Dedication of the new Malcolm X Institute




Transcript of the ceremony

President Ford: Thanks for coming back to celebrate this special day. The new MXI owes its existence to lots of people, not all of whom could be here today. The first people I know who told us it was time to do better were Eugene Anderson, Bob Knowling, Peter Frederick, of course, and many others. We are grateful to them.

Horace was also one of those. His complaint was different. It wasn’t so much that the space was inadequate or the furniture was falling apart. It had much more to do with his long commute to work. (laughter) I trust we fixed that. (laughter)

I thank everyone who labored so hard and long on this building; the faith and the patience they had in one another to get it right. The hours that students spent scratching their heads with us in the Student Senate room, looking over plans that most of us could only marginally understand. I hope you think it’s paid off. I do.

I thank Tom Bambrey, Dean of Students, for shepherding the project, and Alpha Blackburn and her firm for designing it, and Tim Nagler and his company, for bringing it all together, on time, on budget, in what was surely one of the most aggressive construction schedules we’ve ever seen. Thank you.

The Malcolm X Institute has played an extraordinary role in the life of this College for all its students, and, in many ways, for all alumni. We now have an expectation of its doing even more, as we try our very best to implement the mission of this College.

We all express that mission of the College differently, often when we don’t even know that’s what we’re doing. But let me close with what I believe is appropriate for today: with Malcolm’s letter from Mecca:

“I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that goes hand-in-hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”

Let us hope we all search for truth in this MXI together. Thank you.

Winston Shepard: All of us who have enjoyed our affiliation with the Institute owe a great debt to our founding members. Over 30 years ago, a group of dedicated students, faculty members, and administrators made the Malcolm X Institute dream possible. I doubt, though, that even in their wildest dreams they envisioned a facility of this magnitude.

I’d like to welcome the following founders to the podium; Professor of History Peter Frederick; Charles Ransom ’72; Anthony Parti ’71; Horace Turner; Jasmine Robinson, who could not be here today, as she is ill.

This facility would not have been possible without the generous support of our alumni. I’d like to welcome to the podium the chairman of the Campaign for Malcolm X, Joe Mims ’76.

Charles Ransom: Good morning. How do you sum up 30 years? They gave me two minutes. (laughter). When I was asked to do this, I sat down and thought and thought, and three things came to mind. One was dreams: when we sat down and talked about the Malcolm X Institute 30 years ago, it was a dream. We wanted a pool table and a color tv to watch football (laughter). And never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a place such as the one we’re standing in front of today.

The other thing I thought about was home. A port in the storm. A place that we could go that would feel like home. Listening to everyone talking this morning as they recalled their experiences, I think we were successful in that. That’s the challenge to the students here today: that they make this a home—a place you feel safe, a place you feel comfortable, a place you can bring your friends to.

I brought my mom here last night. She’s 78 years old. She came to the Afro House—a place you read about in the history of MXI—when I was a student here, and the first thing she did was make me and my roommates go and get Ajax and toilet bowl cleaner (laughter) because she wouldn’t use the bathroom in such a nasty place! Hopefully, you’ll keep your home a little better than we did.

And the final thought that came to mind, and everyone has talked about this, was of HT [Horace Turner]. Someone asked, when did he become HT, he was always a-hole Horace when we were here. (laughter). Without Horace, this place wouldn’t be here. And I think he needs a room, a carpet, a urinal, or something with his name on it (laughter), to remind people of his value.Joe Mims
They also gave me two minutes to speak. But they also gave me a speech. But, as a Wabash man, and particularly a student of Vic Powell and Joe O’Rourke, I can’t stick to a script. (laughter)

I have a couple comments I want to read, also.

About three years ago at the 30th anniversary of the Institute, a bunch of us realized the importance of the Institute, and we wanted a new Institute [building], and we figured one way to make the College listen to us and let the community know how we felt about the Institute and the importance of it was to contribute some money to it. So several of us decided to get the ball rolling, and we pledged initially the sum of $100,000 to get this rolling.

Since that time, we’ve had other people contribute, and as time goes on, we expect more contributions to come in. It’s a continuing process, the Institute needs funding for programs and speakers, and we all need to contribute to the Institute.

A few contributors I’d like to thank right now: Alonzo Weems, Kenyatta Braeme, David Downen, Eugene Anderson, and Dr. Eric Young.

I’d also like to thank the College for its support in making this a reality. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the College has been looking to private foundation support for this project, and one of the things that will help the College meet these foundation grant totals is contributions from alumni. So, as the chairman of the committee, I’m taking this opportunity to hit you up while you’re looking at this beautiful building!

In this building we have a computer room named for Jasmine Robinson, and Peter Frederick will have a plaque we’ll present to Jasmine honoring her influence on African American students. There are other rooms available for naming opportunities! As you tour the building, if you see a room you’d like to put your name on, talk with me and we’ll see what we can do! (laughter)

I’d also like to say that Horace is the Institute; Horace made the Institute what it is. He’s made the MXI the place alumni return to. He’s been a surrogate father. He helped us, he guided us, he helped us grow. You don’t realize the value you get from a Wabash education until you get out into the real world, and then you’ll understand the difference—you’ll see how much you learned here, how much you’ve grown here. It’s an honor and a privilege to have been a student here and to have been in the MXI.

In building this new building we want to continue that tradition. We hope that in years to come, this building will serve as a beacon for our students.

Now, I’ll read their speech. Once this ribbon is cut, the real work will begin. The work of ensuring that this new building will provide a place where future African American students can grow and learn.

Peter Frederick: They didn’t dare give me prepared remarks! Kathy talked to Jasmine Robinson last night. She was clearly not well. She wanted very much to be here; she is an extraordinarily important person for the men of MXI for 33 years, and longer. Her husband, Andy, is here, and he’ll take back the message of what happened and that we remembered her very fondly.

I know Jasmine was concerned that in the transference from the old MXI, that lovely white, framed building, to this lovelier, larger, more imposing building, that the name of the Jasmine Robinson Computer Room would be lost. She’ll see for herself in a few days when she’s better that her name is their. But to help her remember, we’ve prepared a replica of that sign—the Jasmine Robinson Computer Room—and I think it’s significant that it come from these men on this podium: from Charles Ransom, class of 1972, to Winston Shepard, class of (we hope) 2003. And from Horace and Joe. This group represents lots of you out there, hundreds of Wabash and Malcolm X men throughout the world, for whom Jasmine has been an important and significant person. There are hundreds of MXI men who are better and wiser because of Jasmine Robinson’s counsel and support.

This plaque we’ll take to her says: “In gratitude to Jasmine, on the dedication of the MXI Institute.” We’ll get it to her today.

Winston Shepard: Not only does today gives us the opportunity to celebrate a terrific new facility, but it gives us the opportunity to honor those who have the Institute an integral part of the life of Wabash College. It gives me great honor to be a part of this program, and to give out this award to a mentor, a friend, someone who’s there when you need him. Today we honor a man whose leadership has made life on campus better for African American students for over 30 years. To make this presentation, here’s the president of the NAWM board, Richard Fobes, class of 1972.

Rick Fobes: Thank you for giving me the privilege to be here with you in front of this beautiful facility. On behalf of the National Association of Wabash Men, I congratulate the College and the men of MXI on this beautiful building. I also want to congratulate Joe Mims on the work he and others have done to raise funds for this building.

One of the privileges of my job as NAWM board president is to present honorary alumni award presentations each year. I’m particularly proud to make today’s presentation to someone who has had such a profound impact on Wabash students for over three decades. Horace Turner, will you please join me at the podium. (applause)

(Fobes reads citation as follows:)

“Horace Turner, when we celebrate the Malcolm X Institute, its students and all its accomplishments at Wabash College, we are really celebrating you. For three decades you have been its driving force and quiet counselor. You have guided not only the programs of the MXI, but also the young men who turn to you for encouragement and care.

A New Jersey native, you earned a degree from Hampton Institute and served in the Army’s Special Services before starting your career. Your connections with Wabash began back in the 1960s when, as a coach at Teaneck High School, your teams competed against those of another young coach in the area, one Robert H. Johnson.

You came to Wabash as coordinator of programs at the MXI; later you were named executive director, a designation you still hold.

The Malcolm X Institute has enriched the entire campus under your leadership, but it is your personal attention to young men of color that distinguishes your Wabash service. Hundreds of alumni would happily attest to the help you gave them, whether it was assisting with a stranded car in the middle of the night, or encouraging them to stay in school in the middle of the semester. You helped our students establish the KQ&Q tutoring program that enables them to teach youngsters from the Crawfordsville community, drawing town and gown closer together. You assist both the coaches and admissions counselors in recruiting minority students. You have steadily encouraged minority hiring at the College.

Horace Turner, for over three decades of devoted service to Wabash College and its students, for being the father figure to countless young men who sometimes acutely feel the need for something familiar, the National Association of Wabash Men is proud to have you join our ranks as an Honorary Alumnus. Horace Turner, Some Little Giant!

Horace Turner: Before I begin, let me pass on the regrets of Rob Johnson, who is coaching at a track meet in Ohio and can’t be here today. He wanted me to let alumni know that we appreciate what you have done for us, where you have taken us, and we also appreciate Thaddeus Seymour, Norman Moore, and Dick Traina for their help in getting us here.

Thank all of you for coming, for this is a special day. One that took hard work, dedication, and commitment.

I am humbled to receive this honorary degree. Thank you. When I first came to Wabash along with Rob Johnson in the fall of 1971 and I happened to find a small group of committed students who exemplified the words, “Wabash Always Fights.” And fight they did. As a result of their courage and perseverance, we were able to make Wabash and the Crawfordsville community more tolerable and more respectful to people of color.

Those students who created the Institute were a special group, and so were the students who came after.

As I think about a class I’d want to represent or be attached to, I can’t help but think about that early group. One of those classes, the class of 1976, was the first class I helped recruit, a class that I had the privilege to see develop into impressive young men; men who would lead this campus in their ability to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. I’d want to be part of that particular group.

Let me go on to say that the students of today are just as capable as the students of the past. I want to thank them for putting on this program today, and for their work in putting on programs throughout the course of the year.

I want to thank President Andy Ford, the deans of the college, especially Tom Bambrey and his assistant, Dean Simms, for their leadership during our transition to this facility. They were all instrumental in making our dream of a new Institute a reality. It was one of our visions, along with their leadership, that developed a modern, state-of-the-art facility housed in the center of campus.

As I think about this particular day, there are three words I’d like you to keep in mind: they are “a chance,” a challenge,” and “a commitment.” Wabash and the Malcolm X Institute give you a chance to fulfill your dreams. We have challenge before us to serve the legacy of both Wabash and the Malcolm X Institute. And in order to keep that alive, we must make a commitment on this particular day that we, too, will preserve and help make sure the Malcolm X Institute will be around and work for future generations.

With that I say thank you and, Andy, again, thank you for your help.