Alcorn’s Ross goes home again|Parade, gathering in Utica

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UTICA — Dr. George E. Ross was overwhelmed with emotion Tuesday after he received the key to his hometown and was honored with a parade during the first event in a week of festivities in Natchez, Vicksburg and at Alcorn State University to celebrate his inauguration as the Lorman university’s 17th president.

Ross, 56, has been serving in the role of president since January, but will officially be sworn in at a ceremony on the campus Friday beginning at 2 p.m. At a reception in the Fine Arts Building at the Hinds Community College Utica Campus Tuesday he spoke of his decision to leave Central Michigan University, where he had a “pretty comfortable position” as chief financial officer.

“To be honest, coming back to Utica was not in the plans. Coming to Alcorn was not in the plans. My decision to come here was driven by a commitment my wife and I made,” said Ross to the audience of about 125 people, many of them old friends, neighbors and relatives. “I’m one of those people who has complained about people who don’t give back to their communities. This is my opportunity to give back, and that’s what I plan to do at Alcorn.”

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The reception followed a parade down Main Street in Utica, during which Ross rode in a limousine with his wife, Elizabeth. Afterward, he admitted he was unsure how to react to those waving and hollering words of encouragement to him from the same sidewalks he remembered from childhood.

“I was a little embarrassed, a little squirmish and very humbled,” he said. “They talk about it taking a village to raise a child, and it took Utica to raise me. It’s good to be home, and I am very proud that you would have a day in my honor.”

Utica Mayor Jesse Killingsworth proclaimed Tuesday George E. Ross Day in the city at the reception and presented Ross with a key to the city. After receiving the honor, Ross thanked all those who had organized the event and his family members in the audience. He spoke briefly of being born just five miles outside the town of 950 residents on a cotton farm his parents, Eugene and Lois Ross, worked on as sharecroppers. When he began to speak of his deceased parents, his eyes filled with tears and he cut his speech short.

“I’m going to sit down now because I promised my wife I wouldn’t cry up here,” Ross said, and was the only person seated as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Ross’ credentials include 30 years of experience in higher education. Along with his time spent at Central Michigan University, he has served in administrative roles at Clark Atlanta University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Tuskegee University.

“George did what a lot of us didn’t do — he went to school and he stayed in school. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in school,” said Ross’ cousin Clayton Terry following the reception.

Ross earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University, and a doctorate degree in higher education from the University of Alabama. He completed post doctoral studies at Harvard University. Initially chosen to take over as head of Alcorn in September 2007, Ross was forced to return to Michigan three months before his start date for medical treatment after being diagnosed with leukemia. He announced in July 2007 that his cancer was in remission.

“He was always full of honor and respect, even as a child. He didn’t hang out with the in crowd, and when he saw trouble going on around him he stayed away from it,” said Johny Ross, Ross’ uncle who still lives in Utica. “I remember him saying once when he was younger he wanted to be president of Alcorn or Jackson State someday. He may not remember it, but I do and I am so proud of him today.” 

Tuesday’s reception also featured speakers such as state Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland; Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College; Dr. George E. Barnes, vice president of Hinds Community College Utica Campus; and Zelmarine Anderson Murphy, 2007-08 Alcornite of the Year and Vicksburg Warren School District trustee. Festivities continue today on the Alcorn campus, and there will also be a gospel concert in Natchez featuring Elizabeth Ross, Lynda Randle, the Greater Faith Worship Center Choir of Fayette and the ASU Gospel Choir.


Contact Steve Sanoski at

If you go

The celebration of the inauguration of Dr. George E. Ross as the 17th president of Alcorn State University will continue today. A rundown of events:

Oct. 29 — Inaugural Ecumenical Service at Alcorn State University Chapel from noon to 1 p.m., featuring the ASU Interfaith Choir. A reception will follow on campus at the Dr. Clinton Bristow Dining Facility from 1:30 to 3 p.m.  An evening reception will be at 5:30 at the Adams County Court House, 314 State St., in Natchez. A gospel concert will follow at the Natchez City Auditorium, 207 Jefferson St., from 7 to 9:30 p.m., featuring Lynda Randle, the Greater Faith Worship Center Choir of Fayette, the ASU Gospel Choir and ASU first lady Elizabeth Ross. Tickets for the concert are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, and are available at Alcorn’s business office. More information is online at

Oct. 30 — Events will take place at Alcorn State University, including the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge from 12:30 to 2 p.m., campus tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a Greek step show from 7 to 9 p.m.

Oct. 31 — The inaugural ceremony at Alcorn State University will begin with a procession at 2 p.m. at the Davey L. Whitney Complex. A reception will be from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. A presidential inaugural scholarship gala will take place at the Vicksburg Convention Center beginning with a 7:30 p.m. dinner and entertainment by Russell Thomas & Band. Formal attire is required. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at Alcorn’s business office. More information online at