Ida B. Wells-Barnett, (born July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi), is a product of Shaw University (now Rust College), a school for newly freed slaves where she received her education and early schooling. Orphaned at the age of 16 following the death of her parents, Ida became a teacher in segregated public schools in Memphis, Tennessee, and a vocal critic of the conditions of the schools in the city for Blacks.
Ida went on to become one of America’s most celebrated African-American journalists and she launched the anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. She was also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
David L. Beckley (born in Okolona, Mississippi), is a product of Rust College (Class of 1967), and the longest tenured senior college president in the State of Mississippi. He was appointed president of Rust College on January 16, 1963, and assumed the position on July 1, 1993. Before assuming the position as 11th president of Rust College, he served as 12th president of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas (1987-1993).
After returning to Mississippi, Dr. Beckley became the third alumnus to serve his alma mater as president. Since his accepting the presidency, the College’s endowment fund has grown from $13 million to $43 million, and it celebrated its 49th consecutive year of a balanced budget with the close of the 2016-2017 fiscal year in June of 2017.
Dr. Beckley serves on numerous nonprofit and corporate boards at the local, national and international level such as the Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges, Mississippi Association of Colleges, NCAA Division III Presidents Council, National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church (NASCUMC), United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Board of Directors of the Methodist Health Systems, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee, and the University Senate of the United Methodist Church, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare Foundation, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, United Methodist Senior Services of Mississippi, Inc., Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, CREATE Foundation Board, Mississippi Access for Justice Commission, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Commission, Batesville Job Corp Community Advisory Board, and Board of Directors of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Leslie-Burl McLemore (born August 17, 1940 in Walls, Mississippi) is a product of Rust College (Class of 1964). McLemore graduated from Rust College in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in social science and economics. He later earned a master’s degree in political science from Atlanta University, and a doctorate in government from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
While at Rust College, McLemore became actively involved in student protests. He also became involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Freedom Vote campaign in 1963 where he served as northern regional coordinator. He is the founding president of Rust College’s chapter of the NAACP.
He is a civil rights activist and political leader who served in Jackson, Mississippi as City Councilman, interim mayor in May 2009, and as interim president of Jackson State University (JSU).
Rust College supports two major mottos: “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” and “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Each motto is in line with the college’s main mission of preparing its students to meet the demands of a global society by providing a quality Liberal Arts Education.