Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Augustus Collins was the first African American to serve as the Ole Miss Alumni Association President. That was incorrect, and we apologize for the error.
Ole Miss Alumni Association President Augustus Collins has been selected as the 2019 commencement speaker and will give the university’s 166th commencement address on May 11 in the Grove.
Collins is an alumnus of the university and has had an extensive career in the military where he served in the Mississippi National Guard as major general. Now retired, Collins is the CEO of a MINACT Inc., a job development and career training corporation.
Provost Noel Wilkin said he is inspired by what Collins has been able to accomplish in his lifetime and is indebted to his military service to the country.
“His distinguished service in (Operation Desert Storm) and Operation Iraqi Freedom, along with his appointment as the commanding general of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard, are all indications of his leadership ability and his contributions to the state of Mississippi and nation,” Wilkin said.
Wilkin said Collins was ultimately chosen because he is a successful businessman and a proven leader.
“While this is the end of the formal education for many students, it is the beginning of their careers and a lifetime of learning as an informed and educated citizen,” Wilkin said. “The speaker can set the tone for that pursuit, and I am confident that Maj. Gen. Collins is an outstanding role model,” Wilkin said.
Kirk Purdom, the executive director of the alumni association, said Collins has been a major part of the alumni association’s vision for years and hopes his commencement speech will shed a positive light on the association.
“I think it’s great that he is our speaker,” Purdom said. “Leon has had a great military career and is a great representation of Ole Miss. I think everyone will enjoy the message that he is going to give.”
Along with Collins, senior class president Zach Digregorio will also speak at the commencement.
“I am extremely excited to hear Maj. Gen. Collins speak,” Digregorio said. “It’s a rare opportunity for young people (to) hear from such a distinguished military and university leader. I’m honored to share the stage with him.”
The 2019 commencement will take place on May 11.