The Class of 1969 was honored, along with the man who made North Carolina Central University possible, Dr. James E. Shepard, during Founder’s Day Convocation Friday, Nov. 8.
On hand were 107 members of the Class of 1969, who were welcomed into the Society of Golden Eagles, a special category for alumni who graduated 50 years ago or more.
Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye reflected on the legacy of Shepard, who devoted much of his life to establishing and funding the campus that first opened as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race in 1910.
In April 2019, NCCU renamed a central structure at the university as the James E. Shepard Administration Building, eliminating the name of a former U.S. Senator known for his opposition to civil rights.
“This marked a historic shift in North Carolina Central University’s rich heritage as we laid a new foundation on our campus as a symbol of diversity and inclusion,” Akinleye said.
Since 1925, NCCU has been a public university and part of the University of North Carolina System of higher education.
Keynote speaker Elwood K. Callahan, himself a 2019 Golden Eagle inductee, reminded fellow alumni and current students that the late 1960s, like 2019, was full of “change and possibilities,” and stressed the importance of compassion and community in such times.
While the Class of 1969 was celebrating exciting events such as Woodstock and major advances in space exploration, they also faced the Vietnam draft and the vestiges of Jim Crow.
“As a student, I felt swept up by the change happening all around me,” said Callahan, a retired clerk of the Superior Court and Supreme Court of Washington, D.C., and Marine Corps veteran.
While a student at NCCU, Callahan was elected president of the senior class and led other students working in Durham to establish a tutoring program that helped children from single-parent homes improve their reading and other academic skills.
“In times of uncertainty, like these, I have seen NCCU step up,” Callahan said. “During adversity, this union won’t be broken apart but grows closer together.”
NC Central’s weeklong Homecoming Celebration will conclude with a Nov. 9 parade down Fayetteville Street and a football game at 2 p.m. in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.