April 10, 2023

Historical marker documents significance of Utica Campus

As part of the March 23 annual Founder’s Day celebration, Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus unveiled a state-approved historical marker near the iconic Bell Tower.
BY: Cathy Hayden

Above: Unveiling the new Utica Campus historic marker near the iconic Bell Tower on March 23 were, from left, Brother Rogers, representing the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Instructor Dan Fuller and retiree Jean Greene, co-directors of the Utica Institute Museum; Vice President Sherry Bellmon and President Dr. Stephen Vacik.

“The state of Mississippi officially recognizes the history of the Utica Campus,” said William “Brother” Rogers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History Director of Programs and Communication. “Congratulations on getting a historical marker because it is not easy to get a historical marker. You have to prove that your history is significant. And your history IS significant.

“One of the things Mississippi has not really done a good job of over the years is recognizing African American history,” Rogers said. “Long after all of us are gone, long after these students are gone, this marker is actually still going to be here as a reminder to everybody that comes through here about the history that has been made here.”

William H. Holtzclaw founded the Utica Institute in 1903 to educate black students. The campus was moved to the current location in 1910. The college merged with Hinds Community College in 1983 and became the Utica Campus.

“This is another example of how we are trying to maintain and preserve the history of our campus,” said Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik.

Also as part of Founder’s Day, retired Dean of Career-Technical Education Dr. Jesse
Killingsworth received the annual William H. Holtzclaw Award given to the person who exemplifies the commitment to the students of the Utica Campus.

Above: Retired Utica Campus employee Dr. Jesse Killingsworth, center, received the William H. Holtzclaw Award at Founder’s Day. He is with Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik, left, and Vice President Sherry Bellmon, right.

The Founder’s Day theme was “120 Years of Jubilee.” Keynote speaker Dr. Mitchell Shears, a Utica Campus alumnus and former employee whose family has deep roots at the campus, noted that Dr. Holtzclaw came to Utica to fulfill a dream.

“It’s important to understand that he had a dream and not a desire. There is a difference. A dream is what we build for a group,” Dr. Shears said. “But a desire is what we aspire to build only for ourselves. Mr. Holtzclaw had a dream. This man wanted to build something for a group.

“We’ve got to continue the quality and length of this man’s jubilee. This man lived by what he gave. This man gave us life. He gave some of us a job. He gave many of us an education.”

Vice President Sherry Bellmon said the purpose of the celebration was to highlight the campus’ distinguished history. “Many times we don’t tell our own story but today it was told,” she said.