Hampton U. convocation is homecoming for keynoter Haysbert

By Alysia Sims

Hampton University’s opening convocation is seen as the kickoff to a new school year, and the beginning of the end for seniors. What is said can motivate and encourage some to start the year off strong. JoAnn Haysbert, Ph.D., executive vice president of the university, was chosen to be that voice for the 69th annual Opening Convocation Sunday.

Haysbert said she had a feeling of excitement when asked to be the speaker for opening convocation: “I felt honored, privileged and wondered, why me? You will often ask that question when given such an honor as this.”

Haysbert said she is preparing for her speech by listening to and observing what is going on in the Hampton community. She hopes students take her speech as a challenge to make the remaining years they may have at Hampton unforgettable.

Haysbert hopes to challenge those majoring in art to create masterpieces, and those future engineers to invent something new. She wants students to create and invent new things while still here at Hampton University.

“I hope they take my speech as a challenge to seize the opportunity they have while here,” said Haysbert. I want students to take advantage of, as I will refer to it on Sunday, “THE” Hampton University. Make it something great.”

This is Haysbert’s first year back at Hampton after spending six years as the president of Langston University in Oklahoma. She was the 15th and first female president at Langston, reported blackscholarsindex.com. That distinguished her as the first African-American female president of an institution of higher education in the state of Oklahoma.

Haysbert’s inaugural mantra for Langston University was, “from excellence to greatness.” Under her guidance, a 10-year strategic plan, the first in the university’s history, was created. The plan was developed to enhance efforts to change the culture of Langston University, according to an account from hbcubuzz.com. Under her leadership, the campus environment morphed into a coherent, shared organizational culture in which all members of the community of scholars understood the missions, goals and values of the institution.

Haysbert was invited to Hampton 31 years ago by Martha Dawson, Ph.D. and President William R. Harvey. Haysbert held many positions while at Hampton the first time around. She started off as assistant to the vice president of academic affairs. After one year she was promoted to the assistant vice president for academic affairs, and was also the director of the Assessment and Learning Center.

Additional positions Haysbert held were professor, director of the summer session, coordinator of the graduate studies in education, dean of freshman studies, assistant provost for academic affairs, and provost.
Haysbert also served as acting president during Harvey’s 2003-04 sabbatical leave.

Haysbert said she is happy to be back at Hampton, and feels she never really left.

“It is the Hampton Mystique. Even when I was away for those six years a part of me still remained at Hampton,” Haysbert said, “A lot of my children attended Hampton. My youngest daughter is currently a student here, so the invitation to come back home was a blessing.”

Opening Convocation will be held at Ogden Hall and will begin at 10:45 a.m.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications