Commencement ceremonies at Alcorn State honor the school’s 2020 graduates

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2020

LORMAN — Alcorn State celebrated its spring and fall 2020 graduating classes with two outdoor commencement ceremonies Saturday at Jack Spinks Stadium-Marino Casem Field.

Following safety protocols, officials required everyone present to have their temperature checked upon campus entry, wear masks and remain socially distant. The event was also live-streamed through the university’s social media channels for those who could not attend.

This year’s speaker was Bonner Upshaw III, CEO, and co-founder of Trion Solutions, who began his speech by encouraging the students to overcome challenges and avoid allowing mistakes to define their future.

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“Mistakes are a part of life’s journey,” Upshaw said. “We can’t beat ourselves up over those mistakes or allow them to erode our belief that anything is possible. You can’t let mistakes that define you on the road ahead. It’s the journey and our ability to adjust, learn, and grow. That’s what makes us who we are today.”

Upshaw proceeded to give three critical points for students to remember to achieve success. His first point was staying focused, a lesson he learned while playing for legendary Alcorn men’s basketball coach, the late Davey L. Whitney. He spoke about the importance of honing your skills.

“I learned early about focus, discipline, and hard work from Coach Whitney,” Upshaw said. “He was a tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian. Everyone has natural talents, but it is a mistake to rely solely on those talents. It’s foolish to think that talent or skills beat hard work and discipline. So remained focused and work hard.”

Being passionate about something was Upshaw’s second key to success. He learned the importance of having passion while being roommates with the late Alcornite and star of the movie, “The Green Mile,” Michael Clarke Duncan. He recalled how Duncan was passionate about everything he did, and he challenged the graduates to adopt that same love and dedication to their passion.

“Every morning, Michael would wake up, look in the mirror, and yell to himself, ‘Who wants it! Me, that’s who!’ He defined passion and how important it is to find something we love doing and pursuing it with total commitment,” he said. “So, I encourage you to find something to be passionate about and go for it.”

Upshaw concluded with his final point, which focused on taking risks. He talked about how all of his success came from taking leaps of faith, including becoming an entrepreneur and growing Trion Solutions, Inc. into the top Black Human Resources payroll organization in the United States. He assured the graduates that taking chances could result in reaching their goals.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. You’re going to face many forks in the road where you need to make important decisions about taking jobs, moving to different cities, pursuing graduate degrees, supporting causes, or marrying your mate,” Upshaw said. “It takes risks to pursue a passion, and it takes risks to pursue your dreams. Believe in yourself, no matter how rocky the road. I’m excited for all of you, and I wish you success in your journey ahead.”

In her remarks to the graduates, Alcorn President Felecia Nave praised the students for completing their education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I encourage you to live in the moment and bask in your accomplishment,” Nave aid. “This accomplishment is one of many to come. This day has been years in the making. You deserve all of the praise and recognition for completing this step in your educational journey. We salute you for your resilience. You will join more than 25,000 proud alumni who treasure this institution for what it has been and the story that is yet to be written. You represent the richness of our history, and you are our hope for the future.”