Category Archives: Uncategorized

Grambling State University Wins Hospitality Award from Ruston Lincoln CVB

RUSTON, LA (January 10, 2022) – The Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau is proud to announce the 2021 Lincoln Parish Hospitality Award recipient is Grambling State University. The award will be presented at the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. at the Ruston Civic Center.

Since 1999, the Ruston Lincoln CVB has recognized members of the community who make a significant impact on our area and help fulfill the CVB’s mission by honoring them with the Lincoln Parish Hospitality Award. The Ruston Lincoln CVB is honored to present this year’s award to Grambling State University. GSU President Rick Gallot will be accepting the award on behalf of the university.

“The CVB had the pleasure of working closely with Grambling State University over the last few years as they brought several exciting events to the GSU campus,” said Amanda Carrier, Ruston Lincoln CVB President/CEO. “In particular, the NAIA Football National Championship games and the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics Conference brought numerous visitors to the area and had a significant economic impact on our community.”

Grambling State University combines the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college, a combination that enables students to grow and learn in a positive environment. In addition to being one of the country’s top producers of African American graduates, Grambling continues to build a reputation as a host for large athletic events; most recently the 2019 and 2020 NAIA Football National Championships, as well as the 2021 Brown Girls Do Gymnastics Conference.

“We are thankful to the Ruston Lincoln CVB for the recognition of community service, engagement, and economic development we are honored to provide,” said Grambling State President Rick Gallot. “Advancement and Athletics staff at Grambling State University are passionate about creating opportunities that promote the versatility of the campus, the hospitality of our team, and the appeal of Lincoln Parish.”

The staff at Grambling State was vital in the success of each event, as they served on planning committees prior to the events, worked tirelessly with organizers on event logistics, welcomed athletes, coaches, and fans when they arrived in town, and helped in various capacities day-of to ensure the events ran smoothly.

“The CVB greatly appreciates the work President Gallot and his team have done to enhance the University’s profile for hosting large events, as well as helping meet the CVB’s mission of promoting Lincoln Parish as a quality place to visit,” said Carrier.

About the Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau is a destination marketing organization that works to create, preserve and enhance a variety of quality visitor experiences through the promotion of Lincoln Parish. For more information, visit

Grambling State names Melanie E. Jones VP for Advancement, Research and Economic Development

Melanie E. Jones

Grambling, La – December 20, 2021 – Grambling State University is moving forward by adding solid experience in developing and expanding its advancement programs, as GSU President Rick Gallot has announced the hiring of Melanie E. Jones as Vice President for Advancement, Research, and Economic Development.

An energetic and transformative leader committed to advancing communities in which she has lived and served, Jones most recently has served as Vice President for College Advancement at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she also served as the Executive Director of the York Technical College Foundation.

“I am beyond elated and extremely honored to join Grambling State University as its next Vice President for Advancement,” Jones said. “From its rich 120-year history of academic excellence to the legacy of its athletic programs and the World Famed marching band,
GSU is a vibrant and thriving community.”

Gallot said he believes Jones is the perfect choice to help continue pushing GSU to a future brighter than ever before.

“We are really excited about Melanie Jones joining the leadership team as our Vice-President of Advancement, Research, and Economic Development,” Gallot said. “Her background in fundraising, foundation operations, and philanthropy, among others, is a great fit for GSU as we continue to grow in those areas. We are fortunate to have someone as talented as she is and look forward to her leadership of our advancement operations.”

Prior to arriving at York Tech in August of 2011, Jones had served as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Allen University, a Historically Black University in Columbia, South Carolina; Director of Development and External Affairs at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina; program manager at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; and as a high school chemistry teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Returning to the HBCU realm is exciting and aligns with my personal and professional purpose,” Jones said of her move to GSU. “The convergence of my passion and experience makes this opportunity unique and remarkable. I look forward to working with President Gallot and the Executive Leadership Team, the Grambling University Foundation, GUNAA, the Advancement team, our students, and all stakeholders to propel the Grambling brand to unparalleled heights.

“We have a unique opportunity to effectively elevate the university’s impact, broaden its strategic partnerships, and position GSU as the eminent choice for philanthropic investments and academic pursuits. Together, we have much work to do to ensure our mark on our local community, the state of Louisiana, this nation, and global society for the next 120 years and beyond. I’m excited to lead our advancement efforts and am confident GramFam will get it done!

A 2007 graduate of Leadership North Carolina, where she served as class leader, Jones directed a team that raised the highest amount of funds for scholarships through a class-giving campaign in the history of the organization. In September of 2010, the Greater Columbia (South Carolina) Chamber of Commerce named Jones as its Young Professional of the Year.

In her efforts to advance the communities in which she has lived, Jones has been an active volunteer with multiple community organizations, including Big Brother Big Sister, Girl Scouts, United Way, and Junior Achievement, and currently serves on several boards — the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation, Piedmont Medical Center, Wells Fargo, Arts Council of York County, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and more. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Rotary International, and a host of other professional and civic organizations.

A Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), the global standard for the fundraising profession, Jones is a graduate of Atlanta’s Spelman College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics. She also earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Tennessee Technological University (Cookeville, Tennessee). She is a member of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jones is a native of Huntsville, Alabama, and enjoys traveling, shopping, and music, and deems herself as an avid fanatic of University of Alabama football. She says her greatest joy comes from being an “auntie” and spending time with her nephews and other family
members currently residing in Alabama.

Grambling State commencement speaker urges graduates to tell their story

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications

Keynote speaker Dr. Rachel Francis opened her Grambling State University Fall 2021 Commencement speech by asking the new graduates to stop to soak in the moment and enjoy every bit of the day.

And like Francis, Pharmacist-In-Charge at the Teche Action Clinic Pharmacy in Youngsville, Louisiana, ended the speech Friday morning in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center, she told them it is now time to tell their story.

A big component of Francis’ speech was her own story.

“Imagine, just for a second, the year of 2009,” Francis said. “It was three days before graduation on a night we were holding graduation practice. Everyone was smiling, having fun ‘clowning’ if you will, and taking pictures trying to soak in the last good times we would have with our friends and fellow classmates.”

“Picture me smiling and having a grand time smiling and waiting for instructions on how the proceedings would follow. Everyone was talking about the future. Yes, the F-word. The future seemed so far away, but in reality, it was right there. Some of my classmates were going to immediately start working in their field. Some were going back to school to pursue a graduate degree. Some wanted to take a year off. But for me? I had no clue as to what I was going to do.”
Francis said it had been her life’s dream to be a pharmacist. But three days before graduation she had not heard from any of the 10 schools she had applied to.

“Luckily for me, I didn’t throw in the towel,” Francis said. “I didn’t have a pity party for myself. I told myself a dream is still a dream, even if it is deferred. I thought maybe I would go to school again, maybe for nursing. Or maybe work on a master’s in chemistry until I could get into pharmacy school. I was frantic applying to so many places in such a short period of time, letting my fingers do the talking on the applications. And the question was still, ‘What’s next?’”

Francis’ last trip to her campus mailbox as an undergraduate was when that question was answered for her.

“In the mailbox was my conditional acceptance to pharmacy school at Florida A&M University,” Francis said. “I was excited — elated — all of those adjectives you can think of. I totally disregarded the conditionally accepted part and celebrated with my friends and of course called my parents to tell them that I had finally been admitted to somewhere.”

“Once the excitement passed, I reread the letter and realized I still had to take four courses before I would be fully accepted into the program. I’m not ashamed to say my ego was bruised. My feelings were crushed. I was so excited to finally have a summer completely off and all of my plans were ruined.”

Francis said she went to FAMU for an acceptance interview before returning to Grambling to take those four courses she needed to in order to begin classes in Florida in the fall. She said some people in those classes didn’t believe she had already graduated, with some saying things she found hurtful.

“No one needed an explanation,” Francis said. “I had a goal to reach. I don’t want any of you to feel that your timeline is anyone else’s or that you have to explain yourself to make others feel good.

“Oftentimes people see and know the end results but don’t know what it took to make you the person you are today. I am a living, breathing witness and testimony for you all. Please continue on your path and journey. There may be setbacks. There may be alternate routes. But do not give up on your dream.”

Francis then talked about a setback she had at Florida A&M.

“I got sick and had to miss a week of class,” Francis said. “In pharmacy school, that’s career and school suicide because everything is so fast-paced. I was so sick, I had misread my excuse and later realized I had only been excused to miss one day of class instead of one week.”

“But I still decided to push on and attend class. I was so weak and feeble. But my classmates rallied around me and helped me through it so I would not be behind. I could have quit — packed up and gone home. I could have taken that brief sickness as a sign I was in the wrong place. But I didn’t.”

Francis said she didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a defining moment in her life.

“The word perseverance comes to mind,” she told the graduates. “Just as you stayed the course to complete your studies at Grambling State University, whatever is your ‘what next,’ persevere and finish what you start.”

“It may not be easy. It may take you a year or two later than planned. But nothing ever worth having comes easily. You will appreciate your struggle that much more because it makes you who you are. It motivates you to push on. It will become part of your story.”

Francis concluded by asking the graduates how they want to be remembered.

“How do you want to impact the world after graduation,” she asked. “Do you want to be known for your career? Your accolades? Your spirituality? No matter what it is, please allow your story to be told in the way it should be. To use a verse from one of my favorite songs from the Broadway play ‘Hamilton,’ — ‘Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?’

“Grambling State graduates, it’s time to tell your story,”

Grambling State’s Cheri Hodges stays on track to earn doctorate in Developmental Education

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications

Cheri Hodges was a sprinter during her undergraduate years as a student-athlete at Norfolk State University. But Hodges’ journey to earning her Doctor of Education in Developmental Education from Grambling State University was more of a marathon, beginning in 2012 while she was serving as an assistant track and field coach at GSU.

Hodges crossed the finish line on Wednesday morning as she walked across the stage at the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center and GSU President Rick Gallot conferred her with a doctoral degree.

Her journey was long, and not always easy.

“I was working, and there were some semesters where I took breaks and was not enrolled,” Hodges said. “I’ve moved to three different states over the years and had a child since starting the program and have been through three advisors over that time. My main one, Vernon Foster, died two or three years ago, and that was a big loss and a lot to take on. He was a great man and a great support system throughout my journey. When that happened, Dr. Cheryl Ensley jumped on board and got me to the finish line.”

Hodges, who had earned a Master’s degree in Sports Administration while working at GSU, then became Athletics Compliance Director for Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina before moving on to Howard, where she was most recently the assistant director for student support services for compliance and academics.

Since 2018 Hodges has served as the director of compliance at East Carolina University. Her primary responsibilities at ECU include oversight of Bylaw 11 – Personnel, Bylaw 13 – Recruiting, and Bylaw 17 – Playing and Practice Seasons. She works with all 18 sports, oversees student-athlete promotional activities, assists with rules education efforts, and monitors all on/off-campus recruiting activities.

Hodges also currently serves as a member of the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) and ECU ACE (Academics, Compliance, & Eligibility) Team.

Balancing work, studying and motherhood has been another big challenge for Hodges.

“Navigating through life as a mother with a young child (her daughter is now 6 years old) and working full time while being a full-time student is not easy,” Hodges said. “I had to be organized and keep in touch with my professors daily. I met with them on Zoom calls once or twice a week just to go over the material to make sure I stayed ahead in this course because I had to make sure I continued and didn’t slow down. It was challenging, but the outcome has been great.”

As a former student-athlete, Hodges is used to setting a new goal after reaching an old one.

“I started in athletics, so at one point in my journey I wanted to become an athletics director,” Hodges said. “Then I wanted to become a Senior Women’s Administrator for Athletics. Then as I started working with professors trying to bridge that gap between academia and athletics, I started to look at other roles. I would really love to continue doing booth in some fashion because I love both the athletic and academic side of university administration. But in the end, and I know that I still have a lot of work to put in before that could ever happen, becoming a Division I provost is now my ultimate goal.”

And based on her track record, that’s one more finish line Hodges could likely cross one day.

Keynote speaker Marco French brings table talk to new GSU graduates

Marco French

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications

Grambling, La. – December 16, 2021 – Persevere and make sure to get your seat at the table of life was the message presented by Principal Marco French to new Grambling State University graduates as GSU held its second round of Fall 2021 Commencement Exercises Thursday morning at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

French serves as principal at Shreveport’s Queensborough Elementary School and is the 2021 Louisiana State Principal of the Year.

But French’s journey to such significant honors wasn’t an easy one, and he used the table metaphor to urge the new GSU graduates to never give up, no matter what obstacles they might face on their own roads to success.

“You have reached a milestone in life with hopefully many more still to come,” French said. “Hopefully today you might hear something that will resonate in you when you face times that aren’t good, and when they are good. To be honest, I haven’t always been proud of the story of my journey. But looking back at this point, I wouldn’t change anything. So let’s take it from the top, and that’s with this — You belong at the table, so take your seat.”

“Some of you are thinking, ‘What do you mean?’ … There have been times in my life where I was not invited to the table or even invited into the room. I never ‘Bogarted’ my way to the table, never pushed my way into a room. But the Good Lord told me, your gifts will make room for you.”
French went on to talk about his success as a student at GSU being on the President’s list every semester, and being a Gates Millennium Scholar.

But then, as he neared completion of his degree French had to face one of his biggest obstacles ever — the Praxis test that has to be passed to be certified to become a classroom teacher.

“In 2003 I was supposed to graduate from Grambling after my four years there like most students do,” French said. “But that wasn’t the course for Marco French. I took the Praxis, and failed the end part of the test more than eight times. More than 10 times to be exact. Every time I failed the test by one point. After the fourth time of failing the test by only one point, I told myself it was time to give up. I could have easily quit school, or found another degree program and stayed in school even longer. I even had the test results rescored and got a letter back saying the test scores were 99% accurate and that my score hadn’t changed when being rescored.”

French ended up graduating from GSU with an Associate’s degree in child development and said he was job hunting when he was called on a Saturday afternoon by someone from Atkins Elementary School in Shreveport, who asked French if he had a job yet. French met with the principal and others on Sunday and was offered a job, and first thing that next Monday morning — two days after receiving the phone call — he was standing in front of his new classroom of 28 students serving as an uncertified substitute teacher receiving $80 per day.

And that became French’s life for the next eight years.

“Some people didn’t understand how I stayed in that position so long without being certified,” French said. “But I’ll tell you why. Every year for eight years, my third, fourth and fifth-grade students outscored classes taught by certified teachers at the school. Every time.”

French said that because of the complaints his principal eventually transferred him to a fourth- and fifth-grade Special Education Class.

“And guess what happened to my SPED students? — They scored as high or higher than the other classes,” French said. “I had made a name for myself, and I had made room at the table.”
French then explained there are three types of seats that can be at the table.

“The recliner seat is the one where you sit back, not to relax, but to sit back and pay attention to what’s going on in the room so you will know how to respond, how to reflect, and how to grow.

The second seat is the straight-back seat. That’s the seat when it comes time for business and you come to it and know what you know and you’re ready to completely dive into the conversation with everyone else sitting at the table with you.

“Then there’s the third seat. That’s the seat that swivels. When I sit in this seat, I’m truly prepared, not only for the things happening at the table but also the things happening around but away from the table. That’s the seat where you know what’s coming at you, good or bad.”

He then told the graduates what he’s learned from his years at the table — lessons that led to him eventually becoming principal at Queensborough, and having it removed from the state’s academically failing list and under French’s leadership receiving recognition as Louisiana’s Outstanding School, ranking first out of the top 10 high-performing schools for third-grade literacy progress and growth in 2019.

Queensborough was also recognized for having the highest growth in the district with a 93.7% progress index and a school performance score increase of eight points.

“What I learned at the table was how to trust and believe and know that God’s working things out for me,” French said. “God was allowing everything to fall into place for me in its given time.”

There are some pieces of the puzzle He’s still working on.

“So don’t give up and let any stumbling blocks get in your way. Now is the best time for you to grow and build your faith in God. Trust God and know that he has your back and your best interests at heart.”

French concluded by taking the new graduates to the table one last time.

“Today we celebrate you for so many reasons,” French said. “We thank you for not giving up when times got hard. We applaud you in making the right decisions to do the right things in leading you to the room that’s going to put you in the right seat at the table that’s already yours.”

Donelle E. Roberts: First-class performance as Grambling State valedictorian

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications


Actuarial science is the study of the financial implications of uncertain future events. Actuaries study how to quantify and manage risk, primarily in the fields of life and health insurance, pensions, employee benefits, and investments.

Grambling State University senior Donelle E. Roberts has invested the past seven semesters majoring in mathematics and physics with a concentration in Actuarial Science and has turned a truly first-place performance in doing so.

When GSU holds commencement exercises on Wednesday through Friday, Roberts will become the first member of her family to earn a college degree, the first graduate to earn a degree with a concentration in actuarial science from Grambling, and she will do so in first place as the 2021 fall semester valedictorian with a 3.98 GPA.

The native of Marigot, Dominica, said that one of the things that helped in her GSU journey was quickly becoming a member of GramFam.

“From the first week, things were quite easy for me, largely because people were so friendly,” Roberts said. “The first people I met were very helpful in showing me things like where the International Student Office was. I soon realized, much to my surprise, that there were many more students here from Dominica than I had thought there would be. So that was a really good feeling early on.”

“But it wasn’t only the students from Dominica — it was everyone. People here are so friendly, doing things like opening doors for you and just asking if you’re doing good. There really is a special, family-like atmosphere here and that made my transition an easy and good one.”

Roberts said her relatively quick journey to a bachelor’s degree was due to an unlikely combination of purpose and then unexpected circumstances.

“From the get-go, I knew that every semester I was going to try and take seven courses,” Roberts said. “That would allow me to graduate in two-and-a-half years. I remember my first and start of my second semester being quite hectic because I was taking seven courses and then I was helping to do practical and theoretical research on laser treatments of Samarium Cobalt to try and create smaller, stronger magnets with one of my physics professors, and was also doing quite a bit of on-campus tutoring for the Office of Retention. So I was really busy. But that also taught me to prioritize my time, build great habits and stay focused on my goals.”

Then that unexpected circumstance hit in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, classes suddenly went fully online, and that made managing my time easier because I didn’t have to race from one building to another, and try to grab a quick snack in between just to try to handle everything I had taken on.”

“The pandemic hit and slowed things down and just seemed to make it all a little easier. It helped make it easier to focus on classes because that’s pretty much all that was going on at that point.”

Roberts admits she had never considered actuarial science before coming to GSU.

“At first I didn’t know what I wanted to major in,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do something big, something important, but I really didn’t know what major would help me obtain such a broad goal. But I did know that I love math. So as I was scheduling it was suggested that I major in math but look at actuarial science, too. I was the first student to go into that program because GSU had just started it. The physics courses involved with the degree were tough but I still got the grades I wanted. I just went with actuarial science, and it’s been wonderful. I enjoy it very much.”

A member of Grambling State University’s Office of Retention, International Association of Black Actuaries, International Student Organization, STEM NOLA, National Science Foundation undergraduate research, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and National Society of Black Engineers, Roberts has been honored as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Scholar (2020-2021), Goldman Sachs HBCU Leadership Scholar (2020) and has been on the President’s List every semester since she’s been at GSU.

The youngest child of Ruth and Jeffers Roberts, she will also become the first person in her family to graduate from college.

“I have two older brothers and a sister, and I’m the youngest but the first to graduate, although my sister is taking a fully online course of study and is close to graduating, too,” Roberts said. She’s told me I’ve given her inspiration, and I appreciate that.”

Next up for Roberts is to continue studies to take and pass actuary certification classes.

“I’m studying for the first two right now for the Society of Actuaries,” Roberts said. “Then hopefully finding a job, maybe in the insurance field, or beginning work on a master’s in mathematics. I’m taking the road to my future one step at a time, but I have loved the journey so far and have loved the role Grambling State University has played in all of it.”

Grambling State Honors Fallen Student Jamarcea Washington with Posthumous Degree

Deshima Washington received the posthumous bachelor’s degree in memory of her late son Jamarcea Washington. She was accompanied by Great Grandmother Vallie Washington and one of his siblings, Nakayah Washington. Jamarcea was on track to graduate from Grambling State this semester before his untimely death in October this year. Photo by Carlton Hamlin.

Grambling, La. – December 16, 2021 – Grambling State University honored Jamarcea Washington with a posthumous bachelor’s degree during the 2021 Fall Commencement today at the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

Washington was a graduate of Southwood High School in Shreveport, La. where he majored in criminal justice and was a bass drummer for the World Famed Tiger Marching Band.

Grambling State University President Richard J. Gallot, Jr. presented Washington’s family a posthumous bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“It was an honor, it was definitely an honor,” Jamarcea’s mother, Deshima Washington said. “It was bittersweet because this was something he and I were talking about since August. I told him this was like the ultimate achievement for him, which was to graduate from college.”

Deshima said it was tough watching all the students graduate and having their families in the stands screaming and hollering throughout the commencement.

“In my heart and mind, I am saying I should be doing what they are doing,” she said. “Instead I am just trying to hold it together and keep from breaking down and crying. But I am honored and grateful to God that he entrusted me to be his mom. I know he is in heaven smiling and happy that I am here on his behalf to accept it for him.”

The Keithville, Louisiana native, who was affectionately known as “Jay,” was traveling north on Interstate 20 in Ada when his car struck the back of a tractor-trailer that had stopped or slowed for traffic.

Grambling State honored the graduates of the College of Education and College of Professional Studies during Thursday’s fall commencement.

Student-athletes Fields and Veerhees Celebrate Graduate Degree Achievements

Brian Howard | University Communications

Grambling, La. – December 15, 2021 – Grambling State University football defensive back Danquarian Fields and women’s soccer goalkeeper Britt Veerhees battled adversity but both celebrated milestone achievements during the Fall 2021 Commencement today at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.


Fields overcame a leg injury against Louisiana Tech during the 2019 football season and returned to action this past season. Veerhees battled a knee injury that saw her miss the first 11 games of the 2021 season before returning to help guide the Lady Tigers to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Women’s Soccer Tournament championship game.

Neither Fields nor Veerhees could have predicted their paths crossing and ending on the graduation stage during Wednesday’s commencement.

Fields, who is a native of Arcadia, Louisiana, suffered a gruesome injury to his right lower leg on Sept. 7, 2019. He was transported to Northern Louisiana Medical Center in Ruston but was airlifted to Shreveport for emergency surgery.

On a tackle in the first quarter at Louisiana Tech, Fields and two other teammates converged to tackle a Bulldog player. Fields’ right leg gave way, dislocating his kneecap and leg. The way his leg was contorted, the dislocation damaged the main artery, putting not only his career but also his lower leg in jeopardy.

After hours of surgery, the doctors were able to re-establish a pulse and save Fields’ leg while also rescuing from debilitating dread.

“I really thank God for even letting me have my leg. I really don’t know what I would have done,” Fields said. “I wasn’t thinking about football when I heard (that I might lose my leg). I was just hoping I’d have another chance to have the leg. I just wanted to be stable and have a leg.”

Fields not only recovered from that day but also continued to push forward and eventually back onto the football field. He represented Grambling State at the annual football press conference in July and was voted a team captain prior to the 2021 season.

In his only game, Fields came through with a critical interception and return against Alabama A&M as Grambling State held on for a 37-28 victory.

“I have enjoyed my time at Grambling,” Fields said. “What I will take away is how much I had to battle through adversity time and time again. Today is extremely special and words cannot describe how I truly feel.”

Fields walked across the stage on Friday with a Master of Science in Kinesiology.


Britt Veerhees earned a Masters of Science Degree in Public Administration and spent two years as a student at Grambling State. Wednesday’s ceremony marked a celebration for Veerhees with her family making the trip from the Netherlands.

“It was very special to have them make the trip to see me graduate,” Veerhees said. “I didn’t expect the borders to open in time for graduation, so when they opened, we immediately started to plan a trip. We just came back from New York City and the Grand Canyon. I also had the opportunity to show them around the Grambling community, a place where I have lived for the past year and a half.”

Veerhees said that her parents Monique and Henik, along with brother Dirk, had only seen photos and videos of Grambling prior to attending the graduation festivities.

The path to arriving in Grambling for Veerhees started nearly two years ago and almost didn’t happen.

The Stramproy, Netherlands native arrived on campus right before the COVID pandemic and also faced the challenge of playing her first soccer season in the spring.

“When arrived it was right before the pandemic hit and we didn’t have a fall season,” she said. “We lost our previous soccer coach (Justin Wager) before the start of the season and our current coach (Craig Roberts) arrived just in time for our new season to begin.”

During her junior season, Veerhees established herself as one of the top goalkeepers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). She played 11 games as the goalkeeper for the Lady Tigers where she logged 870 minutes and registered 0.83 goals-against average. In addition, she posted a 7-1-2 record, with four shutouts in helping lead Grambling State as SWAC Women’s Soccer Tournament runner-ups.

In her final season, Veerhees recorded 721 minutes in goal and went 6-1-1 with a 0.50 goals-against average. She also recorded a pair of shutouts.

While Veerhees just walked across the stage during Friday’s commencement, she said her aspiration was to work in public administration.

However, before she decides to put that degree to work, Veerhees said she would look for opportunities at the professional level.

“I have plans to go back to my club team, RKSV Bekkerveld, and play with them when I return to the Netherlands,” she said. “I appreciate my time at Grambling State and hope that I can continue playing soccer, whether it is at the semi-pro or professional level.”

Belton encourages GSU graduates to build support system while running game of life

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications

GRAMBLING, La. – December 15, 2021 – Keynote speaker John Belton, Louisiana Third Judicial Attorney (Ruston and Lincoln parishes) encouraged new graduates to run full force into life and their dreams while also making sure they have a strong support system surrounding them as he spoke during Grambling State University’s fall commencement exercises Wednesday at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

Wednesday’s ceremonies were for GSU graduate students, with one doctoral degree in Developmental Education being conferred upon Cheri M. Hodges of Raleigh, North Carolina.

During his speech on Wednesday, Belton first told the graduates about the importance of living out their dreams.

“What you all have accomplished today, becoming part of the minority that have college degrees, makes you exceptional,” Belton said. “You are remarkable. Just as you live better lives because of remarkable people before you. When you drove here today, you lived the dream of Henry Ford. When you travel by air, you live the dream of the Wright Brothers. When you use your I-phone or your cell phone, you live the dream of Steve Jobs. And as we sit together in this room, with black and white — with different backgrounds — you live the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

“But more importantly, today we’re living your dream — your dream of accomplishing one of the major goals in your life, and that is obtaining your college degree.”

Belton then encouraged the crowd to rise and give a standing ovation to the graduating class before telling them a story about an obstacle he overcame while running toward his own dreams.

“When I was born, I was born with crooked legs,” Belton said. “I had a condition that affects the lower part of your legs and is more common among African American children than any other race. I couldn’t walk or run like other kids. So my dream was to be able to run. My uncle, a policeman who probably started my dream of being part of law enforcement, gave me the nickname ‘Crooked’ because of the braces I wore on my legs. Thank goodness the nickname didn’t stick, or I’d be called a crooked politician or D.A. I remember there were adults — yes adults — who picked on me and called me ugly names. The old adage ‘sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you’ is a lie straight from Hell. Because words do hurt.”

“My mother was a school teacher and was very encouraging, telling me to love my neighbor. That’s hard to understand when you’re young. It’s even harder as an adult. You’ve accomplished a lot already, but you’ll accomplish more in the future. In order to be successful, you need to be around positive influences. You need to be around an atmosphere of positive reinforcement. This university has a board of supervisors. Fortune 500 companies have boards of supervisors. And I encourage you as you move forward to create your own board of supervisors — mentors — to help you reach your successes in life.”

Belton then went on to tell the graduates that because of the support he received from his parents and other mentors, his legs healed, as he became able to walk, and then run, before eventually helping him become an all-state high school football player and then a running back for McNeese State University.

“I am the Black ‘Forest Gump.’ Run John, Run. Run Dr. Gallot, Run. Run graduates, run.” Belton jokingly said.

With only 76 graduates picking up degrees during Wednesday’s commencement for graduate students, the crowd inside the assembly center was small, but still supportive. Letresha Armstrong-Jones of Shreveport received a brief but strong two-person standing ovation from her mother Vickie Jones and aunt Tina Davis as she picked up her diploma.

“It was wonderful to see. I’m just so happy for my daughter,” Jones said. “The pandemic did not defeat her. She faced it and still achieved her goal.”

GSU alumna Andra Richards, from Dominica, was on hand to congratulate her fellow Dominican Sandra R. Toussaint, who picked up her Master’s of Public Administration degree.

“I graduated earlier this year and still live in the area and came to show my support,” Richards said. ”We’re from the same country. And international students here at Grambling are close. We have a bond, because we are considered the minority here.”

GSU’s 2021 fall commencement exercises will continue at 9 a.m. on both Thursday and Friday at the Hobdy Assembly Center. For more information, visit

Honorary degree for Natalie Desselle Reid postponed


Grambling, La. – December 15, 2021 – In coordination with the family of the late Natalie Desselle Reid, the honorary bachelor’s degree presentation planned in her memory will be postponed to a later date. Logistical challenges hindered the ability of members of Reid’s family to be in attendance for the honor.

A native of Alexandria, Louisiana, actress Natalie Desselle Reid graduated from Peabody Magnet High School and attended Grambling State University for 2 1/2 years. The acting bug bit her after a starring role in Grambling State’s production of “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” After several productions as a thespian, she decided to move to Los Angeles and test the waters. Her break came when Robin Reed cast her in F. Gary Gray’s “Set It Off” which led to a guest-starring role on television’s “Family Matters.” The role that established her as a comedic thespian aka “the funny chick” in Robert Townsend’s” B.A.P.S”, starring opposite Halle Berry. The films “How to be a Player”, “Cinderella” and televisions “Built to Last” and “For Your Love” followed.

In the 2000s, she played Janie Egins on the television show “Eve” for three seasons, and had one of her last film roles in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (2011). Her most cherished production was her family, which included her husband Lenny Reid and their three children Sereno, Summer, and Sasha.