UAPB to mark 140 years during Founders’ Celebration

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will mark its 140th Founders’ Celebration with a notable change of date for the Founders’ Convocation and hands-on inclusive activities. Celebration events will officially begin April 24th and continue through April 28th, according to university officials.

New this year, Founders’ Convocation will be held Thursday, April 25th at 10:30 a.m. in the Kenneth L. Johnson, Sr., Health Physical Education and Recreation Complex (HPER).

The Convocation speaker will be Charlie Nelms, ED.D, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C, from 2007 to 2012. Dr. Nelms, an AM&N alumni, has more than 40 years of experience and leadership in higher education. Currently, he is launching a national initiative related to transforming Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Founders’ Celebration is a tradition that has been going on for over 60 years, blending academics, social activities, and history in an effort to communicate not only the history of the University, but also the importance of remembering how history built the school into what it is today. The formal celebration of Founders’ Day can be dated back to 1943, during the administration of Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Sr. The original chairman of the celebration, Butler T. Henderson, was head of the department of business and economics. In charge of a celebration that originally lasted a full week, Henderson made sure the activities during this time were varied and culturally rich, all while showing the growth that Arkansas AM&N had achieved.

The first day of the festivities will be a Vintage Fashion Show scheduled for 12:00 noon Wednesday, April 24th, in the L.A. Davis, Sr. Student Union Lounge. UAPB students and personnel will model a collection of styles (for men and women) from the years 1911 to 1991. Also, this first day has been designated a Service Day, and UAPB students and staff will perform volunteer services at pre-designated local community agencies throughout the day.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25th, a Poetry Slam will be held in the L.A. Davis, Sr. Student Union Lounge. Students and faculty will share their spoken word talent by performing original poetry. This event is free and open to the public.

On Friday, April 26th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a Bell Tower Gathering will be held at the W.E. O’Bryant Bell Tower on the UAPB Campus. This gathering will feature historical reflections from Dr. Carolyn Blakely, retired Dean of Honors’ College, and a skit provided by Dr. Freddie Hartfield of the Mathematics Department.

Saxophonist Benjamin “Skip” Pruitt will be the special guest and honored performer during the Founders’ Concert scheduled for Friday, April 26th at 7 p.m. in the John M. Ross Theatre of the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Building. A Detroit native, Pruitt is a UAPB graduate and well-known musician who has performed in Carnegie Hall along with notable artists such as Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Jennifer Holliday, Toni Braxton, Michael Bolton, Keith Washington, George Duke and Phil Perry. This concert is free and also will feature the UAPB Jazz Band and Wind Symphony.

On Saturday, April 27th at 8 a.m., early risers can participate in a National Alumni Association Walk-a-thon at the Pine Bluff Saracen Landing. For more information on participation or donations, contact the UAPB/AM&N National Alumni Association at 870-536-2309.

Another Founders’ tradition is the annual Black and Gold Game that will be held at 1 p.m. in Golden Lions Stadium.

On Sunday, April 28th, the 140th Founders’ Celebration will end with the Annual Sunrise Service at 6:30 a.m. in the Cross-Phipps Auditorium of Caldwell Hall and Alumni Breakfast immediately after in the L.A. Davis, Sr. Student Union Cafeteria.

For more information, call 870-575-8375, or visit the website at

(Special thanks to the UAPB University Museum and Cultural Center for historical information contributed to this article.)


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