SALISBURY – Livingstone College made a major announcement at its Founder’s Day program Friday that will contribute millions of dollars into refurbishing the campus residence halls.
“In my first 120 days, I have secured capital investment to the tune of $4 million that we will use to begin refurbishing our student residence halls,” said Livingstone President Dr. Anthony J. Davis before a full audience.
“Wait a minute, that’s not all,” Davis said, adding that he has found an additional $3 million in the college’s budget to go toward the project, for a grand total of $7 million.
Davis received a standing ovation for the announcement.
“The least we can do is make students comfortable while they are on their journey,” Davis said. “We will begin construction in May. I’m paying it forward because my students deserve it.”
In addition to this announcement, Davis also said Mondale Robinson, a 2011 graduate of Livingstone College and the mayor of Enfield, has pledged $60,000 per year over the next 10 years.
And, Dr. Laticia Godette, owner of Ottendorf Laboratories, presented the college with a check for $50,000, as part of an ongoing pledge.
Challenging infrastructure has plagued the 144-year-old historic black college with students sometimes venting their frustrations on social media. Davis referenced a social media comment from an individual who said the college “should have closed a long time ago.”
“Initially I was bothered,” he said. “But I realized that of all that was said, that was most factual. This institution should have been closed a long time ago – and would have been closed a long time ago, if not for two words – but God,” again to thunderous applause from the audience.
What many don’t know is that Livingstone College provides $4 million annually from its operating budget for scholarships and persistence grants to help students stay in school, having to defer maintenance projects – until now.
Davis, as the newly-elected 13th president, said one of his priorities was to refurbish the student residence halls.
“He’s going to make 13 a lucky number,” said Bishop Kenneth Monroe, chairman of the Livingstone College Board of Trustees and senior bishop of the A.M.E. Zion Church.
Founder’s Day celebrates the first and founding president of Livingstone College, Dr. Joseph Charles Price. A direct descendent of Price, great-grandson Phillip Sherrill, attended to give remarks on behalf of the family.
In 1879, Price left the United States and went to Europe to secure $10,000 to start this college, Sherrill said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure this school never closes.”
Speaking to students, he said, “All I ask is that you do your best, you try your best and you come out of here making it a better place, and when you do leave, that you give back.”
Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., was the keynote speaker. Quoting an educational philosophy, he said, “Every unnecessary help is a stumbling block to developing independence. I don’t want the help if it will impede the development.”
He shared his story of dropping out of school in the 11th grade and his guidance counselor suggesting he go into the military. He ended up getting his GED and enrolling into Morehouse College, becoming the first person to do so without having taken the SAT and without having the appropriate GPA.
“A historic black college saw my value and saw my possibilities,” he said.
Bryant later earned his Master of Divinity degree from Duke University, where 43 years before he attended, his grandfather was the head cook. He then earned a doctorate degree in philosophy from Oxford University in Great Britain and later a doctorate from The Graduate Theological Foundation.
He started an A.M.E. church in his living room in Baltimore, Md., that went from 43 members to 10,000 at its peak.
A third-generation preacher in the A.M.E. faith, he was led to switch denominations and become a Baptist minister at his current church. He said he didn’t understand why the move until a woman at the church approached him and ask if he remembered her, and he did not.
It was his guidance counselor from high school, who told him she owed him an apology for not believing in him.
The program ended with a processional to the Price Mausoleum on campus, where there was a brief memorial service and the laying of a new wreath, which is an annual tradition on Founder’s Day.