Alcorn’s Gilmer hopes to inspire students

Published 9:41 am Thursday, May 19, 2016

An extensive education and a southern childhood are two of the many things Chris Gilmer is brining to Alcorn State University’s Vicksburg Center, but he didn’t do it alone.

Gilmer, the executive director of Alcorn State University’s Vicksburg Center, director of online education and professor of English, spoke at Wednesday’s monthly Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Gilmer regaled the crowd with stories from his childhood in a rich, distinctly southern storytelling fashion that centered on his family who lived in the middle-of-nowhere Mississippi.

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His mother had dreamed of going to college but things did not go as planned for her when she became pregnant with Gilmer, and his grandfather made sure Gilmer would be the first member of their family to have the opportunity to attend college by selling all the cattle to make it a reality.

Gilmer said these stories are not important because they are his, but because many people have lived a similar life.

“Change a few of the details here and there and it’s the story of a lot of people in this room, it’s the story of a lot of kids in the Vicksburg Warren School District today,” Gilmer said.

His message is simple, he said, and meant to inspire.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” Gilmer said. “There is nothing special about me. It’s all about the shoulders that I have stood on to get here.”

Because of his roots, society has had low expectations for him, he said, and he has worked to break free of those expectations. Gilmer looks to do that for his students who are in the same position he was in as a child. He said all children deserve to excel at a young age, but not every child has those opportunities available to them.

“To whom much is given, of that person is much required,” Gilmer said.

It has been his mission in his career to help plot out the futures of the students who seem to have no direction and create a pathway to get there. To do that, Gilmer said, children need partners in the community to help them.

“They need partners like everybody in this room today,” Gilmer said.

Alcorn and Gilmer have been partnering with the VWSD superintendent and local pastors to grow the school and the community, he said.

“We’ve been asking them to tell us what they need from us and asking them to help build a pathway for people in their congregations into the university,” Gilmer said.

He said Alcorn is looking to become the university for the Vicksburg community, and called the local alumni chapter the best in the country.

Gilmer is proud to work at Alcorn for several accomplishments the school has made in athletics, earning a national education accreditation, opening a new center for culture and learning, providing online degree programs and the fact that it is the oldest public historically black land-grant university in America.