Walter Washington


Honorary Degree (1983)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan


A son of the deep South, Walter Washington was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, and educated in the public schools of the area. He received a B.A. degree at Tougaloo College, an M.S. degree at Indiana University, an Education Specialist Certificate at Peabody College, and a Ph.D. degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has devoted his life to the improvement of educational opportunities for all youth, and particularly for black youth of the South.

Dr. Washington was appointed president of Alcorn State University, Lorman Mississippi, in 1969. He came to that post after serving as a classroom teacher, high school principal, and dean and president of Utica Junior College. Alcorn State is one of the oldest predominantly black land-grant institutions in America.

Dr. Washington's leadership has brought about dramatic growth since he assumed the presidency of Alcorn State twelve years ago. Today the faculty is international and interracial, with the majority having earned doctorates from leading colleges and universities throughout the country and the world. The instructional program, fully accredited, offers courses of study leading to baccalaureate degrees in fifty-three disciplines. Significant among Dr. Washington's achievements at Alcorn State is the increase in research support. Today $5,000,000 is committed to research efforts. The State of Mississippi has made a significant investment in the University.

One of Dr. Washington's primary accomplishments is the development of broader curriculum offerings preparing students to compete successfully in the job market. Alcorn State is proud of its cluster program, a cooperative effort in which representatives from business and industry work together to strengthen the curriculum of a developing institution. Businessmen and women bring to the program knowledge of management, technological resources, and an understanding of the skills needed by college graduates. Under Dr. Washington's encouragement, this program has grown and prospered, helping to insure the success of its graduates and indirectly improving standards for admission and performance by Alcorn's students. For his efforts with the cluster program, Dr. Washington received a Presidential Citation presented by President Reagan on behalf of the National Alliance of Business.

Although most of his time has been devoted to education, Dr. Washington has served his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, by accepting two terms as its national president. His work with youth groups has brought additional recognition. He earned the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America and the National and State 4-H Alumnus Awards for distinguished service. Ebony listed Walter Washington as one of the 100 most Influential Black Americans; the Jackson Daily News selected him as one of the most influential Mississippians, man of the Year in Education. Dr. Washington has accepted the obligation of board service with the Mississippi Power and Light Company, Middle South Utilities, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Mississippi, and Klingler Industries, Ltd. His active memberships span a wide array of civic, educational, business, and fraternal associations.

Author, civic leader, and activist in positive educational management, Dr. Washington has led by example and has encouraged the youth of Mississippi to make education their highest priority in planning for a competitive future.