Claflin University’s 2023 Homecoming offered a myriad of entertaining and engaging activities and events to thousands of diverse and enthusiastic alumni, staff, students and visitors to the campus and other Orangeburg locations.

Among the homecoming highlights were the coronation of Miss Claflin India Rice and Mister Claflin Khari Graham and the Student Government Association concert featuring Kash Doll and No Cap.

Claflin saluted the persistence and generosity of its donors during the Leadership Giving Luncheon, and the Rev. Dr. William F. Blue was among the donors recognized as Manning Fellows and Lifetime Giving Honorees.

The Presidential Scholars – high-achieving students representing the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College – were introduced during the Presidential Gala.

Several people were inducted into the Claflin University Hall of Fame during homecoming. Pictured are, front row, from left, Claflin President…

This year’s scholarship recipients were Dwayne McCall, Isaiah Means, Rahnie Riggins, Yayi Dia, Tierra Albert, Evan Simms, Nyasia Argrow, Justice Bell, Amanda Johnson, Zecariya Fenwick, Justin Smith and Jace Risher.

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R&B icons Morris Day and The Time delighted the gala audience with a high-energy, fast-paced concert that included fan favorites such as “The Bird,” “Cool,” “777-9311,” and “Jungle Love.”

The university also honored the Presidential Scholars. Pictured are, from left, Dr. Monica Greene Robertson, Dwayne McCall, Isaiah Means, Rahn…

Several distinguished alumni and a nationally renowned philanthropist were honored during Claflin’s 2023 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

The homecoming tailgate experience offered food, music, friendships and community engagement.

The Class of 2023 inductees were:

  • Mack Henry Burgess, ’68, philanthropist
  • Harvey E. Choplin, ’71, community service
  • Dr. Barney Reece Jackson, ’76, medicine
  • Sadie Jarvis, ’63, education
  • Barbara E. Kirkland, ’73, education
  • Gloria Ragins McKnight, ’69, community service
  • Colonel (Retired) Charles D. Mills, ’91, military
  • Lucille Frierson Sabb, ’98, community service
  • Dalton J. Tresvant, ’74, government/law
  • The Rev. Roberta Sonsaray White, ’99, religion

Philanthropist Doris Buffett, the older sister of billionaire and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, was inducted posthumously.

Ronnie (Tee) Morant, ‘98 (basketball), wife Jamie L. Moran (basketball) and Terrence Scriven (basketball) were inducted into Claflin’s Athletic Hall of Fame. The Morants are the parents of Jai Morant, a standout with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

“This event is an opportunity for alumni to return to receive one of the university’s highest honors,” Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces is remarkable.

“We are so thankful for their support and how they are bringing more awareness, recognition and honor to the university.”

Burgess said his induction into Claflin’s Hall of Fame was “a dream come true.”

He worked in the Williamsburg County School District for 49 years – 17 as a basketball coach – where he won several conference and regional titles.

“I was an outstanding athlete in high school. I wanted to earn a degree at Claflin and return home to teach and coach. I won everything but a state championship,” Burgess said. “I wanted to help young people in my community. I did that as a coach, teacher, mentor and assistant principal. Claflin instilled in me the importance of upright character and respecting all people. I tried to pass that on to my students.”

McKnight is a dedicated Claflin University International Alumni Association (CUIAA) member and currently serves as the vice president of the Washington, D.C. Alumni Chapter.

McKnight is also the chairperson for the chapter’s 60th Anniversary Luncheon and a member of the Scholarship Committee.

McKnight’s commitment to Claflin extends to her son and granddaughter, who are proud Claflin graduates. McKnight said she sent at least 10 students from the Washington, D.C., area to Claflin.

“I was so excited when I heard I was selected. At first, I did not believe it, and I almost cried,” McKnight recalled. “This is a very high recognition that you don’t achieve every day. This honor is one of the highlights of my life.”

McKnight’s fond memories of Claflin are of a familial environment – an enduring theme that resonates throughout the university’s “leal and loyal” alumni.

“Claflin really was like a family. It helped prepare me in many ways. That’s why I am so proud of the university’s remarkable progress,” McKnight said. “I majored in health and physical education and wanted a career as a physical therapist. I taught school briefly. But I spent most of my professional career as an advertising manager for several military newspapers after I moved to Washington, D.C.”

Morant earned multiple all-conference and player-of-year awards during his storied basketball career at Claflin. He also led the Panthers to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tournament.

“It’s an honor to be inducted into Claflin’s Athletic Hall of Fame. But what made this event even more special was being inducted with my wife,” Morant said. “This was a very proud moment for both of us, and it’s a testament to our accomplishments and how hard both of us worked during our Claflin careers.”

Morant played under head coach Gus Guydon, who guided Claflin to two NAIA Tournament appearances and an EIAC championship. Morant’s reflections on his Claflin experience include the outstanding education he received and his love for the HBCU environment.

“I always recommend HBCUs to kids who are about to attend college. It really is a unique experience. Claflin was a special place for me. Some of the faculty were tough, but they loved us and wanted us to excel,” said Morant, who majored in sports administration/physical education. “I received a great education and learned how to interact with different people.”

Morant observed that the campus is dramatically different from when he attended Claflin.

“I loved my time at Claflin – but Claflin looks like a Top 10 HBCU and a first-class university,” Morant said. “The facilities are top-notch, especially the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Center with the new seats and the skybox. You can see how Dr. Warmack is investing in improving and upgrading the campus.”

Tresvant serves as the deputy district director in the Office of Congressman James Clyburn. In this role, he works closely with the congressman to address the needs and concerns of South Carolinians.

“It’s always nice to be recognized by your alma mater. I don’t think any of us expect any special acknowledgment for supporting the university,” Tresvant said. “We appreciate this honor, and I know we will continue our support. Most of us may not be where we are today without Claflin.”

Claflin’s women’s and men’s basketball teams hosted a homecoming doubleheader in front of a capacity crowd in Tullis Arena at the JTK Health and Wellness Complex. The Lady Panthers suffered a 64-61 loss to North Greenville University, while the Panthers defeated Coker University 98-95 in the second game.

Another major homecoming attraction was Claflin’s tailgate experience.

The alluring aroma of fried, grilled and smoked beef, pork, seafood and other delicacies – in addition to the music, friendships and community engagement – have made Claflin’s tailgate experience a highly anticipated event.

Claflin also hosted several events off campus at the Orangeburg County Conference Center (Leadership Luncheon, CU Wine Down, Classes in Reunion, Alumni Brunch); Orangeburg Country Club (Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony); and Sulit Luxe Affairs (Orange and Maroon Soiree).

“Claflin’s Homecoming brings the community and alumni that live in surrounding areas and outside the state together,” Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said. “It also provides a tremendous economic boost to the community.”

Butler said visitors to the area buy meals in local restaurants, stay in local hotels, purchase fuel and shop in Orangeburg. As a Claflin Class of ‘83 graduate, he is incredibly proud of the new student center that will soon open and the economic development in downtown Orangeburg.

“I am sure the economic impact of Claflin’s homecoming is quite significant,” Butler said. “Residents and visitors were very impressed by the new student center, and they have heard about the Railroad Corner project. These projects – including the construction of Claflin’s new science center – will have a positive impact on our economy. The progress we are witnessing reaffirms that Orangeburg is moving forward.”

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