“Having emancipated a whole race, shall it be said that there our duty ends, leaving the race as cumberers of the ground, to live or to wilt and perish, as the case may be? They are members of the American family, and their advancement concerns us all. While swiftly forgetting all they ever knew as slaves, shall they have no opportunity to learn anything as freemen?” – U.S. Sen. Justin Smith Morrill
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was conceived 125 years ago – thanks to U.S. Sen. Justin Morrill of Vermont, who spearheaded the Morrill Acts that provided federal funding for founding many of the country’s public colleges and universities. Sen. Morrill constructed the Morrill Act of 1890 to amend discriminatory practices of the former Confederate states that would not allow African Americans to attend land-grant universities that Congress created had with the Morrill Act of 1862.
The Second Morrill Act established an institution of higher learning for African American students “to teach practical agriculture and mechanic arts and such branches of learning as relate there to, not excluding academic and classical instruction.” During the succeeding decades, challenges were met and obstacles overcome as the institution attained its place among the nation’s top historically black colleges and universities. Today, A&T is the No.1 historically black college or university in the nation.
On a recent visit to the campus, I was provided a small, twelve-page blue-and-gold pamphlet. The leaflet, titled “AGGIES DO!” captures the essence of A&T and weaves together a detailed narrative of what it means to be a member of its esteemed community. Aggies, the document states, are not passive, do not conform, and are leaders who often take the path less traveled. Because that’s what AGGIES DO!
It goes on to state that Aggies seek a better education, a better life, and a better way for communities both local and global; Aggies make things happen, because we persevere, and we never stop striving for excellence. Because that’s what AGGIES DO!
The “AGGIES DO!” mantra emboldens all who embraces it – prospective students, current students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the community, along with professional faculty and new employees. It manifests the university’s new positioning statement, which states, in part: “We are proud. Our history is rich with achievement and tradition. We are better than yesterday, but never as good as tomorrow. Because excellence has no boundaries – and because that’s what AGGIES DO!
As a member of the class of 1984, I am delighted to dedicate this entire edition of Black Business Ink to my alma mater in commemoration of its 125th anniversary. Because that’s what AGGIES DO!
On Feb. 19, the Guilford County community suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Ralph K. Shelton. I had known Ralph for nearly two decades. He was an outstanding entrepreneur who left Burlington Industries to found in 1984 Southeast Fuels and turned it into one of the top minority-owned companies in the U.S. Like me, Ralph received his undergraduate degree from A&T and earned an MBA from Wake Forest. He was one of the speakers at my State of Black North Carolina Conference in 2003. I often solicited his professional guidance, and despite the state of my business, I always felt more empowered and hopeful following our conversations because of his positivity and optimism.
I salute A&T not only for its milestone 125th anniversary, but also for producing one of the finest gentlemen to ever darken its doorways.