Alcorn president dies during jog on track| [8/21/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2006

Alcorn president dies during jog on track.

LORMAN – Dr. Clinton Bristow, who would have started his 12th year as president of Alcorn State University Thursday, died Saturday during an evening jog around the university track. He was 57.

A student happened upon Bristow’s body at Henderson Field, alerted campus security and employees at campus service station. Efforts to revive him failed.

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&#8220I was at work at the service station when a student came up and told me it looked like a man was on the field,” said Mitchell Williams, an employee of the water treatment plant and a part-time worker at the service station, who said the discovery was made at about 10:30 p.m.

It appeared as though Bristow fell forward, Williams said. An autopsy was to be performed today at Mississippi Mortuary Services in Pearl, Claiborne County Coroner J.W. Mallet said.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced. A daughter, Maya, who is a graduate student, was listed as a survivor.

Today is the first day of the fall semester and the 3,500 students were expected to start classes at 8 a.m. despite the Bristow’s death, Director of University Relations Chris Cason said.

&#8220He wouldn’t have wanted us to curtail classes despite our deep mourning,” Cason said.

In an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning Sunday, members selected Dr. Malvin Williams, Alcorn’s vice president for academics, from July 1976 until June 2005, to serve as interim president.

&#8220Williams served nearly his entire working career at Alcorn State University,” Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Thomas C. Meredith said. &#8220He is committed to the vision of the institution and will effectively guide the University until a permanent president is announced.”

Meredith, who made his first visit to the Claiborne County campus earlier this month, said then and repeated Sunday his admiration for Bristow.

&#8220His love for Alcorn and its students was remarkable,” he said.

Bristow came to Alcorn after a career in law and education in Illinois. He earned three degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., including a doctorate in education and public administration.

After practicing law and real estate for five years, he served as dean of the College of Business at Chicago State University for 15 years before taking the reins at Alcorn State.

He was the university’s 16th president, succeeding Dr. Walter Washington, their longest-serving president, who had served since 1969.

His tenure was marked by a building boom on campus, with several projects completed and several under way. He also created a master’s of business administration degree program in Natchez and expanded computer, nursing and engineering courses offered in Vicksburg, the two cities nearest the isolated campus.

He was known for promoting Alcorn as an &#8220academic resort” and was candid about its location – far from malls, movies and fast-food restaurants. He said it took special students to enroll at Alcorn and that it made them closer to each other.

In addition to a new $12 million dining hall, other pending projects include a new biotechnology and research center to serve the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, a 3-mile bicycle path that winds through campus and eventually connects with the Natchez Trace, renovations to the original president’s home into office space and for a multicultural education center are also planned.

Alcorn was the first and only of Mississippi’s historically black universities to achieve a non-black enrollment of at least 10 percent for three consecutive years, a stipulation in settling litigation, the Ayers case, filed in 1975 and alleging funding disparities among historically white and historically black state colleges. As a result, Alcorn was the first to reap money – $25 million – from the total Ayers settlement pool of $517 million.

In recent years, the university was lauded for hosting many Russian students. Last month, Bristow reached an agreement with the executive council members of Andhra University in India to begin student exchanges and research activities with students there.

Bristow was especially proud of the graduation rate, one of the best in the nation, for student athletes. Though small, the school has had national recognition in sports. NFL quarterback Steve McNair was a Heisman finalist there and the basketball team is frequently in the NCAA tournament.

Under Bristow, the school has also been on the national stage when former President George Bush delivered a commencement address and when the school’s choir performed at the second inauguration of the current President Bush.

Bristow listed his own goals (1) increasing the percentage of minority students attending graduate and professional school; and, (2) increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of the value and contributions to society by land-grant universities through their research, extension programs and overall excellence.

He was a member of the board of directors of National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the Capital Financing Board for HBCUs, the Congressional Award Board, Mississippi Agriculture Museum and the Mid-Delta Consortium.

He served as president of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, president of the Presidents’ Council, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Education and past-president of the Mississippi Association of Colleges. While in Chicago, he was a member of the Chicago Bar Association, LaSalle Street Business Council, Beverly Area Local Development Corporation, YMCA, Chicago Youth Success Foundation, Kohl Children’s Museum and Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education.

His own field of academic study was development of management theory as it applies to-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

He also served as president of the Chicago Board of Education, dean of the College of Business at Chicago State University and vice president at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago.

In addition to the three degrees from Northwestern, he had a master’s of business administration from Governors State University, University Park, Ill.

Alcorn is on rolling hills first occupied by the Presbyterian Church-based Oakland College. The university was named for Gov. James L. Alcorn in 1871 and became the first state-supported higher institution for blacks in the United States. It is the nation’s oldest public land-grant institution.