Alabama State University officially honored and recognized the 2023 class of 50 Under 50 during a celebratory induction ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the John Garrick Hardy Student Center. The Induction was part of ASU’s Homecoming weekend festivities.
“Let me welcome you all home for Homecoming…I want to congratulate you all. I’m just so excited and proud of this class, Class VII, to be inducted into 50 Under 50… You all are joining a unique group of individuals, because everybody can’t be 50 Under 50,” said President Quinton T. Ross, Jr. “…This is truly a history-making moment. Alabama State is truly a place where history is made.”
The 50 Under 50 is the University’s signature group. The exceptional group of honorees are among the best and brightest alumni of Alabama State University. They demonstrate excellence in their respective fields and have distinguished themselves as leaders, exemplifying ASU’s enduring legacy of perseverance, progress and promise.
Nominations for the 50 Under 50 awards were submitted from across the country. The Selection Committee was able to choose from a laudable list of nominees.
Honoree Shane Parks (’17), director of Securities Finances Sales at the Bank of New York Mellon, felt humbled for being recognized for excellence in his field.
“It’s awesome to be recognized in your field. It’s a moment of appreciation but also a moment of inspiration. So, I’m feeling very excited about the opportunity to be recognized in my field and even more ecstatic to be celebrated at Alabama State University,” Parks said.
Parks comes from a family of Hornets. He is a third-generation Hornet, joined by his grandfather, Alonza Arrington, Sr.; his mother, Audrey Parks, who was a member of the inaugural class of 50 Under 50; and siblings, Aundrea Hampton, Adreka Parks and Shawan Parks.
Parks said he is proud of ASU and has nothing but warm memories of his ASU days.
“I remember my first day moving into Martin Luther King dorm room and meeting my freshman roommate who became a very good friend…I think about the opportunities that I’ve had as being a part of the Student Center, being a part of the Student Government Association as its President and a part of service groups like the Golden Ambassadors and the Nu Alpha Nu Service. I remember having a prom in this very room. That prom was very meaningful to me because I never attended my prom in high school,” Parks said.
Another honoree, Tara Simmons Harris (’97), said she too feels humbled to be selected to become a 50 Under 50 class member.
“There are so many people out there that are passionate and pushing for success, but to be recognized for the life’s works that I have been able to pour into young people is really humbling and I feel honored,” said Harris.
Harris pointed out that she and her family are celebrating two milestones, and both pertain to the number 50.
“My parents (Ira and Joyce) will celebrate their 50th Anniversary as part of Alabama State University’s Golden Class of 1975 in the Spring and now I’m celebrating my induction into the 50 Under 50 class. How unique is that?” said Harris. “I’m celebrating their journey and I’m happy that they are here today celebrating me.”
Harris noted that both her parents met and worked at ASU. “They were part of the ASU fabric,” she said.
All the opportunities she was afforded at ASU, Harris said, continued even after graduating. “I love that Alabama State University continues to pour back into their students. When you are finished with your degree here, ASU is not finished with you. O’ Mother Dear is still there for you. I can’t think of a better place to send your child than to an HBCU, especially ASU.”
During the event, Ross challenged the 50 Under 50 honorees to give back to their alma mater to help advance the University’s mission of preparing students for success.
“…All that you have is because of Alabama State University. All the experiences and opportunities that you had at Alabama State University prepared you for this moment. So, there should be a commitment to Alabama State University as she committed to you… We must remember that we received the best education from Alabama State University. I don’t get emotional; I get ‘commotional’ about Alabama State…So my challenge to you today is to lift Alabama State University up to make sure she is held in high regards to ensure she is here for another 150 years. So, talk good about your University, even if you have a little bad feeling. And give to your University. It’s not about giving to me; it's about giving to the next generation of leaders because somebody gave to us. And, if we want her to continue to grow, we must support her as a family. That is my charge, my challenge to you: look beyond anything personal and look toward the institution because Alabama State University has withstood the test of time,” Ross said.
The honorees will become advocates, donors and ambassadors for the University. As ambassadors of the University, the class members may be called on throughout the year to serve as speakers, panelists, advisory committee members and to participate in other unique opportunities throughout the University.