This year, as Fort Valley State University embarks on a transformative journey under the leadership of Dr. Paul Jones, students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters acknowledge the legacy of eighteen men who envisioned an institution of excellence for students in middle Georgia. On Thursday, November 3, FVSU will celebrate its 76th annual Founders’ Day Convocation at 10:30 a.m. in the Cleveland W. Pettigrew Farm and Community Life Center. Classes are suspended from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., to give faculty, staff and students an opportunity to attend this significant day in history.
The distinguished speaker is Dr. Elliot V. Troup, son of Cornelius V. Troup, second president of Fort Valley State College (1945-1966). Dr. Troup is a retired ophthalmologist (eye specialist) in Saint Paul, Minn, graduating from Meharry Medical College in 1963. He operated a private practice from 1969 to 2006.
“I know FVSU has grown over the years. Since my last visit 10 years ago, I expect that I would not recognize much of the campus anymore. I have been told that it has grown tremendously,” said Troup.
Dr. Troup’s father played a significant role in sculpting Fort Valley State into the historical institution it is today. C.V. Troup was an accomplished author, poet, educator, administrator, leader and humanitarian.
Dr. Berlethia Pitts, chair of FVSU’s Department of English and Foreign Languages and Founders’ Day Convocation committee chair, said, “Founders’ Day is one of, if not the most, important events we celebrate on the FVSU campus. Without the collaborative and selfless efforts of our 18 founding fathers, there would be no graduations, honors convocations, homecomings, alumni chapters, etc.”
The purpose the convocation is to remember and show gratitude to the men who helped the university get its start. The first convocation was held on the birthday of Fort Valley High and Industrial School’s second principal, Henry A. Hunt, October 10, 1940. The event marked a time to remember Hunt and the campus’ founders. Scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois 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 employee, 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 merged into one memorial.
According to Pitts, FVSU owes its existence today to the foundation established in 1895 by Charlie A. Anderson, Gideon Barnett, Stephen Elisha Bassett, Allen Cooper, John Wesley Davison, Peter Fann, Francis W. Gano, Jon Howard Halle, David Jones, J.R. Jones, D.L. Lawrence, Henry Lowman, Thomas A. McAfee, James Isaac Miller, Alfonso Nixon, Lee O’Neal and Thomas W. Williams.
Following the program, guests march to Memorial Circle, near the historic quadrangle and lay a wreath at the graves of Fort Valley High and Industrial School Principal Henry A. Hunt and his wife, Florence.
Deric Simpson, Marketing Associate
FVSU Marketing and Communications