FAMU Alumni Orlando president Charles Lewis, right, meets Florida Lt. Gov. Carroll

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll didn’t have to appear at the Florida A&M University 2011 Alumni National Convention and Gala. But then again, she did. She felt compelled to pay homage to an august body of individuals who have created an indelible legacy in the world of education.

I stood in awe at the five-star Rosen Centre Hotel as she read the list of FAMU accomplishments before thousands of alumni and current students:

FAMU, the No. 1 HBCU as considered by Black Enterprise magazine

FAMU, the No. 1 producer of bachelor degrees among African Americans

FAMU, the No. 1 law school for blacks, as reported by U.S. News & World Report

FAMU, one of the top colleges for African American males with a 42 percent student body rate.

“I feel we need to support the university. We want to see the school succeed,” Carroll said before stating why FAMU competes with the likes of Harvard in many disciplines. “When the people leave, they come back and contribute what they’ve learned and the connections they have in the private sector so that it can enhance and bring about a different level of education, a higher order of education that FAMU affords all who attend there.”

High School students receive scholarships to attend FAMU this fall.

Before and after the gala, a few of the alumni shared what they believe makes FAMU, the largest HBCU school at 13,000 students, so great:

Joy Lawson – VP of the FAMU Alumni chapter. Graduated 1998 with full science degree from the College of Engineering and Science s: “Three words: excellence with caring. That’s our motto. That is what the university stands behind. One thing that I can definitely say about the university [is that] I came to FAMU when I was a sophomore in high school and, when I stepped on campus, I automatically knew that this is where I belonged. FAMU is about family. No one is a stranger. I think that’s what helps them when they are there and even when they leave. They have a set foundation. They know that people care about them. Another thing that FAMU teaches you are those life lessons that you may not learn from a book. You learn persistence. You learn tenacity. You learn in life that you never give up. That’s what makes our graduates so very special that Fortune 500 companies see us and say, ‘That’s the one I want to pick.’ ”

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, facing camera in red, greets FAMU alum

Keisha Pickett – Class of 2002, public relations chair for the national alumni association: “You cannot get a better learning environment with all the care that you need. It’s a family. When I got on ‘The Hill’ as a freshman, I truly bonded with the people there. All of my closest friends are from FAMU. Your professors are more attentive, and they know when something’s not right. We have Rattlers all over the world doing wonderful things.”

Tommy Mitchell – President of the FAMU national alumni: “We’re just blessed. The other HBCUs are great, too, and make a difference. We just have people who are outstanding. Years ago, Fortune magazine came out with a statement that said, ‘Watch out Harvard, here comes FAMU.’ That pretty much sums it up.”

terry shropshire

Terry Shropshire

I'm a lover of words, pictures, people and The Ohio State Buckeyes. A true journalist from the soul.