Allen University staff, students and community members gathered Thursday morning to remember two graduates who were killed in the shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
About 30 people listened as Allen University interim President Lady June Cole and others gave brief tributes and prayers for State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a 1995 Allen graduate; and Tywanza Sanders, a 2014 Allen graduate who was attending Bible study at Emanuel on Wednesday night.
Along with Pinckney, 41, and Sanders, 26, the victims were Sharonda Singleton, 45; Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87, and DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49.
“Pinckney was one of our graduates that showed the impact that our alumni can and do make, and Mr. Sanders was a very impactful student who is another great loss to this community,” Cole told those gathered for the roughly 15-minute tribute.
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Pinckney was Allen University’s 2015 Founders’ Day speaker and, according to Cole, impacted the lives of those in his congregation as well as members of the S.C. Legislature and beyond.
Cole said Sanders, who graduated just last year, had a promising future as well. A business administration graduate, Sanders was a member of the National Association of Black Accountants, the National Black MBA Association and was in the process of publishing his own book of poetry. Cole said he liked participating in poetry slams and related events.
“He was a quiet, well known student who was committed to his education. He presented a warm and helpful spirit as he interacted with his colleagues,” Cole said of Sanders, a native of Charleston and returned there to live after graduation.
Nimai Garrett, director of Alumni Affairs, added: “I didn’t know Tywanza that well, but I had conversations with him and Senator Pinckney about having more Charleston students, more potential students from that area come to Allen.”
Allen’s tribute ended with a prayer by the Rev. E. Robert Thomas, pastor of of Spring Hill A.M.E. Church in Columbia and a faculty member in religion at Allen.
Thomas said he was “shocked that something like this could happen” and prayed for all of those involved, including the church community, victims and even the accused shooter, who is from the Columbia area.
The vigil was brief to allow participants to attend other events at churches around Columbia Thursday to pray for the victims and their families.
Rev. Daniel Simmons, who later died at the Medical University of South Carolina, was also an alumnus of Allen University.