Florida A&M University Holds Historic Building Naming Ceremonies
Six distinguished FAMUANS take their place in the annals
-- Hundreds of friends, alumni, relatives and dignitaries co
nverged on the Florida A&M University campus Friday to become a part of an important page in the university's history. Four significant campus buildings were named for six distinguished FAMUANs who comprised a former president, three deans, a congresswoman and a historian.
Walter L. Smith, Ph.D., seventh president of Florida A&M University
At the top of the morning, Walter L. Smith could not have been more high-spirited. It was a day that he and a few close friends (a couple of busloads from South Florida) attended a building naming ceremony for him.
It was also the day that three other buildings were being named – all buildings that Smith had some part in. It was a day to remember.
“What gives further definition and excitement to this moment, on this very day — February 23 — is that my mother was born 97 years ago. She was also a FAMU alumna even though she never graduated. Her career as a clothing designer and seamstress was boosted by her studies on campus.
“It’s the signal activity of my professional career where clear definition of my efforts and works in higher education are exemplified by name definition, which will last until infinity,” Smith said.
He added that his roots run deep at FAMU: “My grandfather began our family legacy in 1930 on the campus and, on this campus in 1959, he expired. Finally, my four children all graduated from FAMU, further giving rise to the legacy of our family at FAMU.”
Margaret Lewis, Ph.D., retired dean of the School of Nursing
In her touching, and sometimes emotional response to the day’s events, Margaret Lewis reflected on her years at the university. For her, It was a day for many memories, including those of her parents.
"I am deeply touched and especially honored," said Margaret Lewis, Ph.D., who is the retired dean of the School of Nursing. " I can't help but feel that my late parents are in touch with me this morning. When Dr. (Fred) Humphries announced that the Allied Health building would include my name, I went through a range of emotions . . . It just never occurred to me that, for simply working diligently to advance the mission of Florida A&M, that I would be so honored."
The former staff nurse at the old FAMU Hospital who earned a reputation as a “great administrator, leader, professor and dean” remarked about how her life’s work had come full circle – in a very personal way.
“Last August, I suffered a [stroke], which impacted me greatly. I could not walk,” said Lewis. She thought it significant that some of the very students who received their training at FAMU and others who were in a field that she loved would end up lending their healing touches to her. “ I would not be here today without their ongoing, skillful dedication to my care. I will always be grateful.”
"I am very honored to have my name associated with this building."
Jacqueline Beck, Ph.D., retired dean of the School of Allied Health
Jacqueline Beck said memories flooded back on her – almost like a ton of bricks.
“Today brings back so many memories for me,” she said. “I think I remember every brick that was ever laid.” She was speaking about the School of Allied Health building that now bears her name, along with Margaret Lewis’, retired nursing dean.
Beck took a moment to offer a bit of wisdom. “If you see Webster’s [dictionary] , it tells you that a citadel holds precious commodities,” Beck said. “That is just perfect for what we are doing today. We are not naming a building, but a citadel. . .”
She then added her own spin to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem: “Bells, bells, hear them ringing. . . . What a glorious future this melody foretells.”
“This school of Allied Health stood on the shoulders of so many in the health-care arena. We were here . . . we eased in . . . when everybody looked up, here we were, and we are strong.”
She thanked former presidents and administrators from B.L. Perry to Oscar Moore to Gertrude Simmons to Clinita Ford to Walter Smith and Frederick Humphries. She praised the new dean, Cynthia Hughes-Harris “who has brought in her own creativity . . . “
She reminded the packed room that “every man is a piece of the continent.”
Then, the retired health-care professional waxed poetic once more: “On this day, ask not to know for whom those bells toll. They toll for thee.”
Sybil Mobley, Ph.D., retired dean of the School of Business and Industry
The woman who turned a small business department into one of FAMU’s most renowned schools was very humble. The woman who had received national attention in Fortune and Newsweek because of the “premier business program” that was her baby bore a slight, but proud smile. The woman who had Fortune 500 company leaders and recruiters trekking to FAMU for decades to be a part of the school’s fabric in some way was of few words on Friday.
Those few words, however, said it all: “The dedication of the Sybil C. Mobley Business building means an awful lot to me. It is a fantastic building, with a fantastic program and a fantastic staff.
“Everything we did in the School of Business and Industry, we did as a team. I am glad the team is still here,” said Mobley, who retired several years ago after 58 years of service at the university.”
“It is certainly a delight coming to see the building -- and it is finished.”
Many members of her family traveled to Tallahassee and the campus for her special day, the day that would engrave her name and her outstanding contributions in history.
“It is great to see that throughout these many years of sacrifice, effort and dedication of love that it has come to this end — the dedication of a building in my mother’s name,” said Janet Sermon, assistant dean of the College of Education. “She gave so many years of her life to the School of Business and Industry. The entire family is elated. “
James N. Eaton, the late founder and director of the Black Archives
The expansion of the Southeastern Regional Black Archives and Museum is finished and Carnegie Library can exhale – and better show off the countless artifacts, papers, exhibits and art that tell the story of a people’s history and a man’s legacy.
James N. Eaton, founder, curator and director of the Black Archives, died before seeing its completion or bearing witness to the fact that the gem that sits beneath the widespread Live Oaks will now bear his name, and that of his good friend, retired Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek.
On Friday, his wife and family, joined a standing-room-only crowd for the building naming ceremony.
Leathea Eaton was resplendent in red and moving in a “conversation” with her late husband on this historic day.
“The year was 1930. The month was September, the fourteenth day. A baby was born who had no idea of a dream that needed a champion. But, this baby and this dream found each other. It was a date with destiny,” she said.
She continued: “Jimmy, I can’t help but think of you and your big dreams today. Any dream that aspires to liberate is larger than the liberator. . . “
“So may people of all colors have come to see what this place is all about. I am so proud of you. . . We don’t always get to choose our mission or our passion . . .it is often that it chooses us. . . . I just want to thank you for your dream.”
Her moving tribute to her husband drew murmurs and caused eyes to mist as she closed:
“The dreamer is not with us today, but the dream remains. Realized. Actualized. And “Eatonized.”
A fleeting moment of sadness turned to knowing smiles and triumph.
Carrie Meek, retired U.S. Congresswoman
The retired congresswoman has many plaques, accolades, certificates, honors and special mementoes to fill a few rooms, no doubt. For Carrie P. Meek, she will have something that few others will have: a room to fill her life’s work in a building that bears her name.
“I feel privileged to be in the act,” she said.
Meek thanked her family who had traveled to be with her at FAMU, the place she grew up near that later became her alma mater. “Orange and green runs throughout my system. [Talking about FAMU] is something that makes me very emotional.
“When you sit now in this beautiful building, you can see that it is really a milestone in the life of this university. Eaton was the historian who started it all so that it would help you to remember our history – in Tallahassee, Florida and America.
She gave honor to Freedom Fighter and FAMU alumna, Patricia Stephens Due, who had also joined her for the celebration. “She’s the reason that I’m standing here. She marched . . . and spent months in the jail. If any fingers are pointed today of greatness, they should be pointed at Patricia Stephens Due. She had the bravery and the courage.”
She paid tribute to Florida Sen. Tony Hill. “Here is a man who fought the fight, along with my son, when black youngsters needed am equal chance.” Her son, who was then a Florida representative, now holds his mother’s congressional seat in Washington. He was also a special guest at the naming ceremony.
She also recognized another female former state senator who – in a man’s world – stood with her as she “fought the Dempsey Barrons of the world so that FAMU could get is chance.”
She thanked and recognized still others – childhood and college friend, Edwina Martin, former aide Tola Thompson and Murrell Dawson, who now serves as director at the Archives.
“The memories keep cascading back of the days I marched down the steps of the Carnegie Library. I remember reading Chaucer here. I am just so pleased to be here in the presence of Castell Bryant, Mrs. Eaton, Murrell Dawson and others.
Each one of you has added something to my life.” Emotions poured forth.
“For this to be Black History Month, I am pleased to be here,” she said. “You see, if you stand around long enough, God will give you all the blessings you deserve.”