I was Vice President for Student Affairs at Albany State University from 2000 to 2004. Our president, Dr. Portia Holmes Shields, always did shout outs at commencement- a way to tell the stories of our graduates to personalize the event.
When I became president at Philander Smith in 2004, I continued the tradition with my first graduation in 2005. 10 years later I am still doing the same. Below is my script for the class of 2015 at Dillard. This represents a fraction of their accomplishments and stories. Worth the read!
BEST ALL AROUND
· This award dates back to the 1950s when it was called the Ernest W. Armstrong award. Beginning last year, it is called the William Sutton prize, named for Dr. William Sutton who graduated from Dillard University in 1953, who as a student was class president for 3 years, football captain and science major, who later taught on the faculty for 20 years and served as president of Mississippi Valley State University for 10 years. The medallion is sponsored by Mr. William Sizeler and the Sizeler Thompson Brown architectural firm. Each recipient received a $1,000 cash prize.
· Let me introduce our recipients.
o Daniel Gibson. Track and cross country teams. Officer in the political science club and African World Network Organization. Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Inc. Member of the honors program. Dean’s list. Admitted to four law schools, and will be attending the University of Tulsa.
o Roneisha Joyner. Resident Assistant. Senior class officer. Officer for several student groups. SOAR leader. Student ambassador. Cheerleader. Dean’s list. Martin Luther King Week of Peace Community Service Award winner in 2014. 3.9 GPA. Will be attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California to attend the number one school in the country for their Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program on a $10,000/year scholarship.
o Keylantra Taylor. Basketball athlete. Volleyball athlete. Track and field athlete. Daktronics NAIA Scholar Athlete for 2015. People’s choice female athlete of the year. Officer for the National Society of Black Engineers and Scientific Honor Society. First place winner in the NORC Research competition and the LAMP Undergraduate research competition. Will begin a 10 week internship with the Army research lab before graduate school this fall.
· 13-15 part 1: Taylor Webster. Her big brother Dorian Webster Jr. finished Dillard in 2013.
· 13-15 part 2: Lyndon Catalan. Mr. Dillard 2014-15, his big sister Lyneice graduated in 2013. Lyndon will be working at Ultra Clean Technologies-Engineering Company in Silicon Valley.
· Angelle Williams. Her sister, Kyla Dawson finished Dillard in 2005.
· Pharyn Alexis Thornton. The only child of Pia Thornton, Dillard University class of 1991.
· Ayanna G. Humphrey has a host of family members who have graduated from Dillard. Most recent her cousins, 2014 grads Damon Carraby and Kyrean Bowens; aunt Sharon Ross Magee in 1979; and finally, her great-grandmother Annie Dixon Ross, magna cum laude in 1952.
· Dexter Smith. 3rd person to graduate from Dillard, 2nd in nursing. Mother Dr. Charlene Smith class of 1978, and sister Dr. Annie Smith-Whittle class of 2003. Dexter will be at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Baton Rouge, LA in the Surgical Nurse Residency Program.
· Walsdorf Jenneford, III. His father and grandfather, all of them with the same name, attended Dillard, as well as a great uncle and 2 aunts that attended Dillard.
· Jazmene K. Stewart. Will be working with the Washington DC Department of Health as a Food Health Inspector.
· Shannon Albert. Will be working at Ochsner Hospital Westbank, Gretna, LA in the Mother/Baby Unit as a Staff RN
· Donielle Brown, Falicia Jones, and Jestin Major. Nursing graduates all offered employment in the telemetry departments at area hospitals.
· Chloe Harrell. Will be at University Hospital and Clinics, Lafayette, LA, in the Emergency Department as a nurse.
· Keshona Holmes. Joining Teach for America Corps assigned to the Greater New Orleans area.
· Courtney Glover. Will be working for Department of Public Health in Atlanta through the Directors of Public Health Education (DHPE) program.
· Shantrell Green. A participant in the Keys to Success Single Parent Residential Program, will be employed by the New Orleans Film Commission.
· Edward Buckles. An award winning filmmaker he is completing production of his film Katrina Babies funded by the New Orleans Film Society, and will begin on June 7th working with the television franchise, NCIS.
· Vivian Adams. Concert choir soprano will begin in about 10 days singing the praises of Dillard as an admissions recruiter.
· Olivia Babb. Admitted to 3 law schools and will be attending Southern University.
· Tyrell Collins. Will attend Columbia College in Chicago, IL. For a master of fine arts program in creative writing specializing in fiction.
· Brittany Smith. Women’s basketball co-captain will start at UNO for a masters in finance.
· Arian Pierre. Will attend Emerson College in Boston for a masters in Global Marketing, Communication and Advertising.
· Shakayla Nunez. Will attend Morehouse Medical School for a Masters Degree in Biomedical Science.
· Melritha Spencer. Will attend Liberty University for seminary.
· Kentrell Roberts. Concert choir Lyric Baritone will attend Graduate School at Loyola University in New Orleans majoring in Voice Performance.
· Samantha Brown. Will attend Jackson State for a masters of public health in epidemiology.
· Michael Brathwaite. Admitted to Penn State University for the Family Nurse Practitioner MSN Program, but has employment opportunities with Holy Main Medical Center in New Jersey in the Emergency Department, and with Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge in the Surgical Nurse Residency Program
· Danita LeBeau. Will be attending SUNO for their master of social work program.
· Calvinesha Weaver. Invited by the director of the Tropical Pathology and Infectious Disease Association to attend the University of Health Sciences Antigua School of Medicine.
· Brother act. Trevion and Germoin (jer MON) Green, brothers graduating together today, both in Public Health.
· Sister act. Jennifer and Jeannine Jackson, twins graduating today, both in biology.
· Lynisha Jordan. Today is her 22nd Birthday.
· Casey Hawkins. Today is her 23rd birthday.
· Trenell Williams. This week earned a back belt in martial arts, the first for the new Dillard University martial arts program.
· Charlene Ellis. Charlene was supposed to graduate in May 2012 but was pregnant and had to have an emergency C-section her senior year so she didn’t finish her last semester…until now. She sat out 3 years and just returned this semester to finish.
· Dwan Jacque: Non-traditional, single mother of two participated in our Keys to Degrees program for single parents this past year which allowed her to be able to live on campus and stay involved. She comes from a long line of Dillard attendees including her mother, aunts, & grandmother but is the first to receive her degree from Dillard and the first in immediate family to receive a college degree. She is graduating in just 3 years, and taking advantage of our pre-law program she is now heading to Loyola University for law school.
· John Johnson. 32 years old husband and father, attended Dillard from 2000-2004 and I left in the spring of 2004 because of personal reasons. He moved to Baton Rouge, got married, entered the workforce, and began a full time job. He worked at this job diligently for 9 years, but during the course of his employment I began to see that just working wasn't enough. He started taking night classes at Southern University, because commuting back and forth and supporting a family just wasn't feasible. His wife encouraged him to get a degree audit so he could finish at Dillard. 32 credit hours to complete my goal. He continued working full time and attending night classes. In February of last year he found out he was going to be laid off from his job, so stepped out on faith to finish school. He took 18 credit hours commuted back and forth from Baton Rouge 5 days a week, and finished last semester on the Dean's List.
· Calvin Felton. When his mother was pregnant with him she was told he would have Downs Syndrome but he doesn't. When he was a young child he was diagnosed with autism but his mother refused to put him on medication as doctors suggested. In the 5th grade his special education teacher told him he would never graduate high school. After that, his mother took him out of special education and committed herself to working with him and giving him more attention and he continued in all regular courses through graduation. Today he is graduating from Dillard University.