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Ben Carson Keynote Speaker at WCU Scholarship Dinner

Dr. Ben Carson returns to Mississippi this month as the keynote speaker for an annual scholarship dinner designated as a tribute to the medical community.

The neurosurgeon and the 17th head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will speak at the William Carey University Traditional Campus Scholarship Dinner on April 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available for the event at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi.

Dr. Carson, 70, will share his personal story of growing up in poverty to becoming a world-renowned brain surgeon. He will also discuss overcoming racial prejudice and the importance of education.

“He has such an amazing story,” Jenifer Freridge, advancement officer at William Carey University Tradition Campus in Biloxi, said after attending the scholarship dinner at the Hattiesburg campus in November where Carson also delivered the keynote address.

Freridge said Carson spoke about his youth and mother borrowing books from a family that employed her as a housekeeper.

“She would bring the books home to Dr. Carson and his siblings,” Freridge said. “She told them books were the key to success.”

Carson, considered a pioneer in the field of neurosurgery, became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in 1984. The then-33-year-old was the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the U.S.

After he retired, he began teaching neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Freridge said the event will kick-start a scholarship program for pharmacy students. William Carey’s School of Pharmacy offers the only accelerated, three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program on the Gulf Coast. The pharmacy program began five years ago and has not been able to offer pharmacy scholarships to its students.

According to Freridge, the pharmacy scholarship opportunities will allow the program to remain competitive.

“They are the next generation of independent pharmacists,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed pharmacy students to gain valuable hands-on experience.

“Our students were at testing and vaccine locations,” Freridge said. “They were giving vaccines, administering tests. They were completely hands-on and saw exactly what the medical community was going through every day. That’s why we want to honor them.”

Numerous guests from Gulf Coast hospitals, medical facilities, and clinics are expected to attend the event.

“They are our heroes,” Freridge said.

Of 110 tables set for the event, only 28 remain. Tickets for the event are $150 a person for general admission or $1,500 for a reserved table of 10. The university anticipates the event will be sold out.

For ticket information, contact Freridge at [email protected] or 228-702-1853.


Written by Cherie Ward

Cherie Ward is an award-winning Mississippi Gulf Coast journalist with decades of experience in writing and photography. She lives in Ocean Springs with her husband and has two adult children who also live on the Coast.

Connect with her by email at [email protected] with story ideas or find her @cherieward on Instagram. She would love to hear from you.


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