(Note: Portions of this story are excerpted from Dr. Glenell M. Lee-Pruitt’s first-ever Fall Convocation speech to all students, faculty, and staff at Jarvis Christian University on Tuesday, October 24, 2023. She assumed the office as JCU’s 13th president on July 1.)

Jarvis Christian University (JCU) has come a long, long way in the past few years. There have been a lot of changes—some with total excitement, like the official recognition of Jarvis as a university rather than as a college.

Some changes were bittersweet, like the retirement of JCU’s 12th president, Dr. Lester C. Newman, who served as president for 11 years; and the ascension of Dr. Glenell M. Lee-Pruitt as the university’s 13th president, following her 11 years as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

A proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Dr. Lee-Pruitt has four academic degrees and extensive accomplishments as an academician and college dean, as an ordained pastor and elder, and now as a university president.

Given all of her accomplishments, students, staff, and visitors to the university might think that Dr. Lee-Pruitt has always had it all, but truth is, she has worked for every accolade and opportunity that has come her way.

In her first official convocation speech as president, she said, “In 1979, 44 years ago, I entered Jackson State University as a freshman student. When I left Leland, Mississippi, on that day, my mother nor my father went with me to JSU. My father had passed away when I was in the eighth grade, and my mother, a cafeteria worker, did not take off from work to go with me. This was not an act of being unconcerned or not caring, but she had only an eighth grade education and did not know how to help me navigate in this ‘college world’ environment,” she said.

Dr. Lee-Pruitt made sure to relate the “basics” that her mother had taught her about life. She was taught “to be respectful, to remember that no one was better than me, but may be different from me, to say ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me,’ ‘good morning,’ ‘yes and no sir,’ and ‘yes and no ma’am.’”

In addition, she had an important message that she wanted to make sure each and every student, staff, faculty member, and visitor knew—that they were enough.

“Enough! Abundant. Adequate. Ample. Full. Sufficient. Suitable. All right, already. Complete. Comfortable. Competent. That is what I am, and that is what each of you are listening to me this morning,” she said.

She even took time to explain why each student, staff, faculty member, and visitor is “enough,” in case there were any doubts in their minds.

“You are enough because when God formed you in your mother’s [womb], God put enough of enough in you to be enough. You may not have been born in the best family, but you are enough. You may not have been born under the best circumstances, but you are enough. You may not have been given the opportunities that you see others have, but you are enough to make your own opportunities. You may have had to fend for yourself, but you were enough to do that, and you will do even more because you are enough. I just wish that you would believe that you are enough,” she said.

And when they don’t feel like they’re enough? Dr. Lee-Pruitt is willing to step out to help these students. Simply saying the words are not enough for her.

“Students, we are here to help you. We are here to prepare you for your next step in life. We will not let you slide,” she said.

Part of not letting her students slide means giving them the tough love that Dr. Lee-Pruitt believes they need. To her, students are “more than the text messages about your behavior that I receive all through the night,” “more than the conflicts that you have,” “more than the challenges you have experienced,” and “more than what [people] may try to relegate you to be.” Yes, Dr. Lee-Pruitt, emphasized, students are better than “any of that.”

“You are enough,” she repeated.

Dr. Lee-Pruitt went even farther than addressing the needs of students. Dr. Lee-Pruitt sees the students, but she sees the faculty and staff, too. In fact, she took time to address “students,” “young men,” “young women,” and “faculty and staff” individually.

Her message to all of them? “You are enough.”

Being enough, Dr. Lee-Pruitt says, is inherently built into each and every person. But that doesn’t mean that attaining their goals will be easy. Sometimes it’s hard work. However, she assured students that she and Jarvis’ staff are there to help students, both through the good times and the bad.

“We will correct you when you are wrong and cheer and advocate for you when you are right. That is why we are here. We will celebrate with you. Cry with you. Counsel you. We will be accessible, approachable, and available to you, but you have to be open to and accepting of what we want to offer and give to you and the power we see in you,” she said.

Between the “enough” that the students are, their hard work, and staff’s support, Dr. Lee-Pruitt believes that students can achieve a greater potential. In fact, to her, their greater potential is beyond what some of them can even see.

“You are a canopy of possibility that some of you cannot even imagine. You are a picture of possibility that is still being painted. You are a vase of a beautiful bouquet that is being designed. You are the very image of God, and as you grow in your God-self you will discover who you truly are, but that begins with taking an honest look at who you are and who you want to become,” she said.

Why does it matter, and why should you care? Because, in her convocation speech, Dr. Lee-Pruitt mentioned you, too.

“Community partners we need your help. If you are here today, and you look into the eyes of these young people, don’t just see the present and who they are, but see the future and who they are becoming,” she said. “Here at Jarvis Christian University, we accept our students the way they are, but they cannot leave them the way that they come. We want something about them to have changed that will help them be their better selves.”

She pleaded, “Partner with us to help our students become responsible citizens, not just for Texas or wherever they decide to live, but for the world.”

Lastly, Dr. Lee-Pruitt spoke about herself—her own journey and how she feels to be part of the university. Although being president of Jarvis Christian University was not her plan, she said, “I decided that I would reconcile my desires for myself with God’s plan for my life. I decided that to be truly happy and live out the plans that were set for me before my existence on this planet 62 years ago today, I had to be willing to give up what I wanted for what God had planned.”

And she was right.

“Every day I wake up excited about coming to work. I wake up excited about seeing you in the hallways. I wake up excited about being in the cafeteria with you students because you give me life and purpose and you define for me and validate for me why I am enough,” she said.

She continued, “You will never know what it does for me when you hold the door open, when you nod and give me a smile of hello, when you see me and embrace me, when you shout across the yard or across the room, “Hey, Dr. Pruitt!” I know that you see me, and I know that you know that I see you, because I see enough in you.”

With a huge smile on her face and a note of joy in her voice, Dr. Lee-Pruitt said some of the final words of her convocation speech—words that “resonate in my spirit and give me the strength to continue when sometimes I want to quit,” words that, she believes, will help you.

“I believe that ‘Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world;’ I believe that ‘No weapons formed against me will prosper;’ I believe that ‘I can do all things through God who strengthens me;’ I believe that ‘We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’ These are words that I believe, and I invite each of you to believe these words, too. Be safe and be well, and remember, I need each of you to survive.”

“God bless and God keep you; this is my prayer for you. Thank you.”

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