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Andrew Purnell to receive honorary degree during Founding Celebration

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Andrew Purnell

Illinois State University alumnus Andrew Purnell ’57 will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the Founding Celebration activities, February 19-20.

Replacing the convocation, the celebration will feature two days of activities that will honor the heritage, tradition, and future of Illinois State.

Events on Wednesday include the Faculty/Staff Appreciation Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, February 19, in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center. Awards will be presented at the luncheon to honor service, TEAM Excellence, and commitment to diversity and sustainability.

Purnell will be honored at The Founders Bell Ringing and Honorary Degree Investiture on Thursday, February 20, at 10 a.m. in the Brown Ballroom. Selected faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others will ring the bell 163 times to mark the University’s years of existence.

The Annual Alumni Awards Dinner will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 20, in the Hancock Club Room. The cost for the dinner is $30 per person. For registration information, contact Alumni Engagement at (309) 438-2595 or visit the Founding Celebration website.

Andrew Purnell
As a student at Illinois State, Purnell became one of the founders of the student chapter of the NAACP, and served as the chapter president. The organization challenged segregationist practices in the community that once relegated black customers to eat, swim, or take entertainment only on certain days of the week.

After graduation, Purnell was drafted into the United States Army. With a degree in mathematics, he was assigned to classified work in mathematics and statistics. After leaving active duty, Purnell taught high school mathematics and pursued his master’s degree in administration, later taking his role as a school administrator. Along with his work, he has served as a chaplain for penal institutions and mental health hospitals.

Purnell later worked to establish the ISU Black Colleagues Association (BCA) in 1984, an alumni affinity group dedicated to keeping Illinois State affordable and accessible to black students. With more than 300 members from across the nation active today, the group actively raises money for student scholarships and support to empower black students.

Long considered an invaluable alumnus, Purnell has been active in the Alumni Association. For his dedication to students and the University, he was inducted into the University’s Steve and Sandi Adams Legacy Hall of Fame. He received the Alumni Association Mercier Outstanding Service Award, and was named Alumni Homecoming King in 2013.

For more information and event registration, visit the Founding Celebration website.

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