Livingstone College

Audrey Cunningham – Salisbury City’s First Black Female Detective

SALISBURY — In 1973, Audrey Smith had graduated from Livingstone College with a degree in sociology destined to be a social worker, but that dream of helping Rowan County families didn’t quite materialize the way she envisioned.

A year after graduation, Smith worked at the Salisbury-Rowan Juvenile Bureau, where she looked into child cases, sort of a department of social services division. When the bureau disbanded, Smith and fellow bureau member Charlie Herion moved to the Salisbury Police Department and John Noble, another member, went to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

Smith automatically became a Salisbury Police investigator. The 26-year-old not only was an investigator, but she was the first black female investigator the department had ever had. There were other black officers before her, including Rayford Graham in the late 1940s, as well as Ernest Davis, and Price Brown in the 1960s and 1970s, but all had been male.

There was even Sarah Chunn, a black meter maid who worked in the early 1960s and 1970s, but none before Smith had ever been a lady cop and definitely not an investigator.

Smith, now Audrey Cunningham, recently reflected on her four years with the police department and what led her back to her alma mater.
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Isenberg Elementary School and Livingstone College sign agreement to teach STEM and prepare students for careers and college

Studies have shown that the number of jobs now available in the United States is directly tied to new achievements in science and engineering. Education leaders believe there are not enough new people entering these field and not enough people in America creating the kinds of technological advances that will create new job opportunities from science and engineering in the future.
Job growth they say, depends on the nation’s ability to graduate students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. What appears most alarming to educators is that America is ahead of some poorer nations in STEM and its job creating advances, but is behind most of the more developed nations in the world in these fields.
That is exactly why Isenberg Elementary School Principal Marvin Moore and Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins decided to do what they could to turn this STEM story into one with a better outcome for the community and nation. To do that, the two education leaders agree, exposure to science, math, technology and engineering should begin as early as Kindergarten. It is a good idea, they say, to ready young students with a love for the knowledge in these fields. Minority students too often think lessons in math and science are too hard for them to learn.
The two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding this week which will allow the schools to collaborate in partnership on science, technology, engineering and mathematics with their students. “I don’t want our students to be just consumers of technology,” said Moore. “Somebody created Facebook. Why can’t one or some of our students do the same thing? “We’ve advanced our technology. Consider the old phone installed to a wall in the house to new telephones reinvented to carry with you everywhere. Engineering is developing new ideas, planning it out, creating a model, testing it and improving what you’ve dreamed, “he continued. Math is all around us, so we need to help our students see possibilities and be given an opportunity to grow things, even to fail and improve a product.”
Those concepts are why he asked Dr. Jenkins for a partnership with Livingstone to help make students at Isenberg college-ready. Not just for Livingstone, but anywhere they may want to go. “It could be Carolina, Duke, wherever and they must ingrain that option from kindergarten” Students have to see where they want to go.” School-children can learn of their option to go to college from other college students and that is where students from Livingstone College come into the picture,” Moore explained.
Moore, speaking to a large group of Livingstone students at the signing event, encouraged them to give back to the community by volunteering to help a young person succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “We don’t want them to be just consumers of technology but creators and producers of technology as well.” STEM education is best embraced when introduced as a primary focus early in the learning process.
Livingstone College has produced a long line of scientists and doctors. Solomon Carter Fuller graduated from Livingstone and completed his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine. Solomon Fuller’s contribution to the medical field was his clinical knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease. Fuller completed his post-graduate study at the University Munich and at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital in Munich, Germany. The Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center in Boston is named in honor of his important work.
Dr. James Gavin, another Livingstone College graduate, earned a Ph. D. in medical research and a Medical Degree from Duke University. Gavin is internationally renowned in the field of Juvenile Diabetes. “We desire that our students in the STEM fields are successful. This collaboration with Isenberg Elementary School will benefit students from the College and the elementary school, said Dr. Jenkins. Historically, experts in science, and the medical field in particular are in the DNA at Livingstone College,” Jenkins continued.

A second chance for Brandi Gourdine


Brandi Gourdine’s change in direction is nothing but amazing.

As a senior at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte three years ago, she had a low grade-point average and saw her friends being accepted into college. Then, the transformation started, and now as a college junior, she has her sights set on medical school.

How did she do it?

As a senior, “I was distracted in the classroom,” Gourdine said. Her baby brother had open heart surgery at three months of age. Her mom was unemployed. “I was also involved in a lot of social activities, like most young people my age.

“I was doing enough to get by, but I was not excelling. It wasn’t because I lacked the smarts; it was my work ethic.”

Then she attended a college fair at her school and learned about the Bridge program at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.

Bridge programs at colleges across the country are designed to help students with academic deficiencies make the transition to a successful college experience. The Livingstone program was started in 2006 by college President Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. Students go through an intensive, six-week program during the summer focusing on reading, math and writing. In addition to the training, students are encouraged to pursue a degree in STEM – science, technology, engineering or math.

Livingstone is a private college founded in 1879 with 1,300 students and its Bridge program has 102 students majoring in biology, 67 in psychology, 60 in computer information systems and 11 in math.

“The program is offered to late-blooming high-school graduates,” Jenkins said. “It’s intended to help students defy the odds in their college experience and live up to their potential. The program focuses on changing attitudes and behaviors, but also building relationships with those who can help, including instructors and one’s peers.”

I’m grateful for the Bridge program for giving me a second chance. I know I can do the work and be successful.

The Duke Energy Foundation’s most recent contribution to the program was a $50,000 grant in 2016, part of the foundation’s $1.4 million investment in job readiness to 26 education and nonprofit organizations in North Carolina. Economic and workforce development is one of the Duke Energy Foundation’s investment priorities.

“This program is developing the next generation of leaders,” said Shawn Heath, president of the foundation. “We’re pleased to play a role in helping these young adults get on a path of success.”

College begins a new day

That summer three years ago, Gourdine joined 100 others in the Bridge program, including students from California, Texas and New York.

“College can be intimidating,” she said. “Your parents drop you off at school and there are young people there from all over the country.”

Livingstone College President Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. and Brandi Gourdine.
“We knew that some students on campus were critical of the program; they did not believe we deserved a second chance. But we were hungry for change. We were ready to prove to each other that we weren’t the same students that we were in high school.

“That goal brought us together.”

The program’s director, Sylvester Kyles, served as a wise and steadfast mentor. “Mr. Kyles was upfront and transparent,” Gourdine said. “He let us know that when the school year started, that’s when the real test would begin. The experience challenged us to deal with day-to-day issues.”

A bridge to a successful future

While at Livingstone College, Gourdine has excelled. She was elected president of the freshman class and represented her sophomore class on the school’s governing council.

Students in the Bridge program, she said, “have proven we’re capable academically and can serve as leaders on campus.

“I’m grateful for the Bridge program for giving me a second chance. I know I can do the work and be successful.”

As she begins her junior year, her grade-point average is 3.7, she’s majoring in biology and has her sights set on attending Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta.

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Livingstone names new associate vice president for academic affairs

SALISBURY – When classes resume at Livingstone College in the fall, Dr. Kelli V. Randall will have a lot to smile about.

That’s because Randall, a native of Chicago, has been promoted to associate vice president for academic affairs. She will also continue in her role as dean of the Division of Liberal Arts and Humanities.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Randall for the work she has done here at Livingstone College that has propelled her into this new role,” said Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. “I invite the college family to extend congratulations to her and to give her the support she will need to successfully continue her work here at our great institution.”

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Dr. Flowers is awarded $57,744 for STEM Workforce Training Laboratory

Dr. Lawrence Flowers, department chair and associate professor of biology at Livingstone College, will utilize a $57,744 award from the National Science Foundation to establish a STEM Workforce Training Laboratory on campus. The STEM Workforce Training Laboratory will contain state-of-the-art scientific research instrumentation and will be designed to provide real-world laboratory experiences in the areas of bioinformatics, cell biology, forensic science, microbiology and molecular biology to underrepresented students. The STEM Workforce Training Laboratory will employ innovative career training activities that will enrich the science and mathematics education curriculum, strengthen the College’s research infrastructure and improve employment outcomes for current and future Livingstone students. Additionally, the STEM Workforce Training Laboratory will further the efforts of AIM for STEM Careers, a nearly $300,000 project funded by the National Science Foundation for which Dr. Flowers is the principal investigator.

Recently, Dr. Flowers conceptualized and trademarked the term “STEMployable” to denote the requisite attitudes, behaviors, credentials and technical skills that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math graduates must possess to enhance their employability and competitively pursue STEM careers in the 21st Century. “It is imperative that STEM faculty incorporate career development evidence-based practices, career theories and authentic laboratory training experiences in their courses to produce graduates who demonstrate felicitous STEMployable skills,” Dr. Flowers said.

The STEM Workforce Training Laboratory will train students to be proficient in a variety of scientific procedures, including DNA profiling techniques, cell culture methods, gene expression analysis, fluorescence microscopy, small interfering RNA technology, nucleic acid extraction procedures and protein expression analysis. Improving diversity in the STEM workforce is a national mandate. The overarching goals of the STEM Workforce Training Laboratory are to improve students’ extant discipline knowledge and to enhance students’ career preparation experiences by exposing undergraduates to essential laboratory competencies and problem-solving skills important to employers in today’s STEM labor market.

Livingstone graduate vying for historic spot on U.S. Olympic Team this weekend

SALISBURY, N.C. – Livingstone graduate Quanera Hayes makes her first attempt at earning a spot on the United States Olympic team tonight when she competes in the 400 meters at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

Hayes, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Livingstone in 2015, would become the school’s first graduate to compete on a U.S. Olympic team. The Olympics will be held August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro and will be broadcast by NBC.

“I feel that Quanera has a great chance to make the U.S. Olympic team as an individual and as a finals relay member,” said Head Track and Field Coach Justin Davis. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching her compete for the last five years and know how driven she is. Quanera is the future of women’s 400 meters racing, and it so happens that she’s gotten the opportunity to have one full professional season under her belt before competing in the Olympic trials.”

Davis said back in April Hayes ran an amazing time in the Bahamas to place her in the top three in the world in the 400 meters. He hopes she carries that momentum with her tonight in Oregon and throughout the weekend.

“She comes in with the second fastest time this year in the U.S. in the 400 meters, and given the fact that she now has one full year of professional competition under her belt, I feel she’ll be able to get through the rounds very well and make the U.S. Olympic team.”

Hayes is also competing in the 200 meters this weekend.
Track and field athletes will be vying for top-three finishes and spots on the U.S. team through July 10 in Eugene, Oregon. Competition will be broadcast on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.
Hayes can be seen competing via webcast sometime after 8:45 tonight. Should she post one of the qualifying times tonight, Hayes advances to the semi-finals tomorrow. The finals will be held on Sunday, live beginning at 10 p.m. (See links below for scheduled broadcasts.)

2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field Schedule  (Note all times are Pacific Standard Time)

USA Olympic Trials Webcast

“We are very proud to have a Livingstone graduate competing for a chance to represent the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games,” said President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr. “It was a joy watching Quanera  run when she competed for Livingstone under Coach Davis, and I am excited about tuning in tonight to see her. The entire Livingstone College family is behind Quanera, and we anticipate celebrating Sunday night after she earns the right to go to Rio.”

For more information, please contact:
Oralia Washington, Sports Information Director
919.539.9600; or

Livingstone holds annual Children’s Book Festival

photo of books to run with 2016 Children's Book Festival advanceBy Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY, N.C. – The annual Livingstone College Children’s Book Festival will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the institution’s front lawn.

The fun-filled event offers free food, entertainment, a Bounce House, games and other activities for kids and is free to the public. Willa Brigham, a two-time Emmy Award Winning host of WRAL’s television show “Smart Start” will serve as guest storyteller. She is the author of “The Pizza Tree” and also a performing artist, writer and inspirational speaker.

“We are delighted to have someone of Ms. Brigham’s caliber participate in our annual Children’s Book Festival,” said Livingstone’s UNCF Director Deborah F. Johnson. “She has written a children’s book and is well-known for her ability to tell stories in an engaging fashion. I encourage all parents who bring their children to Saturday’s festival to ensure they stay long enough to hear Ms. Brigham’s presentation because it will be well worth the wait. She is a dynamic speaker and will relate well to the children. I’m an adult, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m excited about hearing her!”

The Children’s Book Festival is held in memory of Salisbury’s own international storyteller Jackie Torrence, also known as “The Story Lady.” Ironically, Torrence overcame a speech impediment as a child to become a world renowned storyteller. According to information on, Torrence used “animated language and facial expressions, hisses, shrieks and other homespun vocal efforts,” to breathe new life into the art of storytelling.” It also said “her retelling of African-American folktales and classic ghost stories, as well as her delivery of modern tales,” established her as a strong presence among contemporary storytellers worldwide.

The Children’s Book Festival is designed to help shape positive attitudes and to encourage an appreciation for books and reading for children ages 3-12. Each child who attends the festival gets to choose two books to take home. Parents must be accompanied by their children to receive the free books, Johnson said.
Livingstone is proud to sponsor the annual Book Festival, Johnson said.

“As an institution of higher learning, Livingstone is committed to doing everything in our power to ensure Salisbury-area children get off to a solid educational start,” Johnson said. “Reading and writing are key to academic success, and that’s why we get so excited every year toward the end of April because we know our campus’ front lawn will be filled with children who we can inspire to get excited about reading. There’s so much that can be learned from just picking up a book or browsing a child-appropriate web site, and we want to encourage area children to read as much as they can.”

In the case of inclement weather, the festival will be moved inside The J.W. Walls Center on Livingstone’s campus, 801 West Thomas Street.

For more information, please call Johnson at 704.216.6118 or Marsha Mitchell at 704.216.6120.

Salisbury Symphony Orchestra!

The Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, The Livingstone College Concert Choir, The Livingstone College Band and the Fifth Grade Honors Chorus will perform on Sunday, April 10, at 4 p.m. in Trent Gym! Please plan to attend this very worthwhile endeavor.

Duke Energy grant will help Livingstone students with STEM focus

SALISBURY – A $50,000 grant from Duke Energy is expected to help strengthen Livingstone College’s signature Bridge Program while focusing on students majoring in STEM disciplines.
Students of color are typically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math, but the money from Duke Energy could go a long way toward changing that at Livingstone and will be used to create a Duke Scholars Program among the institution’s Bridge students.

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Tellis Tragedy

State highway authorities have notified administrators at Livingstone College of the tragic death of Ms. Ayonna Tellis. The North Carolina Highway Patrol says Ms. Tellis, a senior at the College, in route to her home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was killed today when a vehicle crossed the median of the highway and struck her car head-on. After being notified of the accident, Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., President of the College, talked with the mother of Ms. Tellis to express condolences to the family on behalf of the College. President Jenkins explained that as details about the accident and funeral arrangements unfold the campus and the Salisbury community will be informed. Counselors will be on hand at the college to assist students grief-stricken by this tragedy.