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‘Next resurgence to greatness’ has a 160-year-old foundation at LeMoyne-Owen College

It’s official: Memphis now is amid a yearlong celebration of “Purple Reign” –LeMoyne-Owen College’s observance of 160 years in existence.

The celebration kickoff for Memphis’ only HBCU (historically Black college or university) came midday Friday on the steps of Brownlee Hall on the historic front lawn of the campus at 807 Walker Ave.

Dr. Michael Moore, senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church and LOC chaplain, sets the spiritual tone. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

The day’s agenda allotted for an address by LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC) President Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs, with observations from LOC’s Board of Trustees, student leaders, alumni, the city and county mayors, other dignitaries and community members.

Clad in the college’s signature purple and gold colors, members of the “LOC Family” canvassed the 38126 ZIP Code community.

The College was founded in 1862 as Lincoln School, which later became LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School. LeMoyne College later merged with S. A. Owen Junior College (1968). A marker on the HBCU’s campus notes how the historic 1960 Memphis sit-in protests against segregation evolved through its students.

The yearlong commemoration for LeMoyne-Owen College, home of the Magicians, is designed to engage LOC and its greatest supporters, including businesses, corporations and nearly 65,000 alumni, in a $3-million campaign. The funding is designated for student college preparation and retention efforts “to ensure students complete their college journey.”

The New Tri-State Defender reached out to Dr. Bennett-Fairs for her reflections now that the “Purple Reign” celebration is in full effect.

Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

What is next for LOC?

“The next resurgence to greatness,” said Bennett-Fairs. “Reintroducing LeMoyne-Owen College to our community, region, and country. Capitalizing off what differentiates us from other institutions and incorporating that into our brand.”

The strategies to support the resurgence are multi-pronged:

  • Increasing enrollment by creating pipelines within high schools, community colleges and youth-serving organizations;
  • Strengthening and expanding the academy through new degree programs and curriculum offerings.
  • Identifying Programs of Distinction.
  • Expanding the campus’ footprint on and off-campus.
  • Developing intentional strategies to improve retention and graduation rates.

“It’s only going to take a little “MAGIC,” said Bennett-Fairs, revealing the words referenced by the acronym: “Motivation, Ambition, Growth, Innovation, Collaborations.”

The challenges, she said, are, “Pandemic fallout and the good problem of having outgrown our current footprint.”

Maneuvering beyond those challenges, from Bennett-Fairs’ viewpoint, involves relying upon, “The tremendous amount of momentum and goodwill the College is currently enjoying.

“And the support we have on and off-campus that can impact future funding and resources in support of student success and advancing LeMoyne-Owen College.”

GALLERY (Photos by Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender): 

Mr. LOC, Oscar Enyang, and Miss LOC, Michaela Y. Thomas. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Linda McNeil and Jonathan Ealy, 160th Committee co-chairs. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Jonathan Ealy, 160th Committee co-chair. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
LOC President Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Mayor Jim Strickland (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Memphis City Councilman and Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate JB Smiley Jr. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Dr. Clarence Christian, National Annual Fundraising chair. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)
Kristen Herring-Hurd, LOC National Alumni President. (Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

 

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