Legacy, looking ahead the focus of GSU’s 120th Founders  Convocation  

Grambling State University continued its celebration of 120 years of educational excellence with the Founders Convocation at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center. 

Grambling State alumna Dr. Dana A. Williams, dean of the Graduate School at Howard University, served as the convocation speaker as GSU President Richard J. Gallot Jr., and University of Louisiana System President Dr. James Henderson provided remarks to highlight the event.

Over the last 120 years, the University has been identified under several names – The Colored Industrial and Agriculture School, The North Louisiana Agriculture and Industrial School, The Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, Grambling College and now Grambling State University. In the midst of changes to its name over the years, Gallot said that the University has experienced the best of times and on occasion, some unpleasant times.

“We have endured two World Wars, the Korean Conflict, Wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve sustained the Great Depression, the great recession, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gallot said. “We’ve encountered discrimination, segregation and Jim Crow. In spite of it all, we continued to rise. In our 120 years, we’ve seen our country transform from the Pony Express and telegrams to instant messaging and 5G. We’ve seen our country put a man on the moon and emergence of electric and autonomous vehicles. We’ve advanced from card catalogs and volumes of encyclopedias to the digital library and ‘hey Siri.’ Together, through it all, we continue to rise, and rise, and rise.”

Henderson, who has been a longtime supporter of the University, spoke about the rich tradition and legacy that Grambling State has had over the years, but is focused on what’s ahead.

“I am really focused on what’s next for Grambling,” Henderson said. “It’s about this whole family, the ‘GramFam,’ and the way they’ve risen above so many challenges to achieve excellence. That’s how you define Grambling. I couldn’t be more excited about its future under the leadership of my dear friend Rick Gallot and certainly the  extraordinary faculty and leadership team.”

Williams earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Grambling State in 1993, and was the highest-ranking student in her graduating class.

“Founders day this year invites us to reflect on the Founders vision, to celebrate 120 years of achievement, and to commit a new high level of excellence,” Williams said.

Williams, who earned a master’s degree in African American literature and continued her education to earn a doctorate in English with an emphasis in African American Literature at Howard University, said she wondering what the theme would be to commemorate this history year.

“Each fall under President Gallot’s administration, I wait with bated breath to see what the theme will be for the year,” Williams said. “As we mark this 120th year since our founding, it is so fitting that we remember that we rise together.

“The word rise can be used as a verb or a noun,” Williams continued. “In old and middle English, the verb means to move upward, espescilly from behind the horizon. As a noun, rise refers to increase in power or influence. It can also refer to a piece of land that slopes upward.”

Williams shared the journey of Grambling State University and the legacy the institution has, but left one final remark to commemorate Founders Day.

“For 120 years, Grambling has moved upward and emerging with vigor and with grace from beyond the horizon,” she said. “We will not shirk in our duty to respond to the needs of any and all who call upon us and even those who do not know they need us. We are Grambling and we rise together.” 

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