Tougaloo College salutes the Golden Class of 69 during Sesquicentennial Commencement Exercises

May 8, 2019 in News

By Paulette Hayes Patton,

Guest Writer,



As hundreds of students rushed out of the gates of Tougaloo College last week, hundreds of former students rushed to come in; both to celebrate. The former, to celebrate another year completed, the latter to celebrate 50 years ago they graduated from this prestigious institution of higher learning. Approximately fifty-six members of the class of 1969 gathered Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 5 to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Tougaloo College.



Thursday evening the Golden Class of 69’ gathered for a ‘meet and greet’ at the President’s House. As they read name tags and looked at faces trying to distinguish one another, they each verbally shared the love of Tougaloo. Even though some had not seen each other since 1969 they all seemed to have a strong bond.

Friday morning the class convened at the Civil Rights Museum in downtown Jackson where they discovered Tougaloo College and many of its former students were incorporated in the museum. They were reminded of the role Tougaloo played in the struggle for equal rights.

Upon returning to campus for a walking tour, they reminisced how they had walked those paths 50 years ago. That evening the class discussed the civil rights icon who had visited the campus while they were students. They were reminded that the late Dr. Aaron Henry, then president of the Mississippi Chapter of the NAACP was their commencement speaker and the late Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the most powerful voices of the civil and voting rights movement received an honorary degree.

The culmination of the week-end for the golden class of 1969 ended at the Commencement Exercises presided by President Beverly W. Hogan. This particular graduation ceremony was bitter sweet for Hogan. She will be retiring at the end of this academic year after having served as Tougaloo’s first woman president with 17 years of service. During the ceremony Hogan conferred honorary degrees on Stacey Y. Abrams, Reuben V. Anderson, Fred L. Banks Jr. and Vivian W. Pinn.

John David Johnson, the 2019 class salutatorian, told his classmates, “Today marks the beginning of our matriculation into a country that was not built with us in mind. Who could’ve known that the slaves growing crops on these very grounds were actually the soil that we all would bloom from.?”

Valedictorian Shandria L. D. Sutton reminded her classmates that they are the future of this college and this country.

The highlight for many attending the commencement was hearing the commencement address delivered by Stacey Y. Abrams, a New York Times bestselling author who served for eleven years in the Georgia House of Represetatives, seven as minority leader. In 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia. She was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States. She paid tribute to her parents Reverends Robert and Carolyn Abrams both graduates of Tougaloo.

Abrams, during her address, congratulated Hogan for her legacy of service.

Her spirited address and advice to the graduates was captured in three themes: ‘Exceeding your own expectations and theirs,’ ‘Owning your opportunities’ and ‘How to fall and still prepare to win.’ Abrams ended by quoting from the first chapter of her latest book Minority Leader “Dare to want more” and “let’s get it done.”

Paulette Patton, is a 1969 graduate of Tougaloo College. She retired in 2016 as director of Multi-Cultural Services at Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA. Her husband Roy Patton is also a 1969 graduate of Tougaloo College. They reside in Collegeville, PA.