ITTA BENA, Miss.— Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) capped off its 2018 Founder’s Week by marking another important milestone in the legacy and advancement of the University—the installation of its eighth president, Dr. Jerryl Briggs, Sr.
Faculty, students, alumni, community members and higher education officials from across the state and nation gathered in MVSU’s Walter Roberts Auditorium Friday morning for the historic occasion.
During the investiture ceremony, Briggs was formally invested with the responsibility and authority as president of MVSU by Commissioner of Higher Education Glenn F. Boyce and President of the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning C.D. Smith Jr.
“This is a special moment in the history of this outstanding institution,” said Boyce. Briggs is a man with a wealth of experience in higher education and truly understands students and the services and support they need to be successful both on campus and in life.”
Reflecting on the institution’s transformation from a cotton field into a flourishing institution of higher learning, Boyce said Briggs has the skill set needed to continue moving the University forward.
“His experiences throughout his career have prepared him perfectly for this moment,” he said. We’re fortunate to have a leader of his caliber to guide us and take us to a new point in history.”
During his inaugural address, Briggs accepted the charge and said he considers it a privilege to serve the University.
“It is indeed a blessing for me and my family to be here standing before you as the eighth president of Mississippi Valley State University,” he said.
“I’d like to thank Commissioner Boyce, Board President C.D. Smith and other board members here today for entrusting in me this opportunity and having the confidence in me to serve. I also want to thank the Valley family for sharing that confidence as well …You all have embraced me from day one, and it has truly been a blessing.”
Noting the University’s humble beginnings in 1950, Briggs said he plans to continue building upon the University’s commitment and dedication to academic excellence.
“This is our Founder’s Week, and to have this ceremony now just shows, for me, that I’m standing on some very tall shoulders,” he said. There are some individuals who toiled and really worked to make sure that this institution was successful, and I owe a lot to them. They paved the way so that I can stand here today, and I’m just really blessed to be a part of this great institution.”
Briggs then shared his vision for the University, explaining the meaning behind his addition of “…IN MOTION” to the University’s mantra, “ONE GOAL. ONE TEAM. ONE VALLEY.”
Using an acronym, Briggs said “motion” stands for: Motivation, Optimistic, Time, Inspiration, Outspoken, and “No” is not the answer.
“I have a love for higher education, and I really have a true love for HBCUs,” he said. We’re doing some great things. We’re going to continue to support each other, and we’re going to continue to give…someone gave back to me, and it’s my responsibility to assure that others have those same chances.”
During the ceremony, family and friends shared reflections of Briggs and the special moments they’ve shared with him.
Among them were Briggs’ older sister, Gizele Briggs Leon, who fought back tears as she shared what the moment meant to their family.
“He’s a great inspiration to us, and we’re very proud of him,” she said. I am so proud to call my brother President Dr. Jerryl Briggs, but the proudest person who would be here today is my mother.”
Briggs, a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy”, also gave a special tribute to his mother, Varna Briggs, who passed away in 2005.
“I have to give all my credit to my mother. I know that although she’s not here physically, she’s looking down on her son with tears in eyes,” he said. Her love for us was just unwavering, and she sacrificed everything to make sure that we had what we needed in order to be successful. I will always give my mother all the glory.”
Others giving salutations during the ceremony included Carolyn McAdams, mayor of Greenwood, Miss.
“We’re very excited that Dr. Jerryl Briggs was chosen to take the lead at Mississippi Valley State University,” she said. The Valley has a tremendous impact on the economy of Greenwood, roughly $13 million. Not only does it contribute to the tax base, but it provides us with an educated workforce that impacts the entire Mississippi Delta.
Briggs’ mentees, Brandon Bigelow and Brittany Stephens, said that he played an instrumental role in their growth and development both personally and professionally.
Stephens, who met the then Dean Briggs on the campus of Lincoln University, said that Briggs is the reason why she pursued her education and is currently working in higher education administration.
Bigelow said he’s also currently pursuing a Ph.D. because of the support he received from Briggs, who stepped in like a father-figure to him.
“I like to say that I went from a juvenile facility to receiving a Master of Divinity and it’s because of (Briggs),” Bigelow remarked. He instilled hope and confidence in a young black male from the hood of Philadelphia and told him that he could.”
Those in attendance also had the opportunity to learn more about Brigg’s personal side with reflections from long-time friends, mentors and fraternity brothers (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.).
“I know him to be solid, fair, courageous—he’ll step out on a limb, he’ll ask for input, and when he makes a decision, he’ll stand by it and make it happen,” said Rod Batiste of Atlanta, Briggs’ friend of 37 years.
“Valley faculty and staff, you all are in great hands,” he added.
The ceremony concluded with Briggs assuring he would continue moving the institution forward on an upward trajectory.
“I promise you that this University will remain ‘in MOTION,’” he said. We will remain committed to our history, our past. But we’re also going to continue to grow, and we’re going be successful.”