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Guest speaker for Founder's Day at Southern University A&M College reflects on university's history

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BATON ROUGE - In 1914, Southern University moved to Baton Rouge and named Joseph S. Clark as the first president of the new location. He selected March 9 as Founders' Day to honor the establishment and growth of the university.

"You become a part of the fabric of Southern University when you graduate from here. And I cannot describe to you what that means," said Dr. Russell Ledet, the speaker for this year's Founders' Day convocation.

Ledet, who is from Lake Charles, earned bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biology at Southern before going on to a Ph.D. at New York School of Medicine, where he conducted research on prostate cancer.

He then moved to Tulane for medical school and an MBA. During medical school, Ledet co-founded The 15 White Coats, which aims to diversify medical fields by supporting and mentoring medical school applicants from underrepresented minority groups.

Ledet said Southern's Founders' Day gives current students an opportunity to reflect on what their ancestors faced, the battles they fought and won to make a way for generations to chase their dreams. That foundation helped prepare four people in 1880 to create an institution for higher education specifically for African Americans.

Ledet said it's also a day for students to appreciate what they have in front of them.

 "This place teaches you who you are, aside from education, that you are brilliant and that you are beautiful," he said.

Ledet said Southern is more than a university. It's also a home and a family.

For students and alumni, Southern University is the definition of Black excellence, he said.

It serves as a celebration of their journey and those who paved the way before them, so they can pave the way for future generations.

The Founders' Day convocation kicks off a series of celebrations this month on the campus.

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