Birdex Copeland, who chairs the credit union’s board of directors, gave a rousing commencement speech to the Fall 2013 graduates, urging them to use their Grambling State education as a strong foundation for a good career, a life dedicated to helping others and a commitment to give and to serve their alma mater. He was surprised when the credit union announcement was made on the stage.
“The gift is a token of the credit union’s great respect for Grambling State University and the tremendous appreciation both institutions have for Dr. Copeland,” said Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue, noting that the professorship will be in the school’s sociology program where Copeland taught. “Dr. Copeland has been a stellar chair of the credit union’s board, a great example of fiscal integrity and a wonderful example of what GSU represents.”
Credit union representatives gave the Grambling University Foundation a $20,000 check and will make contributions annually in each of the next three years to provide the university with the $60,000 it needs to seek a $40,000 match from state funds. Leon Sanders, vice president for finance and administration and interim vice president for institutional advancement, said the university was thrilled when officials learned about the donation and promised to keep it a secret from Copeland until the commencement. “That was tough because we just wanted to tell everyone,” said Sanders, “but we did what we were asked to do: keep quiet.” He said the school has had increased alumni and friend giving in the last two months, and this is one of the more significant contributions.
Pogue said Copeland, who worked as a university professor for more than 30 years before retiring a few years ago, is very much a part of the university community and he is seen on campus and at university events throughout the year. “Sometimes I wonder whether he’s still working, and I even think he’s still teaching some of our students,” said Pogue. “Copeland is an excellent example of what being a Gramblinite means, as a businessman, educator and community leader. This professorship will recognize his contributions with a lasting legacy.”
Started in 1956 and headquartered in Shreveport, La., the Shreveport Federal Credit Union, the credit union aims to provide financial services to unbanked and under-banked communities while encouraging the strengthening of credit and long-term financial planning. The credit union has three Shreveport offices, three Mississippi offices and a Grambling, La. Office, just off of the GSU campus. The credit union has more than 25,000 customer members, about 70 full time and part time employees and about $100 million in assets.
The university had more than 500 graduation participants during the commencement at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center on campus, including four students who earned 4.0 GPAs: Gayle Tricia Andrews, an accounting major from Castries, St. Lucia; Sabrina Fanet Joseph, an accounting major from Vielle Case, Dominica; Landry Samo Kopdjous, and accounting major from Douala, Cameroon and Roxan Amanda Stephenson, a biology major from Riviere Cyrique, Dominica.
There was a somber beginning to the graduation program after the traditional march when Pogue announced to the graduation class that one of their colleague graduates was not with them because he died Thursday. “I am saddened to report that one of the members of this 2013 fall graduating class passed away yesterday, John Mayfield of Dubach, La.,” the president told a hushed audience. “He had completed all of the requirements for the master's of science degree in criminal justice. On behalf of the entire university family, I express our sincere sympathies to his family.
Pogue asked everyone to join him “in a moment of silence for this fallen tiger."
Later in the program, Mayfield’s master’s in criminal justice was awarded to his aunt, Peggy Mitchell, along with a cousin, Angela Mitchell, and Jonall White, Mayfield’s son. Mayfield graduated from Grambling State University in 1988 and returned to pursue a graduate degree. Mitchell said he had been sick, knew he was not going to be around much longer and said he wanted only one more thing: to be able to march on Friday.
“He did march,” Mitchell said as she accepted Mayfield’s diploma from Pogue on stage. The graduates stood and applauded.
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