Delta State University President William N. LaForge pledged to bring back the spirit of Earth Day at the opening ceremony for the Wiley Community Garden on Monday, April 22.
The ribbon cutting marks the 43rd year after the first Earth Day event on campus. As a sophomore, LaForge directed the Delta State College student body in action against pollution in the spring of 1970.
Dr. Michael Whelan, a Delta State alumnus and psychologist in Greenwood, MS, was president of the Student Government Association at the time. LaForge told Whelan he had this idea for Earth Day, so Whelan appointed LaForge to chair a special events committee in the planning of Delta State’s very first campus event for Earth Day.
LaForge made a flag to raise anti-pollution awareness, and with the assistance of Delta State president Dr. James M. Ewing, the flag was raised at the Mill on campus. Symbolic surgical masks were worn during a ceremony to promote efforts against pollution issues. The student newspaper “The Miss Delta” published a special pollution issue in March noting the local and national pollution issues.
LaForge referenced “Hotel California” by the Eagles during his remarks at the ceremony for Wiley Community Garden.
“We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969,” said LaForge. “Well, the spirit is back,” he exclaimed.
LaForge spoke about the importance of teamwork and the community/campus relationship. He pointed to Mayor Billy Nowell and said, “Old teammates here. We went to high school together. We were in college together. We ran student government together. As he told me last year, if you come back down here, the old team will be back together. So here we are.”
The community garden provides many economic opportunities for local farmers and citizens. It supports the ideas that LaForge brought to campus years ago, as well as the vision he brings back to Cleveland today.
Dr. Whelan said, “The man who really ran Earth Day had a bold and fresh vision 43 years ago. Today, he has a similar bold and fresh vision for the future of Delta State.”