Denmark, S.C. – Voorhees College is now Voorhees University. The history-making announcement was made during the Founder’s Day convocation, April 7, in the Leonard E. Dawson Center. The name change ceremony and celebration of the 125th anniversary of the institution were tributes to its founder, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright. More than 200 faculty, staff, students, alumni and guests applauded as Ronnie Hopkins, president of Voorhees, and others extolled Wright’s virtues, tenacity and fortitude in founding a school that has been the academic pillar of the Denmark, South Carolina community for 125 years.
During the Founder’s Day convocation, Hopkins read a tribute to Wright and Voorhees that was placed into the Congressional Record by the Honorable James E. Clyburn, who represents South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District.
On April 1, Clyburn said, “Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a proud historically Black college, in South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, on the occasion on its 125th Founder’s Day. Voorhees College has provided educational opportunities for young African Americans in South Carolina since 1897 and on April 7, 2022 will be renamed Voorhees University.”
Clyburn concluded, “Madam Speaker, I ask you and our colleagues to join me in celebrating the 125th anniversary of Voorhees College and its new status as Voorhees University. May it continue to build upon the vision of its founder and serve as an exemplary example of higher education.”
The convocation continued with greetings from various constituents, including David Miller, chairman of the Voorhees University Board of Trustees, who said, “Voorhees is still standing strong. While HBCUs in other states have not survived for various reasons, Voorhees continues to thrive.”
Charlotte P. Morris, president of Tuskegee University, delivered the keynote address. She said that Wright’s journey to opening Voorhees should serve as an inspiration for HBCUs to learn how to unlock their strengths and create new paths for fulfillment and advancement in their missions.
Morris encouraged the audience to be guided by Wright’s life. “She was a leader who had a transformative vision that inspired and motivated her to succeed at all costs,” Morris said.
Morris shared Tuskegee Founder Booker T. Washington’s mantra that “success always leaves footprints” and encouraged the audience to walk in Wright’s footprints by working untiringly to make their dreams a success. She advised students to begin their philanthropy now, which will enable them to establish a habit of giving.
Wright, whose mentor was Washington, was a graduate of Tuskegee University.
Immediately following the keynote address, Hopkins announced the institution’s name change.
“I, Ronnie Hopkins, do hereby proclaim that on this seventh day of April in the year of our Lord, two thousand twenty-two, that Voorhees College is now Voorhees University. All brands, images, insignia, verbiage and associated references of and to this institution are now Voorhees University,” he said.
The audience also heard from Nancy Voorhees, a descendent of Ralph Voorhees, a New Jersey philanthropist. He and his wife provided funding for Wright to purchase land to build the school she envisioned for Black children in South Carolina, in the early 1900s.
Voorhees said that while Wright’s years on earth were few, they were filled with purpose and direction. She continued, “Wright and (Ralph) Voorhees; their gift to the ages is a university that thrives for one reason, it builds young adults who are rich in both knowledge and character. On this ground, in these halls and classrooms, Voorhees University shapes minds and changes lives. That is a legacy to cherish and a sturdy foundation on which to build. And my family is extremely proud.”
During the convocation ceremony, Hopkins presented a service award to V. Diane O’Berry, vice president for business and fiscal affairs, for 30 years of service at Voorhees. He also presented the Faculty of the Year award to Anastasiya Yakunina, a math professor, and the Staff of the Year award to Marion Wright, a student affairs professional.
A wreath-laying ceremony at the Elizabeth Evelyn Wight Memorial Garden followed the convocation and the Voorhees University flag was raised in front of the Wright-Potts Library.
On Friday, April 8 at 10 a.m. Ronnie Hopkins, Ph.D., will be inaugurated as the 10th President of Voorhees University, in the Dawson Center. To view the live stream visit www.voorhees.edu and click on the YouTube icon. The carnival, closed earlier in the week due to inclement weather, reopens April 8.
A Homecoming Spring Fest concert featuring the S.O.S. Band begins at 7 p.m. Ticket prices for the concert, at the Dawson Center, are $25 for general admission or $35 at the door.
The Homecoming Spring Fest parade, starting at 10 a.m., will be led by the grand marshal, Rev. Dr. Solomon Jackson. The parade begins in Downtown Denmark and ends on the Voorhees University campus, just in time for parade goers to attend the final day of the carnival. To view the live stream of the parade, visit www.voorhees.edu and click on the YouTube icon.
The Aux Cord Party, also on Saturday, will be from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Dawson Center. General admission tickets are $10. The party is free for college students with a valid ID.
The week concludes April 10 with an 11 a.m. worship service at Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, 2440 Atlas Church Road in Columbia, SC. To view the live stream visit www.voorhees.edu and click on the YouTube icon.
For more information, see www.voorhees.edu/inaugurationweek for more information.
Hopkins presents presidential citation to
Morris after Founder’s Day keynote address
High-resolution images are available at the following URLs.
Hopkins presents presidential citation to Morris after Founder’s Day keynote address. https://voorhees.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2022-Founders-Day00002-scaled.jpg
Hopkins presents 30-year service award to V. Diane O’Berry. https://voorhees.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2022-Founders-Day00007-scaled.jpg
Pictured here are Wright (Staff of the Year Award), Hopkins, Yakunina (Faculty of the Year Award). https://voorhees.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2022-Founders-Day00012-scaled.jpg
Pictured here are Hopkins, Voorhees, Miller. https://voorhees.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2022-Founders-Day00014-scaled.jpg