Morehouse Celebrates the College’s 147th Anniversary and the Inauguration of President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79
18 Feb 2014
Posted by Add Seymour Jr.
By ADD SEYMOUR JR. — John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79 stood in front of 2,000 people in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel during his inauguration on Feb. 14 and remembered a conversation he had with a classmate during their senior year at Morehouse.
Wilson asked his friend whether the clouds in the Morehouse seal were blocking the sun or were being burned off to make way for sunlight.
The friend told Wilson, “I’m quite certain, that is up to us!”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am quite certain, too,” Wilson said in his inaugural address. “I am quite certain that realizing the world of our dreams on this campus and on this earth is, in God’s name, up to us.”
That dream and how the College becomes the shining light in the development of not only Morehouse Men, but black men, was the theme of Wilson’s speech to a crowd of students, alumni, faculty, staff and Wilson’s family and friends.
Wilson’s inauguration as the 11th Morehouse president was the historic highlight of the 147th Founder’s Week, celebrating the College’s origins in 1867 in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.
Snow and icy weather wreaked havoc on Atlanta during the first couple of days of Founder’s Week. Canceled were the two-day White House/Morehouse College Black Male Summit and the Founder’s Day Convocation.
But the tradition, pomp and circumstance went on Friday during Wilson’s inauguration. Delegates representing 209 colleges, universities and other entities from across the nation joined the Morehouse family to formally usher in the Wilson era.
Saturday, five men were honored as the 2014 Bennie and Candle Award honorees: charter school pioneer Donald Hense ’70; U.S. Department of Education acting deputy secretary James Shelton ’89; Morehouse’s retired dean of Business Administration and Economics John Williams ’69; music icon Stevie Wonder; and former U.S. District Court judge Reginald Lindsay ’67, who was honored posthumously.
The honorees told their life stories and gave advice to students, faculty and staff during Reflections of Excellence in the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.
“People who do beat people who talk every time, and the world is full of talkers,” Shelton said.
“I want to assure you that you are going to trip and you are going to fall,” Hense said later. “But you have got to get up and you’ve got to push every single day for what you believe is right.”
That night, the audience for the 26th Annual “A Candle in the Dark” Gala was touched by speeches from each of the honorees.
Wonder used his time to decry the violence against black boys after a mistrial on a murder charge against a Florida man who fatally shot a black teen over loud music. Wonder added the only way he will perform in Florida now is for benefits to fight the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws.
“We have to do a better job of protecting our Morehouse Men,” he said. “But not just Morehouse Men, but all black boys in America… It is not the gun that makes a man. But it’s the gun that kills him. We must change the gun laws in America.”
Then he surprised everyone by singing two songs, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” and “My Cherie Amour.”
Sunday, during the Founder’s Day Worship Service, the Rev. Charles Gilchrist Adams talked about the meaning of Adam as a human being and as a man.
“So God is speaking to everyone, ‘Humanity, where are you?” Gilchrist said. “God is asking man where are you in church, the community, the vortex of community strife?”
The Founder’s Week ended with the 103rd Annual Morehouse College Glee Club’s Spring Concert in King Chapel. While the music was the highlight, director David Morrow ’80 got a big surprise – an oil portrait of him was unveiled and will hang in the Chapel’s International Hall of Honor.
“We just could not have asked for a more spectacular weekend to reflect on what it means to inaugurate the College’s 11th president and celebrate the College’s 147th anniversary,” said Henry Goodgame, director of Alumni Relations, Special Events and Annual Giving.