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Morehouse Celebrates the Inauguration of its 10th President, Robert M. Franklin Jr. '75

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

Following in the footsteps of notable men such as John Hope, Benjamin E. Mays, Hugh Gloster ‘31and Walter E. Massey ‘58, Robert Michael Franklin Jr. ’75 joined them as presidents of Morehouse College when he was inaugurated inside a filled, yet spirit-filled, Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on Friday, Feb. 15.

“I come to this moment in my life with profound humility matched by my determination to see our great school rise to new heights of achievement,” Franklin said moments after Willie “Flash” Davis ‘56, chairman of the College’s Board of Trustees, gave the final ceremonial approval of Franklin’s ascendancy to the president’s position. Franklin follows Massey to become the College’s tenth president.

“This is your hour and we see you as our president,” said former board chairman, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. ’56. “We know that Morehouse is in great hands and you are in the hands of God.”

During a festive, yet formal morning, Massey draped the presidential robe around Franklin, who also was presented seven keys that symbolically open every door on campus. Trustee Billye Aaron placed the ornate Presidential Ceremonial Medallion, which represents the long, illustrious tradition of Morehouse, around Franklin’s neck as flashbulbs popped throughout the chapel. Then Franklin sat in the 6-foot-6-inch presidential chair, which is suggestive of the College’s history and is only to be used during Commencement.

But before Franklin’s investiture, several people close to him – former Emory University president James Laney; childhood friend and astronaut Mae Jemison, Church of God in Christ presiding bishop, Charles E. Blake, and classmate Aaron Larry Parker ’75 – spoke highly of Franklin.

“You embody the qualities and virtues that make you a natural leader for students, faculty and staff, and more an eloquent spokesman for higher education at large,” Laney said.

Jemison, who told stories about when she and Franklin attended the same high school in their native Chicago, said Morehouse is fortunate to have someone like Franklin, “…to turn all of that potential into the sharpened blade that will continue cutting a path to the future.”

“You have come to a very significant point in an illustrious journey,” Blake said, “A truly great man now leads a truly great institution.”

“We always had the sense that if anyone out of the class of ‘75 would do well, you would,” Parker added. “We anticipate a rising with power. We don’t expect perfection, but we do anticipate a rising.”

During his inauguration speech, Franklin stressed the importance of one of his main goals during his tenure: to produce what he calls Renaissance Men of social conscience – a social conscience that Franklin said is the leading voice of social justice.

“Producing Renaissance Men of a social conscience is a bold and rightfully important agenda in our contemporary cultural situation where death and despair prevails,” Franklin said.

Franklin ended his speech by pounding on the podium about the importance of the men of Morehouse and the College community stepping up to assume the lofty mantle of leadership.

“Let us make men,” Franklin said to loud cheers. “Up, you mighty men. You can accomplish whatever you are willing!”

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