The Compass Wednesday, October 26, 1994 5
The true agenda of higher education:
To honor the dignity and value of all
Pkotc by Craig Avoitdo
Freshman Melissa Young of Elizabeth City lights the tandle of knowtedge” during the Fall
Convocation and Candleiighting Ceremony. According to tradition, freshmen are wel
comed as youth in a worid of darkness who receive the Hght of knowledge from an
in Fall Convocation
In a colorful, down-home style. Dr.
Samuel Proctor brought a message of
faith, hope and the value of hard work to
ECSU's freshman during the Fall Convo
cation and Candleiighting Ceremony.
"What is the real agenda for hi^er
education today?" asked,
Proctor, guest speaker for the event. 'Is
your agenda to retire at 55 and go to
Horida and play golf? What are we here
for—to make everybody rich?"
Calling America "a divided country,"
Proctor said the real agenda of higher
education is to create "a total community
that will include everybody, and to open
up people to the life of the mind and new
"We've got to convince all members of
our community that they have value," he
added, "that they are diildren of God. I
wish I had a spray gun that I could just
spray it on some of these young folks to
convince them they are somebody."
society that"honorsthedignity and worth
of persons and operates on the principle
of justice for everybody."
Proctor encouraged students to ask
themselves, "What can I do to make that
Proctor praised the c»ntributions of
historically black institutions of higher
learning, which he said were formed af
ter the Civil War.
Before the advent of black colleges,
"there were four million black slaves
walking around barefoot, with no
money," he said. "Black colleges began
Black people in America would all be
close to slavery right now if not for the
founding of those schools."
The black experience is unique in his
tory, said Proctor. Although the Bible
mentions that Jews were erislaved by the
Babylonians, Jews only spent 70 years in
captivity, he said.
"But Blacks spent over two hundred
tor. "Ours was chattel slavery, being sold
like pigs and loads of wood. We did it and
we survived. There is no one like us in the
Proctor admitted that when he was in
college, he didn't have his priorities
"All I wanted to do when I got to
Virginia State College was to meet a cute
girl," he said. '1 wanted to get a Chevy
convertible to cruise up Norfolk with my
"I wish I could apologize to those pro
fessors who tried to teach me history,"
Proctor said. "Faculty, I hope you live
long enough to see your students thank
He said that when he arrived on the
ECSU campus he stopped to ask direc
tions from "fourdudes, whose pants were
all hangin' down like they got a prob
lem." TTte students were uninterested in
attending the Convocation, according to
Proctor, who quoted one student as say
ing, "I don't go to any mess like that."
"It's a disgrace," said Proctor. They
had already been convinced they are no
Proctor called on ECSU students to
To illustrate how people can rise above
hardships to become successful, Proctor
told a story of a little black boy named
in Mississippi whose father was shot and
killed when he was only six years old.
Earl Shaw later was sent to live wath
relatives in Illinois, where he attended
parochial school after which received a
scholarship to college.
After 19 years with AT&T, Rutgers
Univeraty built Shaw a laboratory on
campus so he could continue his research
there, Proctor said.
"They built a lab for this little black
dude whose daddy got shot when he was
six. If he can do all that from where he
started, then we can do it, too. But we*ve
got to believe we are somebody."
Proctor evoked laughter with a story
about how he taught a friend of his named
Moose the difference between the nomi
native and objective case. After under
standing the differences between the two
cases. Moose said he'd spent years being
confused by case, and added "You taught
that to me in six minutes."
Proctor replied:"Somebody tried to
teach that to you and you were half asleep.
You didn't think you'd need is so you
didn't try. Then some teacher found out
you didn't care, and so she didn't care
"When you are put down and treated
with contempt, don't give up. Don't be so
quick to accept the negative."
Proctor recalled the time he was in
vited to speak in the Duke University
Chapel—teck in 1957.When the presi
dent of Duke leamed a black man was to
speak there, he said, "'He'll preach there
over my dead body.'" Proctor paused,
then added, "He died. Know where he
was buried? He was buried in a crypt that
was under the pulpit. And when I spoke
Proctor said the current dean of Duke's
Divinity School was in the audience at the
time of his speech. And he was so moved
by the experience he later hired Proctor to
A native of Norfolk, Va., Proctor has
been a pastor, dean, college president,
professor, and Peace Corp administrator
in Nigeria and Washington. He has also
taught at Vanderbilt Yale and Rutgers.
The recipient of numerous awards and
honors, he is also the author of several
books, including The Young Negro in
America, Sermons from the Black Pulpit and
Preaching about Crises in the Community.
Proctor and his wife, Bessie Tate Proc
tor, have four sons, Herbert, Timothy,
Samuel and Steven.
When it's Gone
They always realize
after it's too late.
That's when they realize
they've made a mistake.
Mistook lave for a woikness
abused all that sweetness.
Forgot all the caring things
that were done for them.
They begin to realize
haw much they had
when it's gone....
“We've got to convince all members of our
community that they have value, that they are children of
Dr. Samuel Proctor