“When people speak Grambling, they speak of a name that is above other universities because of tradition,” said Valvasti Williams Jr., a member of the class of 1985.
When you think of Grambling you think of tradition, you think of all the people before who opened the doors and made the paths for an equal opportunity of education. You think about the band, which has come a long way since 1926 when President R.W.E. Jones obtained 17 instruments through Sears & Roebuck.
For many years now, the World Famed Tiger Marching Band has had an Alumni Band to take the field at the Homecoming game. There are also alumni drum majors, Orchesis dancers, majorettes and even flag corps.
Williams, a music major from Chicago who participated in this year’s Alumni Band halftime performance, described how the excitement of being in the band so many years rushed back when he took the field Saturday.
“Seeing the applause is a pleasure and an honor in itself, and we are already planning for next year’s performance.”
Alumni band members return six months prior to Homecoming events to practice tunes and prepare a halftime performance.
“Setting standards high,” is what Williams believes changes each Homecoming performance.
Williams was in school from 1980-1985; he became a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, and Omega Psi Phi during his time here in school. He is now a band director at Chicago Vocational School and is the sixth generation of Grambling State alumni band directors to enter that position.
– Gloria Morgan
The campus was filled Saturday with tailgating, laughter, memories, and cheers of students, visitors and alumni. Alumni this year seemed to over populate the campus and reminisce about memories only Grambling State University could bring back.
In the midst of the crowd was a group of alumni who had just bought hundreds of dollars of Grambling paraphernalia. They were talking about the big tree that sits in front of Favrot Student Union.
“This is the tree of knowledge,” said Lisa Jackson, who graduated in 1980 as a nursing major. “I used to just sit under this tree as an underclassman and gain so much knowledge,” she said, chuckling. She and the group were amazed not just that the tree was still there, but about how big it had gotten over the years.
Jackson has been working as a school nurse in her hometown of Mobile, Ala., for 10 years. While at Grambling, she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha and also had a child of her own her last year upon graduating.
“I love Grambling, especially Homecoming,” said the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member. “It allows all of us ‘old heads’ to feel young again.”
The advice she would give to current students: “Never give up. If you have support, family, and God, you can do anything. And have fun while you’re doing it.”
Based on appearance of the campus this Homecoming weekend, Grambling had the fun part covered.
– Gabrielle Williams
Gulfport, Miss., native Kiara Dedeaux, a member of the Grambling State University class of May 2011, returned to campus for Homecoming.
“This Homecoming was my first official homecoming as an alumnus,” she said. “Words can’t describe the feeling of returning to a place that is filled with so many memories.”
Her memories include athletics, academics and opportunities. She majored in mass communications with a concentration in broadcasting, and after graduating, she stayed to participate in an internship with ESPN.
Dedeaux proudly sported No. 2 and played left field for the GSU softball team, where she received All Conference Player of the Year honors. She also worked with the GSU Television Center, helping with major productions as well as regular student newscasts. She also became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority in 2009 and won various community service awards with them.
She is currently a photographer and chyron operator – otherwise known as a studio technician – for WLOX News in Biloxi, Miss. Her career goal is to become a sports reporter by 2013.
Dedeaux said she has been attending Grambling’s Homecoming since the fall of 2007 and has not missed one since.
– Morgan Butler
Homecoming is not just for the enjoyment of the current students. It’s also for the family and friends of the students, the community that surrounds the school, and for the alumni to return to their alma mater to see what has changed since their farewell. Some alumni return to Grambling State University to reunite with old classmates and teachers; others return just to see the growth of the extracurricular activities they participated in; and some return to network with and advise the students in their department of study.
One student who was able to give his thoughts Homecoming was Yusuf Anderson, a 2011 business major who graduated last year. Anderson, who is currently doing a professional internship with Walt Disney in Orlando, Fla., was a member of the World Famed Tiger Marching Band who also held the position of head drum major.
Anderson said he was able to meet with old friends and classmates to reminisce on the time they spent while he was in school.
– Michael Brown
Adrian Bonner, a 30-something-year-old male from Dallas, brought his high school marching band to Homecoming at Grambling State. That’s only natural since he was a member of the World Famed Tiger Marching Band and became head drum major in his junior and senior years. He graduated in the early 2000s.
After graduation, Bonner moved back to his home of Lancaster, Texas, on the outskirts of Dallas. He is now the head band director. It goes without saying that the Lancaster High School band’s marching style is based on GSU’s, with a slight twist.
The Lancaster Tigers have been preparing to visit GSU for Homecoming since the beginning of the semester. They raised money by washing cars and selling candy bars. The Band Booster Club also helped with expenses.
“I can’t wait to see what my college band has in store this year,” Bonner said before Saturday’s halftime show. “We all know how the World Famed does it. I’m expecting a class act performance today.”
Bonner has been bringing the band to Homecoming for three years. Bonner and the students say they can hardly wait till next year’s big event.
– Trevoir Mays