Newly established PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative to help cultivate entrepreneurship resources and opportunities for students at five universities through grant funding

RALEIGH, N.C. – The PNC Foundation is awarding more than $2 million to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in North Carolina to establish the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative, an effort that aims to enrich the future of entrepreneurship and create workforce opportunities in the state.

The grants will be distributed over a three-year period to help fund the development and delivery of entrepreneurship resources and programming for students at Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Central University and Winston-Salem State University – institutions that play an integral role in cultivating Black business leaders and fostering wealth creation in Black communities.

“At PNC, we recognize how important HBCUs are to our state’s success,” said Weston Andress, PNC regional president for Western Carolinas. “HBCU graduates contribute significantly to be talent pipeline that is fueling North Carolina’s economy, and these institutions are foundational to shaping the workforce North Carolina needs to remain competitive in business.”

With an emphasis on entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative will enable grantee institutions to enhance their respective entrepreneurship curricula and offerings – from the introduction of new programs, to capacity-building opportunities, to technology enhancements. Additionally, students from all five schools will have the opportunity to participate in the PNC Pitch Competition, an annual forum where student-entrepreneurs can showcase innovative ideas and demonstrate their marketing skills.

“PNC shares with these institutions a vision for advancing inclusive entrepreneurship education and opportunities,” said Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Eastern Carolinas. “This initiative is the latest example of our ongoing support for North Carolina HBCUs, which over the years has included grant funding, mentorship programs and financial literacy education. We look forward to joining student-entrepreneurs and their campus communities on this meaningful , three year journey.”

The grant recipients will use the funding as follows:

  • Elizabeth City State University: The university will broaden the scope of its current business program portfolio to expand the Entrepreneur Lab, which offers resources and development opportunities for students interested in launching and marketing a business. Additionally, the funding will establish the PNC Entrepreneurship Fellow Program and support Viking Shark Entrepreneurship Week, which provides the opportunity for teams for North Carolina HBCUs to practice pitching their business ideas in front of judges.
  • Fayetteville State University: Funding will support the buildout of the Fayetteville State University Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab), an action learning opportunity designed to help students accelerate new ideas and product development. Student entrepreneur teams creating or growing their own ventures may compete for E-Lab funding to help fuel their projects. Additionally, the E-Lab will offer business and economic development support for community members and fosters self-employment opportunities.
  • Johnson C. Smith University: The university will launch the PNC Entrepreneurship Hub, which will provide selected student-entrepreneurs- PNC Fellows – with space that is conducive to developing and launching new businesses. In addition to incubator space, the hub will equip PNC Fellows with access to technology, seed funding and mentorship to help them launch new businesses to take existing businesses to the next level.
  • North Carolina Central University: Grant funding will help establish the North Carolina Central University Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED), a university-based program that will provide CEED Student Fellows with entrepreneurial and community economic development education and comprehensive small business finance training, with the encouragement to become community development investors.
  • Winston-Salem State University: The grant will fund the development of the PNC Entrepreneurial Fellows Program, which will help selected students fellows learn critical aspects of new venture creation by participating in nationally certified programs, workshops, research and one-on-one mentoring with successful North Carolina entrepreneurs.

“While entrepreneurship is the central focus of the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative, each grantee is approaching the scope of their projects differently to meet the needs and opportunities unique to each institution,” said Lori Jones Gibbs, PNC Community Development Banking market manager for the Carolinas. “This initiative underscores the many creative ways entrepreneurship is coming to life for North Carolina students.”

These grants align with PNC’s support for HBCUs throughout the country and complement the ongoing development of the Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship. Additionally, this funding is part of PNC’s nationwide $88 billion Community Benefits Plan, which is inclusive of a previously announced commitment of more than $1 billion to support the economic empowerment of Black and low- and moderate-income communities.

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Dr. Ivory A. Toldson

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and author Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D. has been recognized among the nation’s top scholars in education in the 2022 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. The annual list ranks the top 200 scholars based on their influence on academic scholarship and public debate as reflected in old and new media.

The ranking is meant to recognize and encourage scholars who successfully merge education scholarship with policy and practice. A scholar and advocate for education, Toldson’s ranking is emblematic of his longstanding efforts to do just that. The author of numerous publications, Toldson’s 2019 book, “No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People,” explores how the common data used to make decisions about Black students is misinformed and offers alternative ways to approach the use of data in pursuit of educational equity.

“Today, I’m working with school districts to help them understand data and how data can be used in responsible ways to understand issues of racial injustice and equity in their schools,” said Toldson. “I’m also doing a lot in STEM education, working with HBCUs in particular to make sure that funding for STEM education and research is equitable.”

For five years, Toldson was president of Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network, a nonprofit dedicated to improving education from underrepresented students. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education and the executive editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Research, published by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. Most recently, he was tapped as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Toldson described his work with the NAACP as “the embodiment of scholar-activisim is national in scope with hyper-local footprint.” To combat the greatest challenges in our education system, Toldson will oversee national strategies to leverage the power of NAACP’s 2,200 local branches and 2.2 million constituents to empower Black learners.

The Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings is in its 12th year of publication and is created by American Enterprise Institute director of education policy studies and Education Week blogger Frederick M. Hess. The ranking metrics are formulated using nine publicly available sources, including Google Scholar, Amazon, Twitter, books, syllabi, press mentions, web mentions, newspaper mentions, and congressional record mentions.

Read more about the 2022 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings here.

About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information, visit www.howard.edu.

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Dr. Cynthia Warrick, president of Stillman College, signs a MOU with Southern Illinois University’s School of Law as Dr. Mark McCormick, Stillman College provost, looks on. (Photo credit: David Miller/Stillman College)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Stillman College and Southern Illinois University Carbondale have signed a memorandum of understanding to help students from the historically Black liberal arts college enroll and earn a degree from the SIU School of Law, with the aim of diversifying the legal profession.

Increasing diversity among attorneys: SIU Carbondale and Stillman College officials sign an agreement to help Stillman students enroll and earn degrees from the SIU School of Law. Participating in the ceremony from SIU were (at table from left): Wendell Williams, associate chancellor of enrollment management; Camille Davidson, dean, SIU School of Law; Chancellor Austin Lane, and Meera Komarraji, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. On the screen are Stillman College President Cynthia Warrick, Stillman alumna and attorney Shalyn McKitt, and Lizette Chevalier, SIU associate provost for academic programs. (Photo credit: Russell Bailey/SIU)

Parties from both Stillman College and SIU School of Law formalized their agreement Wednesday. Stillman is the first HBCU to establish a student pipeline program with SIU School of Law.

“This program will allow selected students to participate in a summer pre-law program to expose them to the rigor and policies of law school admissions,” said Dr. Cynthia Warrick, Stillman College President.

“We are also looking to advance similar programs in pre-health professions for students in Stillman’s Biomedical Academy with SIU. Collaborative efforts like this will ensure Stillman students are competitive for entry and success in law school and other professional programs. We are grateful to SIU for creating this opportunity.”

Under the agreement, SIU and Stillman College, SIU and Stillman College, a 761-student institution in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will engage in collaborative academic activities with the SIU School of Law that promote a path for Stillman College students to enroll in the law school and earn their law degree. The MOU also includes other options for students considering how they can continue their education after earning their bachelor’s degrees.

Camille Davidson, dean of SIU’s School of Law, noted that about two-thirds of minority applicants who apply to the law school are not accepted primarily due to low Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. In October 2021, there were 246 students in the law school, of which 17, or 7%, were Black. The law school had 41 minority students, including women, last fall.

“We are committed to being an anti-racist and inclusive law school,” said Davidson. “The only way to have real access to justice is to train attorneys from various backgrounds. Students from underrepresented populations are often not exposed to the study of law, and many who are interested are not prepared for the application and admissions process. Building partnerships with HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, like Stillman, will help SIU School of Law become more diverse.”

SUMMER PROGRAM ALSO PLANNED

A summer program will bring 15 college students from across the country to SIU’s campus, May 25-29, to explore legal careers, understand the law school application process and begin to prepare for the LSAT while honing skills necessary for law school, such as understanding how to read and analyze a case, Davidson said.

“We will answer ‘Why law school?” We want to provide these students with the resources to be successful in applying to and graduating from law school,” Davidson said. “Like SIU, Stillman is located in a rural area and many of the students are first-generation college students.”

About Stillman College
Stillman College is a liberal arts institution with a historical and formal affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is committed to fostering academic excellence, to providing opportunities for diverse populations, and to maintaining a strong tradition of preparing students for leadership and service by fostering experiential learning and community engagement designed to equip and empower Stillman’s students and its constituents. For more information, visit www.stillman.edu.

About Southern Illinois University Carbondale
SIU embraces a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, innovation in research and creativity, and outstanding teaching focused on nurturing student success. As a nationally ranked public research university and regional economic catalyst, we create and exchange knowledge to shape future leaders, improve our communities, and transform lives. For more information, visit www.siu.edu.

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Romanian university, UMES enter into academic, culture exchange agreement

A small, private university in eastern Romania and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore have signed an agreement to explore academic and cultural exchanges between the two institutions. Pictured: Dr. William B. Harvey and Dr. Heidi M. Anderson.

Danubius University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore have signed a partnership agreement to explore academic and cultural exchanges between the two institutions.

Prof. univ. Dr. William B. Harvey, Rector of Danubius University visited UMES campus for the signing ceremony of the agreement with UMES President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson and representatives of the university’s leadership.

Professor Harvey said that “the partnership with UMES brings to the fore the growing concern of Danubius University to expand its educational and cultural collaborations around the world for the benefit of Danubian students and faculty.”

“One of the main goals of UMES is to have graduates who are culturally and internationally aware, so our partnership with Danubius University is a step in that direction. When you talk about learning about different cultures, not in your own country, but in other countries, this broadens your horizons. Such an opportunity also trains tomorrow’s leaders from both universities,” said Dr. Heidi M. Anderson, President of UMES.

The agreement signed between the two higher education institutions outlines an appropriate framework for establishing exchange programs for students and graduates, as well as for faculty and for collaboration in the field of scientific research which is a priority for Danubius University.

Dr. Moses Kario, dean of UMES’ School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, represented UMES in Mid-September on a fact-finding trip to Galati, where he attended an international conference on the impact of COVID-19 as well as met with a leading agriculture science official.

Danubius University is located in Galati, a city about 286,000 on the Danube River. The university has roughly 3,000 students, and offers several bachelor’s degrees and master’s programs.

Harvey was named Danubius’s chief executive officer – or “rector,” in European higher education job terminology – in January and maintains an office in Washington, D.C. He has taught or served as an administrator at such institutions as the University of Virginia, Stoney Brook (N.Y.) University, North Carolina State and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He has emerged as a leading voice who has pushed the higher education sector to focus on cultural and social factors affecting underserved populations.

Among the possibilities UMES and Danubius will explore are joint degree programs, ways to collaborate on best practices in teaching, assessment and institutional management and sharing technology expertise.

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Mahood Hall, home of the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business at Bluefield State College. Photo courtesy of HCF’s Media Team.

BLUEFIELD, W.Va.Bluefield State College is celebrating another “first,” with the decision by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) to approve the College’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

“Today’s decision by the Commission empowers Bluefield State College to launch the first graduate degree program in the College’s 126-year history,” said BSC President Robin Capehart. “By offering a graduate program, Bluefield State can now begin the process for pursuing university status.”

The College’s MBA program is designed for both business and non-business majors, and will be offered in an accelerated format with courses offered primarily through online delivery. Students can complete the 36-credit hour program in as little as 12 months.

“Building on Bluefield State College’s fully accredited undergraduate programs in the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business, we are excited to expand into graduate education by offering a Master of Business Administration this spring to meet the educational needs of this region,” said Dr. Ted Lewis, BSC Provost. “By offering this program in a hybrid format, students will gain valuable seat time and opportunities for in-person interaction, engagement, and experiential learning as well as the ability to meet face to face with business leaders.”

The MBA program offered through BSC’s W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business will establish affordable and accessible graduate business education for residents of the region and beyond. Southern West Virginia employers surveyed by the Cole School of Business expressed strong support for the program. They saw the BSC MBA as a valuable way to help current employees strengthen their skills and business acumen, and facilitate the recruitment of new employees seeking to further their education while continuing to work.

“Bluefield State College is gratified and excited to announce we will be offering the MBA program through the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business,” said Karen Grogan, the School’s Interim Dean. “The Master of Business Administration program will be offered, beginning in the Spring 2022 semester.”

The intent of the Cole School of Business is to seek program-specific accreditation of the MBA program at the earliest possible time. The undergraduate business program at BSC is already nationally accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

About Bluefield State College
Bluefield State College, a historically black institution, is to prepare students for diverse professions, informed citizenship, community involvement, and public service in an ever-changing global society by providing an affordable, accessible opportunity for public higher education through certificate, associate, bachelor, and master degree programs. For more information, visit www.bluefieldstate.edu.

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ITTA BENA, MSMississippi Valley State University‘s (MVSU) President, Dr. Jerryl Briggs, Sr., has announced that MVSU has received the university’s largest single private gift in school history.

An anonymous donor has made a gift of $2.5 million to support the university’s Finish Line initiative, a scholarship program that assists students in their matriculation to graduation. The gift is the donor’s second to the university this year; the first gift was $250,000.

Mississippi Valley State University President, Dr. Jerryl Briggs.

“Words cannot fully describe how excited and appreciative we are at MVSU,” said Dr. Briggs. “This transformational gift will allow us to continue our commitment to ‘students first’ in pursuing academic achievements. Great things are happening at MVSU. This gift ensures that Valley stays in motion and further allows the university to remain committed to its motto, ‘live for service.’ In addition, this gift will enable students who need financial help, realize their fullest potential and continue their enrollment at the university.”

After receiving the first gift, the university created the Prosperity Scholarship to record the distribution of the funds. All funds from the second gift will be distributed similarly, with the sole purpose and use of fund being to support student scholarships.

The Finish Line Initiative will additionally be used to allow those students who did not receive any scholarship funding at the start of their enrollment at the university but are now excelling academically and actively involved in community activism to receive scholarship support.

“This expansion of the Prosperity Scholarship is for continuing students who have distinguished themselves through outstanding leadership qualities and academic excellence. The primary focus of the award is leadership, which may be demonstrated through traditional school activities, work responsibilities, community activism and involvement, and family commitments,” Briggs continued.

About MVSU
Mississippi Valley State University, as a Carnegie Classified Master’s University, provides comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs in education, the arts and sciences, and professional studies. The University is driven by its commitment to excellence in teaching, learning, service, and research —- a commitment resulting in a learner-centered environment that prepares critical thinkers, exceptional communicators, and service-oriented, engaged, and productive citizens. MVSU is fundamentally committed to positively impacting the quality of life and creating extraordinary educational opportunities for the Mississippi Delta and beyond. For more information, visit www.mvsu.edu.

Fred T. Long Student Union on Wiley College’s campus. Photo courtesy of HCF’s Media Team.

MARSHALL, TX – The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) has notified Wiley College of its probation sanctions being removed.

Wiley College launched and achieved a strategic set of actions that led to increased fundraising and effective finance practices. As a result, SACSCOC found that Wiley College has met the criteria for accreditation and has significantly strengthened the college’s fiscal health.

By demonstrating its fiscal responsibility and stewardship, the college learned that there would be no monitoring or follow-up from the accrediting body until it applies for its recertification in 2023.

“Wiley College stand firmly on its 148+ year foundation and continues to demonstrate excellence despite this previous obstacle. The removal of probation sanctions signal that we are a community of educators who believe that Wiley College is significant to the higher education landscape and worked hard to secure our future. I am extremely proud of the Wiley College family, who has steadfast in their actions and communication. The campus community came together to secure Wiley’s future through their actions, despite being in a global pandemic,” said President Herman J. Felton, Jr., J.D., Ph.D.

Today, Wiley College continuously strives to achieve its bold and audacious vision through its mission as a premier liberal arts institution, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, with an intentional focus on social good and leadership.

About Wiley College
Wiley College, founded in 1873 in Marshall, Texas, is a historically black, primarily liberal arts, residential, co-educational, baccalaureate degree-granting institution affiliated with The United Methodist Church. Committed to the principle of educational access, the College serves traditional and non-traditional students from diverse background who have expressed a desire and potential for learning in a Christian environment. For more information, visit www.wileyc.edu.

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Pharrell Williams

NORFOLK, VA Norfolk State University is pleased to announce that Virginia native Pharrell Williams will deliver the keynote address at NSU’s 107th Commencement Exercise, which will honor the December graduates in the Class of 2021. The in-person commencement ceremony will be held on campus at 9 a.m., on Saturday, December 11, at Joseph G. Echols Memorial Hall. It will also be live streamed on the University’s website at www.nsu.edu.

A visionary recording artist, producer, songwriter, philanthropist, fashion designer, and entrepreneur, Pharrell Williams has been a creative force in the music industry and beyond for more than two decades.

Over the years, Williams has been honored with 13 Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year in the 2004, 2014 and 2019; and ASCAP’s prestigious Golden Note Award in 2012. In 2014, his original song “Happy,” featured in Despicable Me 2, also received an Academy Award nomination. In 2017, he received an Academy Award nomination for co-producing Best Picture-nominated Hidden Figures (2016), as well as a Golden Globe nomination for co-scoring the film. In the summer of 2020, Williams was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Chad Hugo for their work as The Neptunes.

In April 2019, Williams launched Something in the Water, the first-ever multi-day music festival and cultural experience on the beach in his hometown of Virginia Beach. The festival’s mission was to unite the community and celebrate the diversity and magic of Virginia Beach. It also was an opportunity to bring the best of what Williams has encountered around the world back to his hometown.

A longtime advocate again racial injustice, Williams was an integral part in the talks with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam about Juneteenth being a permanent paid state holiday. Virginia has long marked Juneteenth by issuing a proclamation, but the date has not previously been considered a state holiday. In June 2021, Williams joined Governor Northam at a press conference at which he announced his plans to do just that. Since the press conference, he continues to push other states and companies to do the same and remains at the forefont of the fight for racial equality across the country.

At the ceremony, Norfolk State will award Williams a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree. Additionally, NSU will confer degrees for nearly 400 candidates, who have completed the requirements for associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees.

To attend the ceremony, all invited guests must have a ticket, which is provided by their prospective graduate. Norfolk State University also requires proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of the commencement ceremony. Attendees should plan to bring their government ID, vaccination card, proof or COVID-19 test result.

For more information or to ask questions, visit www.nsu.edu/commencement or email commencement@nsu.edu.

About Norfolk State University
Norfolk State University, a comprehensive urban public institution, is committed to transforming students’ lives through exemplary teaching, research and service. Offering a supportive academic and culturally diverse environment for all, the University empowers its students to turn their aspirations into reality and achieve their full potential as well rounded, resourceful citizens and leaders for the 21st century. For more information, visit www.nsu.edu.

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Jackson State University Punches Ticket to ESPN Events’ Cricket Celebration Bowl for the First Time in School History

ATLANTA, GA – The second invitation to ESPN Events’ sixth annual Cricket Celebration Bowl – to be played Saturday, Dec. 18 at noon ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and aired live on ABC – has been extended to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) college football champion Jackson State University. The Tigers (11-1, 8-0 SWAC) defeated the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Saturday, 27-10, and will play the MEAC champion South Carolina State.

Executive Director of the Cricket Celebration Bowl, John Grant, was on-site at the SWAC Championship in Jackson, Miss., to present Jackson State head coach Deon Sanders with the official invitation.

“Congratulations to SWAC champion Jackson State University for punching its ticket to the Cricket Celebration Bowl,” said Grant. “Jackson State, led by Coach Sanders, had an outstanding season. We are excited for the Tigers to join us in the championship matchup against the MEAC champion South Carolina State Bulldogs.”

Jackson State University captured the 2021 SWAC Football Championship on Saturday, Dec. 4. Photo courtesy of HCF’s Media Team.

Entering its sixth year, the Cricket Celebration Bowl has established itself as a premier bowl game, celebrating the heritage, legacy, pageantry, and tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The championship-style game between MEAC and SWAC champions is televised on ABC. ESPN Events collaborates with its sponsors and the Divine Nike Greek organizations to schedule the game’s ancillary events which includes a fan experience, community service projects, and more.

Since its debut in 2015, the Celebration Bowl is the only Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision bowl game. It serves as the annual championship game between the MEAC and SWAC conferences.

The Celebration Bowl is returning in 2021 after a one-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Celebration Bowl Games (2015-present):
2015 North Carolina A&T def. Alcorn State, 41-34
2016 Grambling State def. North Carolina Central, 10-9
2017 North Carolina A&T def. Grambling State, 21-14
2018 North Carolina A&T def. Alcorn State, 24-22
2019 North Carolina A&T def. Alcorn, 64-44

Fans can purchase tickets to the Cricket Celebration Bowl online at thecelebrationbowl.com or www.ticketmaster.com, or calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Prices range from $15 to $175 excluding taxes and fees. A fill list of events surrounding the game are available on the event’s website.

About ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes five early-season college football games, 17 college bowl games, 12 college basketball events, annd a college softball event, which accounts for approximately 400 hours of live programming, reaching almost 64 million viewers and attracting over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offie in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Dallas-Forth Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and Tampa, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.

For more information, visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube pages.

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Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner.

LORMAN, MS – Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner and Alcorn State University alumnus, will give the speech during Alcorn’s Fall 2021 Commencement Saturday, Dec. 11, at 9 a.m., at the Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.

A native of Heidelberg, Miss., Thomas earned his 20th year as MEAC Commissioner back in September. During his two decades of service, the conference has remained financially stable, strengthened institutional compliance, and improved student-athlete graduation rates. He’s gained distinction as one of the leasing collegiate administrators in America.

In a progressive move, Thomas inked a deal with GYO Score to create the conference’s esports community. He also executed his goal of purchasing the conference’s first office complex, which is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. The accomplishment marked the first time a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference owned its headquartered property without assessing MEAC institutions. Thomas also accomplished another first when led the MEAC to become the first NCAA Division I FCS conference to institute instant replay during its televised regular-season football games.

Thomas’ mission to increase the conference’s corporate resources led to multi-year partnerships with Cricket Wireless, Russell Athletic Corporation, Coca-Cola, State Farm Insurance, Nike, Wells Fargo, ESPN, Jostens, United States Marines, Home Depot, Geico, Colgate Palmolive, Delta Airlines and the National Football League (NFL). Commissioner Thomas was instrumental in forging a partnership with the NFL to improve officiating and provide access to MEAC officials to advance to the next level. In May 2016, Commissioner Thomas also helped broker an off-the-field partnership between the NFL and the MEAC to boost opportunities for non-playing careers in professional football.

In 2017, the MEAC partnered with Collegiate Sports Management Group (CSMG), entering into a multi-year agreement in an effort to increase the conference’s corporate partnerships and branding. The relationship focuses on marketing and sponsorship rights, as well as helping to develop more national strategies across all avenues to assist with generating revenue for the conference and MEAC institutions.

Thomas was a four-year letterman in football and track and field in high school, and at the age of 16, he embarked upon a collegiate career that is still in the SWAC’s record books. In 1973, he made history as the first and only offensive lineman to be named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, beating out JSU’s Walter Payton for the honor. He finished his collegiate career as a three-year letterman at Alcorn State, a two-tome Pittsburgh Courier First Team All-American (1972-73), First Team Black Mutual Sports Network All-American (1973), and the Outstanding College Athlete of American (1974).

Thomas coached and played under the legendary coach Marino “The Godfather” Casem. During his playing and coaching tenure at Alcorn State, the Braves won SWAC football championships in 1970 as a player and 1976, 1979, and 1984 as an assistant coach.

Thomas was inducted into Hampton University’s inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2009. He has also been enshrined into the Alcorn State University (Miss.) Hall of Fame (2010), the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (2003), and the Black College Football Hall of Fame (2020).

Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State University. He later earned his master’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo.