By Dr. Ghislaine Lewis ~ Faculty Advisor
As part of the Homecoming 2021, the University of Lynchburg paid tribute to several African American firsts.
The honorees included the first black students to live on campus, the first black head coach, the first black student government presidents, the first black administrator, the first black dorm mother and the first black dean.
Those honored included Dr. Allethia Ingram ’76, MEd ’86, Mr. Bob Tate ’71, Dr. Christopher Boyd ’97, Ms. Coretta M. Jones ’73, MEd ’76, Dr. Dorothy Smith Akubue-Brice, PhD, Mr. Hilliary Scott MA ’21, Dr. Kelli Rainey ’99, Dr. Loretta Jones-Gafford ’73, Ms. Tommie McCune, and Ms. Wilhelmina Washington Johnson-Niblett ’70.
All of the honorees would have joined the campus community before the name change in 2018, when the university was Lynchburg College.
Dr. Robert Canida, the vice president for Inclusive Excellence said, “There’s the saying that states, ‘Give Me My Flowers While I’m Living.’ Therefore I believe that as a university community that values our history and future, we should honor our beloved Alumni and former employees, while they can enjoy the recognition. Our African American Firsts was the right thing to do and for the right reasons.”
Basketball coach Hilary Scott was honored as the first black head coach at the University. He said, “It was an extremely humbling feeling being a part of the event this weekend. I really felt honored to be connected to the other honorees in which several of them have made an impact in my life! Our university has a tremendous line of pioneers that paved the way for people like myself. I want all of the others to know the gratitude that I have for the sacrifices that they endured to allow others to shine!”
For Canida, there were too many highlights to mention. He said, “The entire program was phenomenal! My graduate assistant, Claudio Otero, III and I were extremely honored to finally meet and spend time with our honorees. Listening to their experiences was such a blessing.”
What was apparent at the event was the legacy of those firsts in the campus community, their stories catalogued both the challenges and the triumphs of being the first at Lynchburg College.
Scott said, “I have a note card on my bulletin board that says “Impact” and I strive everyday to try to make a positive impact on my athletes and coaching staff in a way they would want to do the same for those they come in contact with! Energy and enthusiasm is something we talk about on a daily basis so I hope my example fuels my athletes to bring that to all of their individual environments.”
Junior Tahmya Robinson who attended the event said, “I thought it would be important to know about the people who paved the way for students like me. Once I left I was inspired to absorb every aspect of my journey and learn from it. Also that sometimes it’s okay to be the only one, it just means you care enough to be there.”
Canida hopes to continue the relationship and tradition between the university and this weekend’s honorees. He said, “ Some of the honorees informed me to call them, if we ever needed them. I already have something in mind! However, regardless if they are involved in campus or not, we will stay engaged with them.”
Scott hopes that the students who attended the weekend’s festivities will understand the sacrifices of those who paved the way for them at Lynchburg. He said, “I want our students to know those who came before them and the sacrifices that they endured to make it possible for them to be successful. I think it is important for our students to “listen” and understand that no one can be successful on their own. There are people who care and are a source of tremendous knowledge…those people are eager to pass that on to anyone who would listen.”
For more photos from the event visit, https://thecritograph.com/2021/10/19/african-american-first-association-lunch/
Homecoming weekend also saw the dedication of the lounge in the Walker Alumni House to Dr. Helen Mundy Witt, the first black student to graduate from Lynchburg College. The University also officially named a scholarship in her honor to help support black post-graduate education. To support the Helen Mundy Witt Master of Ed Scholarship, visit, https://www.connect.lynchburg.edu/give