DENMARK, S.C. (courtesy voorhees.edu) — Ronnie Hopkins, Ph.D., vowed to take Voorhees University to the next level of excellence during the April 8 inauguration ceremony held in the Leonard E. Dawson Center. An audience of 400 family members, friends, faculty, staff, students, alumni and delegates from academic institutions witnessed the ceremony, which was led by the Episcopal Church.
Hopkins built on the April 7 Founder’s Day ceremony celebrating the institution’s 125th anniversary and the announcement of Voorhees becoming Voorhees University.
After showing gratitude to his family and others for supporting him, Hopkins, inaugurated as the tenth president of Voorhees University, said, “That next level of excellence will be realized in the full development of the Becoming Beloved Community initiative. Through the initiative, we are proud to establish the Rural Community Development Center, the Social Justice Institute for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Environmental Justice Institute and the Center for Women’s Empowerment and Advancement.”
Hopkins said the university is cultivating nearly 200 acres of land to be used for solar and organic farming and campus master planning. He said the university can be proud of recent land acquisitions and his grantsmanship, which totals $61 million. The funding will positively impact children and youth in Denmark, Bamberg and other towns in rural South Carolina, according to Hopkins.
He mentioned that the university already is in a position to grow its academic offerings with the recent approval of a master’s degree program in teaching and learning by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
“Voorhees University is committed to staying focused on academic excellence, as we move to the next level of excellence,” Hopkins said. “I am confident, that together, we will find ways to not only meet the high expectations we have for ourselves but exceed those of our community, our nation and our world, because we are Voorhees University.”
Hopkins was pleased to share that Voorhees is the first Historically Black College or University founded by an African American woman, Elizabeth Evelyn Wright.
When contemplating his leadership style going forward, Hopkins said he will lead with love, referencing Michael Curry’s words about love being the way to live a positive life. Curry is presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church.
“I urge us to embrace love as a way of living,” Hopkins said. “With love we will be confident and strong and do what is right, as only God gives us the vision to see what is right. I am so blessed to serve as the 10th president of Voorhees University. I will offer all that God provides me to lead her well.”
The order of service for the inauguration was officiated by Daniel Paul Richards, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. David Miller, chairman of the Voorhees University Board of Trustees, presided over the investiture.
“I am deeply moved by your vision, your tenacity, your love for this place. I cannot wait to see the flourishing of the seeds you together with this beloved community are planting,” Woodliff-Stanley said as she concluded her sermon.
Sherry Hopkins, Ph.D. and director of Institutional Research, Assessment and Quality Enhancement at Voorhees, along with William H. Whitaker, Jr., Ph.D. and acting dean of the College of Agriculture and Family & Consumer Science at South Carolina State University, assisted Hopkins with robing and hooding. The medallion was presented by Damara Hightower Mitchell, Ed.D. and vice president and provost for Academic Affairs, and Prince H. Brown, Ph.D., vice president for University Advancement, both at Voorhees.
W. Franklin Evans, Ph.D. and the ninth president of Voorhees, presented the mace to Hopkins. He was assisted by Charlene Johnson, vice president for Student Affairs and director of Athletics, and Corey Amaker, Ph.D. and vice president for Strategic Planning and Technology, both at Voorhees.