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story.lead_photo.caption Thursday's Lincoln University Founders' Day speaker was Rodney Boyd, a 1993 graduate of LU. He is co-founder of Nexus Group, a full-service government affairs firm headquartered in Jefferson City. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Lincoln University celebrated the 154th anniversary of its founding Thursday, and the Founders' Day Convocation speaker told those in attendance to never forget the sacrifices it took to make the institution possible.

Anyone connected to LU is connected to something "born out of the most impossible and improbable set of facts," yet the school has also produced impossible and improbable people, said Rodney Boyd, a 1993 LU graduate who delivered the Founders' Day address.

Boyd's legal and government affairs career includes having co-founded the Jefferson City-based Nexus Group in 2018. He is a lobbyist and legal public policy adviser, but his success could be considered an impossible and improbable achievement.

He said he grew up in north St. Louis, born to a 15-year-old mom who'd been impregnated by a man twice her age, who he never met.

Boyd thanked the mentors in his life and at LU, who made him show up for the internship at the Capitol he initially avoided for two weeks, and who encouraged him to study for the law school aptitude test and apply to law school at the University of Missouri. He got emotional talking about his acceptance there.

He said people should not take for granted the sacrifices made for them to be where they are — especially the sacrifices by the founders of LU.

The Lincoln Institute, as it was then known, opened in September 1866, after members of the 62nd Colored Infantry and 65th Colored Infantry raised the money to organize the school — $5,000 from the 62nd and approximately $1,400 from the 65th — under the leadership of Richard Baxter Foster, a former first lieutenant in the 62nd, who became the school's first principal.

The educational focus back then was on reading, writing and arithmetic, LU President Jerald Jones Woolfolk said.

College-level work was added to the institute's curriculum in 1877, according to the history in the Founders' Day program.

Many of the founding soldiers gave a year's worth of their wages to the cause of establishing the school, Boyd said.

He said selflessness should cause people to pause and reflect upon what they're really doing with their talent, time and treasure.

The sacrifices made shouldn't be taken for granted and should be built upon, he added.

LU in 1921 had its name changed from the Lincoln Institute to Lincoln University and was given its governing Board of Curators because of a bill in the Missouri Legislature introduced by Walthall M. Moore, the first African American to serve in the Legislature.

Woolfolk said the focus of the school today has shifted from reading, writing and arithmetic to "possibilities."

She told Boyd, as she presented a commemorative plaque to him, that he's an example of what's possible through LU — "You are what the soldiers dreamed about," a dream fulfilled.

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