November 13, 2015 – Fort Valley State University recently held an annual celebration to commemorate the 18 men who helped the university get its start during the annual Founders Day Observation on Nov. 2.
The event, which also commemorated the university’s 120th year, started off traditionally with the posting of the colors and presentation of the Scroll of the Founders and the university seal by Miss FVSU Jessica Hatcher and Student Government Association President Vernita Smith.
This year, the annual event returned to the Woodward Gymnasium where the university’s founders day observance has been historically held for decades.
FVSU’s interim president Jessica Bailey welcomed attendees to the Woodward Gymnasium.
“These are the types of events we set aside to honor our alumni, graduate students and professors,” Bailey said. “We’re gathering to recognize the mission of 18 men, who in 1895, petitioned the Houston County Superior Court for a charter to establish a school for children. On Nov. 6, that charger was granted.”
Bailey recounted the history of the university’s first Founders Day. The first was held on Oct. 10, Fort Valley High and Industrial School second principal Henry A. Hunt’s birthday. It was a time to remember Hunt and the campus’ founders. Scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois gave the inaugural address entitled “The Significance of Henry A. Hunt.” After the death of Henry Hunt’s wife, Florence Johnson-Hunt, Founders Day also became a time to remember her. In 1940, Sophia Moore, an FVSU employees, started the tradition of remembering the old days, where she recounted the history of the university. During the tenure of Fort Valley State president W.W. E. Blanchet’s term, there were two separate days celebrated for the university’s founders. In the 1970s, the days were merged into one day.
“We continue the tradition of Founders Day for the men that had a dream greater than themselves,” Bailey said. “What and who we are today, we are here today, is because those 18 men built a structure named Fort Valley High and Industrial School. The foundation is so sturdy that Fort Valley Normal and Industrial School and Fort Valley State College and the university were established. Today, we are here as the evidence and manifestation of what they envisioned, but could not see.”
After her welcome, Smith led the audience through the Litany of Thanksgiving and Rededication. Ellison acknowledged the relatives of FVSU founders in attendance. FVSU alum Elijah Porter read portions from W.E.B. DuBois’ The Significance of Henry A. Hunt” speech.
Bailey introduced the speaker, Dr. Marcy Hunt-Harris, the great-great granddaughter of Henry A. Hunt and an 1997 FVSU alumna. The university’s library is named after her great-great grandfather and the infirmary after her great-great grandmother, Florence Johnson Hunt. Hunt-Harris currently serves as the director of student services for Monroe County. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and her master’s degree in school counseling from FVSU, and her specialist and doctorate degree in educational leadership from Nova Southern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Hunt-Harris is the first Founders Day keynoter to speak as an undergraduate student and alumnus.
During her speech, punctuated with references to Hip-Hop music, she told the crowd she had no choice but to succeed as an educator, saying it’s in her DNA.
“I was born to be this, I had no other choice,” Hunt-Harris said. “Even when I thought about something else, I was wrong. Fort Valley is synonymous with family because it feels good, and we’re smart. This annual ceremony gives us a chance to respect of the struggles and sacrifices of those with vision that paved the way for us. It is a chance to give hope and opportunity for those who came before us, never forget those who came before us, for the good for generations to come.”
Hunt-Harris told students they must have a sense of urgency to accomplish anything. She said that if it hadn’t been for the sense of urgency from the founders to establish the school, the campus wouldn’t be sin existence today. She said many individuals sacrificed eating meat and meals to ensure that the small school for black children, that would later become FVSU, would survive, and that their children would receive an education. The students, she said, needed to be successful so they didn’t bring shame upon the university or their parents, adding they are all part of what DuBois dubbed the Talented Tenth, a group of poor and minority children who could gain access and change the world.
“The university stakes their reputation on your success,”Hunt-Harris said.”Your family lifts you up to be the next greats. Do it for yourself and your family, because we need you.”
After Hunt-Harris speech, she received a token of appreciation for her speech from interim president Dr. Jessica Bailey. The crowd moved to the cemetery to place a wreath on the Hunts’ graves. Later, a cake-cutting ceremony, that included goat-milk ice cream, was held in the Lottie B. Lyons Student Center to honor the university’s 120th Anniversary celebration.
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Christina D. Milton, public relations specialist
Marketing and Communications
(478) 825-6319, firstname.lastname@example.org