Fort Valley State University is an Historically Black 1890 Land-Grant Institution located in Fort Valley, Georgia and founded in 1895. FVSU (formerly Fort Valley State College) was originally conceived after the 1939 consolidation Fort Valley High and Industrial School (chartered in 1895) and the State Teachers and Agricultural College of Forsyth (founded in 1902). Under this consolidation, the new Fort Valley State College was transferred over to be state controlled and operated. In 1947 the land-grant distinction was given to FVSU after the Board of Regents decided to move it from Savannah State College. Fort Valley State College became Fort Valley State University in 1996.
This is the HBCU that I currently attend and I love my HBCU! Here are 5 notable alumni from Fort Valley State University and, as an added treat, I talk about why they inspire me!
- Marquette King, Oakland Raiders Punter (Only Black Punter In The NFL)
If you’ve been watching TV the past few months, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen Marquette King’s face plastered all over your screen. King is one of the fan favorites in the NFL. He’s a charismatic dude that is definitely good at what he does. Sometimes when I see him on TV I pause in awe over the fact that he went to FVSU only a few years before I got on the yard.
King was greatness personified when he went to FVSU. In his junior year, he punted 54 times for 2,144, averaging 39.7 per punt and placed 17 punts inside the 20-yard line. He punted 60 times for 2,582 yards (43.0 avg.), having 21 punts downed inside the 20-yard line on his way to All-American honors his senior year. The craziest thing about it is that he was recruited to FVSU as a receiver!
Marquette King inspires me because he’s from my hometown and he went to FVSU and made a name and a brand for himself for his skill at punting. His story also reaffirms for me the value of trusting the process and that your life journey isn’t always set in stone. Remember, he came to FVSU as a wide receiver and ended up being a punter. What if the coaches hadn’t changed his position? Would he still be where he is today?
- Thomas W. Dortch Jr., Creator of the National Black Alumni Hall of Fame & Former Chairman of 100 Black Men of America
Thomas Dortch Jr. is a 1973 Alumus of Fort Valley State College and a successful social entrepreneur. Under his leadership as the former chairman, 100 Black Men of America expanded to include 102 chapters throughout the United States and the world. He became the Associate Director of the Democratic Party of Georgia in 1974 where he assisted in the creation of the first charter for the state party and wrote the first Affirmative Action and Compliance Review Program.
One of his accomplishments that sticks out to me is that he founded the the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. THe NBCAHOF holds a conference every year that HBCU Royal Courts are invited to. During this conference, a competition between the leading HBCU Queens happens. If you win the title of Miss FVSU you already know that you’re gearing up to compete in the pageant come late September.
I’m inspired by Thomas Dorch because he made an immediate impact on the community after he graduated FVSC. He left the yard in 1972 and started his professional career in 1972. That’s the same route that I want to go in my life! Plus, he still finds to time to acknowledge and empower HBCU’s through the National Black Alumni Hall of Fame conference and pageants. HBCU advocacy doesn’t stop once you graduate and Thomas Dorch Jr. is a perfect example of it.
- Desi Ray-Morris, Acclaimed Dancer (Danced on the BET Awards & on tour with Johnny Gill & Toni Braxton)
Man, I had to shout out this budding superstar man! I’ve been a fan of hers since I found out about her my freshman year. I saw her dance at the coronation of the 77th MIss Fort Valley State University Jessica Hatcher in 2015 and I was amazed. She was so graceful and her moves were so natural. During that performance she was fresh off of being in Drumline: A New Beat. To see the places that she’s gone since I first saw her perform is amazing to say the least.
Let me back up though! When Desi was on the yard she pledged Delta Sigma Theta and was the captain of P.H.A.S.E.S. She did a memorable viral performance at the 2012 Fake Da Funk event where she portrayed Ciara. She did Ciara so well that Ciara even shouted her out! If you watch the video (featured below) you’d legit think that it was Ciara doing the performance!
Recently, Desi has been on tour and dancing in movies such as Netflix’s Step Sisters, the YouTube Red show Step Up: High Water and she’s even booked an episode on Fox’s Queen Latifah led drama Star. Even with all of the amazing things that she has going on she’s still found the time to give back to her HBCU by helping P.H.A.S.E.S. out during the school year. She even popped up at our game against Clark Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. More than anything, we need our alumni to donate time. Imagine how many young women Desi is inspiring working with P.HA.S.E.S.!
Desi inspires me because her journey shows me that anything is truly possible from the yard of FVSU. She went from setting it off at Fake Da Funk to getting a spot on a prime time TV show with a rap legend! Desi Ray-Morris is HBCU Goals for real!
- Catherine Hardy Lavender, Olympic Gold Medalist
During formal occasions, Fort Valley State University President Dr. Paul Jones does a speech where he highlights the notable alumni of our institution. The purpose is to showcase the greatness that comes from the Valley. During the speech he highlights an alumni that won an Olympic Gold Medal. Yup, that’s Catherine Hardy Lavender! She won an Olympic gold medal in the 4 × 100 metres relay at the 1952 Olympic Summer Games that was held in Helsinki, Finland. Realize the point in time that occured. Segregation and Jim Crow was still a real thing.
Admittedly, Lavender didn’t even want to attend Fort Valley State College. Nope, she wanted to attend Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) but she didn’t have the money and segregation made it where she could only attend an HBCU because she wasn’t allowed into a PWI. At Fort Valley State College she was encouraged to try her hand at running track by Raymond Pitts, the FVSC track coach at the time. It 1949 she finally tried it and the rest is history!
Catherine Hardy Lavender inspires me but should inspire all of my peers at FVSU and at other HBCU’s around the nation to try new things. Catherine Lavender was playing basketball and never thought about running track until the track coach recommended it to her. If you don’t take a leap of faith, the places that you can go in your journey will be limited and your opportunities at growth voided.
- Jo Ann Robinson, Civil Rights Activist & Educator
Fun fact, before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the “Whites Only” section of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama there was a FVSU alumnus that had the same experience and even proposed a bus boycott herself. That woman is Jo Ann Robinson. In 1949, before Rosa Parks in 1955, Robinson was verbally attacked for sitting in the “whites only” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She proposed a bus boycott to the Women’s Political Council, the organization that she was a part of, but was told that how she was treated was “a fact of life in Montgomery”. Jo Ann Robinson is such a boss that she went and told the then mayor of Montgomery, Alabama that a boycott was coming and then after Rosa Parks was arrested she was a part of the group that planned the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She warned you!
Jo Ann Robinson inspires me because we see that we can use our education here at FVSU to make a definitive difference in the world. At a point in time where we stare in the face of blatant injustice, we must stand and be fearless in the face of wrongdoing. Jo Ann Robinson had her life threatened and was treated unfairly because of her stance as an activist. In February, 1956, a local police officer threw a stone through the window of her house. Then two weeks later, another police officer poured acid on her car. Guess what she did. She still still stood tall and even wrote a book about it called The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, published in 1987! HBCU Goals!