pay respect to incoming JSU football player Leroy Hawkins, 17, who died tragically in early June in Dallas. He was a Top 300 offensive lineman and, reportedly, was 34th in Texas. (Photo by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

LEFT:  JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. is escorted into the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center by SGA President Jordan Jefferson.RIGHT: Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Susan Powell, left, along with Miss JSU Naysa Lynch, lead a processional of faculty and staff into the arena. (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

LEFT: JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. is escorted into the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center by SGA President Jordan Jefferson.
RIGHT: Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Susan Powell, left, along with Miss JSU Naysa Lynch, lead a processional of faculty and staff into the arena. (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

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More than 700 incoming freshmen and transfer students converged onto the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center on Sunday as part of their official welcoming to Jackson State University. They also remembered an incoming football player whose life was cut short tragically.

Inside, they were greeted by faculty and administrators donning regalia as well as parents, guardians, JSU staffers and other guests. Meanwhile, the student leadership acknowledged the loss of football recruit Leroy Hawkins, 17, who died in early June in Dallas. He was a Top 300 offensive lineman and, reportedly, was 34thin Texas.

As the keynote speaker, JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. delivered a resounding address in which he urged the young, ambitious newcomers to speak into existence those things that they desire, so they can become successful.

“You are exactly where you need to be at this particular time in life,” said Bynum, congratulating the new freshmen and transfer students for taking another step toward their academic and professional goals.

LEFT: Bynum discusses family, faith and future with freshmen and transfer students. Because of the importance of education, he admonished the career-seekers to choose their friends carefully over the next few weeks.RIGHT: Bynum greeted each of the more than 700 newcomers as they begin the next chapter of their lives as JSU Tigers. (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

LEFT: Bynum discusses faith, family and future with freshmen and transfer students. Because of the importance of education, he admonished the career-seekers to choose their friends carefully over the next few weeks.
RIGHT: Bynum greeted each of the more than 700 newcomers as they begin the next chapter of their lives as JSU Tigers. (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

JSU’s Vice President and Chief of Staff Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson urged students to remain focused on why they’re at the urban institution.

“You’re here to get an education, finish your degree and graduate, she said. “Don’t be a follower; be a leader. Don’t make popular decisions; make prosperous decisions.”

Meanwhile, during his keynote address, Bynum discussed the importance of faith, family and future and how they factor into life. Because of his strong faith, he made it crystal clear to the audience that he’s “God-loving, God-fearing, blessed and highly favored” as the 11th president of JSU.

His discussed his early years of growing up in the projects of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. There, he was raised by his mother in a single-parent household with eight children – five girls and three boys – after his parents separated when he was in kindergarten. Despite the hardships, he shared how he was still blessed to become a two-time university president. That remark was followed by a thunderous applause.

Today, Bynum continues his public shouts of joy as he trumpets the support he had received from his “praying grandmother and Holy Ghost-filled, fire-baptized mother.” He said each of them played a fundamental role in his success. And, as the newcomers prepare to start a new chapter of their lives at JSU, Bynum strongly urged them to pay homage to their own parents and other family members who helped them make it this far.

LEFT: Mister JSU Grant Broadway, left, a biology pre-pharmacy major: “College is a crazy and beautiful thing. Most importantly, it’s a journey to not only find yourself but to find your calling.” … We are kings and queens.”MIDDLE: Miss JSU Naysa Lynch, a business marketing major: “If you delight yourself in the Lord, he will give you all the desires of your heart. … You don’t always have to know how to get the end, but getting to the end just has to be the goal.”RIGHT: SGA President Jordan Jefferson, a political science major: “As long as you are alive and well, you have a chance to be all you can be. … You’ll need an attitude adjustment. … Nothing comes to a sleep but a dream.” (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

LEFT: Mister JSU Grant Broadway, left, a biology pre-pharmacy major: “College is a crazy and beautiful thing. Most importantly, it’s a journey to not only find yourself but to find your calling.” … We are kings and queens.”
MIDDLE: Miss JSU Naysa Lynch, a business marketing major: “If you delight yourself in the Lord, he will give you all the desires of your heart. … You don’t always have to know how to get the end, but getting to the end just has to be the goal.”
RIGHT: SGA President Jordan Jefferson, a political science major: “As long as you are alive and well, you have a chance to be all you can be. … You’ll need an attitude adjustment. … Nothing comes to a sleep but a dream.” (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

Beyond faith and family, he reminded them of what the future holds.

“Technology is changing very fast,” he said. He told the students that their success is contingent on an education that goes beyond a high school diploma and associate’s degree. “Because of the scarcity of jobs, you need a higher education to compete.” He noted that those with a college degree earn on average about $1 million in their lifetime versus those without one. As well, he said research shows these graduates are more likely to vote and participate in other activities that benefit their lives and careers.

Because of the importance of education, he admonished the career-seekers to choose their friends carefully over the next few weeks. “Some people didn’t come here to go to college; some came to prolong high school; some people came just to get away from situations,” he warned. “High school is about being around cool kids; college is about being around smart kids. You got to choose carefully who you hang around.”

Bynum urged students to take a litmus test to determine who should be their friends.

If friends say “you’re not smart enough” for a particular career or try to discourage you from attending chapel service, that’s not a friend, Bynum said. “You need people who will breathe life into you.” Bynum said it worked for him.

LEFT: Jaylan Curry is a freshman from Olive Branch studying sports management: “This will be a great opportunity for a lot of us freshmen coming into a new environment. This is a great opportunity to get to know our president and what he stands for. Hopefully we’ll be like him one day.” Curry thanked his parents for their sacrifices and said he’s looking forward to the fall semester. … Yukevion Black, right, is also a freshman from Olive Branch. He aims to become a physical therapist: “I want to be as great as I can be and do the best I can in everything I do,” he said. Black gives credit to his mother and father for helping him start a new journey at JSU. MIDDLE: After their official welcoming, freshmen and transfer students celebrate with a pinning ceremony by affixing the JSU logo above near the heart. RIGHT: Dr. Candis Pizzetta, interim chair of the Department of English, Foreign Languages and Speech Communications, was among faculty members participating in Convocation. (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

LEFT: Jaylan Curry greets his friend Yukevion Black, right. They both are freshmen from Olive Branch. Curry, who is studying sports management, said, “This will be a great opportunity for a lot of us freshmen coming into a new environment. This is a great opportunity to get to know our president and what he stands for. Hopefully, we’ll be like him one day.” Curry thanked his parents for their sacrifices and said he’s looking forward to the fall semester. Black aims to become a physical therapist. He said, “I want to be as great as I can be and do the best I can in everything I do,” he said. Black gives credit to his mother and father for helping him start a new journey at JSU.
MIDDLE: After their official welcoming, freshmen and transfer students celebrate during a climatic pinning ceremony by affixing the JSU logo near the heart.
RIGHT: Dr. Candis Pizzetta, interim chair of the Department of English, Foreign Languages and Speech Communications, was among faculty members participating in Convocation. (Photos by Darek Ashley/Special to JSU)

“Before I finished graduate school, my friends had already started calling me Dr. Bynum. And, when I told them I wanted to become a university president they started calling me Mr. President.”

Later, Bynum asked parents and guardians to stand and identify which category they fall under: Type 1 or Type 2 Parents.

Type 1 Parents, he said, are those who celebrate becoming empty-nesters . They joyously leave their offspring behind on campus while contemplating how they can rearrange or redecorate the now-empty bedroom.

Meanwhile, Type 2 Parents, he said, linger on campus to make sure their adult child has all the necessary items to start the semester. Even after these parents have been forced off campus by security and driving on the freeway to their destination, they call their “baby” on the cell phone at least one more time to be sure everything is OK.

Interestingly, Bynum observed that the larger of the two groups were Type 1 Parents.

“The bottom line is that you’re at a great university,” he told the audience. “We will work as a team and be collegial toward one another.”