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Alabama State Commencement Speech Includes Proud Acknowledgement Of The ‘Marion Nine’

Alabama State Hornets’ many academic achievements were recognized at the university’s fall 2021 graduation ceremony on Friday.

During the event, keynote speaker and alumnus Ronnie Thomas delivered a commencement speech that paid tribute to the efforts of the university’s founders, the Marion Nine.

The Marion Nine is comprised of Joey P. Pinch, Thomas Speed, Nicholas Dale, James Childs, Thomas Lee, John Freeman, Nathan Levert, David Harris, and Alexander H. Curtis. In 1867, the formerly enslaved men founded Alabama State‘s predecessor, the Lincoln Normal School in Marion.

Eventually, the institution relocated to Montgomery in 1887 and after a series of name changes, became known as Alabama State University in 1969.

“I’m reminded of the humble beginnings of ASU and our purpose of being here today,” Ronnie Thomas said in his commencement speech. “The concept of [being] stronger together and [having] power in numbers resonates with me and hopefully with our graduates. There is nothing that we can’t accomplish when we streamline our efforts and resources. That’s exactly what the Marion Nine did.”

“The Marion Nine, along with the help of others, raised $500–which is equivalent to about $9,000 today,” he said. “They used that money to acquire land, and–in 1867–they established the Lincoln Normal School at Marion.”

Thomas proceeded to give a brief history on the founders’ vision and encouraged the graduates to build a new entity of the “Marion Nine.”

“The Marion Nine saw a need in their community, and they collectively worked toward a solution. That spirit carried on throughout the Civil Rights Movement, and it lives here today. You have a hand in shaping our culture, making the world better, and leaving long-lasting legacies behind,” Thomas acknowledged. “So, I encourage you today to create a modern-day Marion Nine.”

“In this group of like-minded individuals, share resources and support one another in an effort to address the needs of our community. Develop and maintain a growth mindset,” Thomas instructed. “Take initiative and put yourself in a distinctive lane within your industry. And above all, chase your passion.”

He concluded by offering graduates two fundamental lessons to remember on their journey after attending Alabama State University.

“Collective work and living a passion-driven life are the two key takeaways to remember through your journey. I challenge you to go out and become changemakers like the Marion Nine,” he concluded. Go and attack opportunities–go and be great!”

At the commencement ceremony, Dr. Quinton Ross Jr., Alabama State’s fifteenth president, also spoke.

“To the entire class of 2021, as you prepare to depart, I charge you to leave with an assignment,” Ross began. “I encourage each of you to seize every opportunity to rise to higher and higher levels of professional and personal success.”

“With discipline, honesty, and commitment to hard work, you will do justice to the university’s reputation for excellence,” he added. “The hopes of your families will be realized, and generations past and present–on whom shoulders you stand–will rejoice in your success. Congratulations, and know that we are truly proud of each and every one of you.”

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