JSUNAA Blue Tie Gala will honor JSU legends, provide student scholarships

Jackson State University’s National Alumni Association (JSUNAA) is hosting its fifth Blue Tie Gala at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Jackson Convention Complex in downtown Jackson. The red carpet fundraising event will recognize 15 JSU legends, and 30 students will receive scholarships to attend JSU, ranked in the top five of STEM HBCUs.

“Jackson State University National Alumni Association Inc. exists to create pathways for students who desire an education at JSU. We raise the dollars because it is crucial to the survival of our beloved university into perpetuity. THEE Blue Tie Gala is JSUNAA’s premier scholarship fundraiser to accomplish that goal,” said physician Dr. Earlexia Norwood, president of the JSUNAA.

Hosting the sold-out soiree is JSU alum and comedian Rita Brent. Brent tours as a featured act with Rickey Smiley and Cedric the Entertainer. The Jackson native has also served as a writer for several shows, including the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards. She is also a staff writer for Comedy Central’s “Tha God’s Honest Truth” with Lenard “Charlamagne”McKelvey.

Providing the musical soundtrack for the evening is the Unfazed Show & Band. There will also be a silent auction of gift boxes, gift cards, apparel, etc., and a 360 photo booth for guests to enjoy.     

“This year’s Blue Tie Gala will pay tribute to those that have given of their time and treasures to ensure the sustainability of Jackson State University,” said David Howard, director of Alumni & Constituency Relations at JSU. “I would like to thank Dr. Earlexia Norwood for her hard work and true dedication to pushing the mission of the university forward.”  

Prior to the start of the gala, VIP guests and sponsors will receive a private tour of the legends hall exhibit. Guests will be able to interact with a diverse group of distinguished alums, including Robert Brazile, Robert Braddy, Connie Payton, wife of Super Bowl Champion Walter Payton, Walter Reed, Ph.D., Rod Paige, Ph.D., and President Emeritus John A. Peoples, Jr.Ph.D.,to name a few.  Each one will tell their own story through a collection of memorabilia that they will share with exhibit hall guests. 

“The gala is a celebration of our youth and some of the legends whose actions helped to solidify Jackson State’s reputation as an athletic and academic powerhouse. We must always support our students and acknowledge the people whose shoulders we stand on as we look into the eyes of our future,” said Thelma Strong, Northeast region vice president of JSUNAA and chair of the Blue Tie Gala.

The Blue Tie Gala will honor the following individuals for their contributions to JSU’s legacy:

  • John A. Peoples, Ph.D. president emeritus of JSU
  • Coach W.C. Gorden (dec.), JSU football coach and College Football Hall of Famer
  • Coach Paul Covington (dec.), JSU men’s basketball coach and athletic director  
  • Coach Robert Braddy, JSU baseball coach and National College Baseball Hall of Famer
  • Eddie Payton, JSU head golf coach and NFL running back  
  • Connie and Walter Payton (dec.), football legend and Super Bowl Champion
  • Hilliard Lackey, Ph.D., president emeritus of JSUNAA 
  • Lelia Gaston Rhodes, Ph.D., dean emerita of Libraries at JSU
  • Robert Brazile, JSU alum and NFL Football Hall of Famer
  • Maria Luis Harvey, Ph.D., (dec.), former professor and associate dean of the W.E.B. Du Bois-Maria L. Harvey Honors College
  • Rod Paige, Ph.D. first African American U.S. Secretary of Education
  • Robert Walker, former mayor of Vicksburg
  • George Flaggs, mayor of Vicksburg
  • Walter Reed, Ed.D. former JSU Athletic Director and National Black College Alumni Foundation Hall of Famer
  • Rob Jay, a recent inductee into the Sports Hall of Fame

Although the event is sold out, people can still donate to the JSUNAA scholarship fund and help students reach their higher-education goals by going to jsunaa.org and clicking Give to JSU.