‘He treated us like family,’ student says| [8/21/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2006

Alcorn president dies during jog on track.

LORMAN – Alcorn State University students and staff were mourning today – the first day of classes – the loss of a man they say was more than a campus president – he was their brother and a father figure.

Flags flew at half-staff around campus as students and faculty continued to remember the school’s president, Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr.

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&#8220It’s unfortunate and untimely,” said Dr. John E. Walls of Vicksburg, a 1968 ASU graduate and immediate past president of the university’s National Alumni Association. Walls is deputy superintendent for the Vicksburg Warren School District.

&#8220We’re all shocked at his untimely death,” Walls said, adding that Bristow had met with the alumni in Jackson when new officers were sworn just hours before he died.

Bristow’s body was found by students Saturday night on the track at the 3,500-student university. He was a regular runner and was apparently alone when he died.

&#8220This is the saddest thing that has ever happened to us,” said Jack Ubadi and Sophia Shafal, managers of the Alcorn Service Station since October.

&#8220I was there,” said Shafal. &#8220I started CPR before the ambulance arrived. When we found out it was Dr. Bristow, I started doing everything I could to save him. I was just praying for someone to help me.”

&#8220Sophia did everything she could to help and I would have done the same,” said Ubadi. &#8220She must have worked on him 30 or 40 minutes before the ambulance got here. When she found him, his left hand was on his heart and he was face down on the track.”

&#8220I guess when it’s your day, there’s nothing anyone can do,” Ubadi said. &#8220We didn’t sleep at all last night. Nobody believes he’s gone. He was like a brother to us.”

The students said Bristow was never too busy to care. He was at every school activity and he always listened.

&#8220He was a father to those of us that didn’t have fathers,” said Jermaine Pruitt, a senior football player from Columbus. &#8220I had a strong relationship with Dr. Bristow. I used to talk to him about everything – football, school, everything. He was there through the good times and the bad times.”

Pruitt’s teammate agreed.

&#8220He treated us like family,” said Todd Johnson, a junior football player from Fort Lauderdale. &#8220I met him at freshmen orientation and he never forgot my name. He spoke to me every time he saw me and asked how I was doing.”

Bristow spoke with the football team after Friday’s evening practice and told them to have a good season and bring the SWAC championship home to Alcorn.

&#8220We just saw him,” said Johnson. &#8220I didn’t want to believe. He’s done a lot for this campus and this is going to hard to deal with.”

Other students are concerned about whether the momentum of progress on their campus during Bristow’s 11 years will continue.

&#8220We’re all in a state of shock,” said Whitney Battle, a junior political science major from Gulfport. &#8220I don’t know how things are going to be done. Who’s going to run the campus?”.

&#8220Bristow was doing great things on this campus with the renovations,” she said. &#8220Just look at everything he has done and the things he had planned. He really cared about this campus and making things better for the students.”