Claflin University Marks 145th Year by Celebrating Traditions, Pursuing Transformative Change

Sep 04, 2014
CLICK HERE TO WATCH OUR YOUTUBE VIDEO FEATURING HIGHLIGHTS FROM CLAFLIN UNIVERSITY'S MATRICULATION DAY 2014!

Enhancing safety and security measures. Promoting campus-wide sustainability. Building a healthier campus community. These are just some of the goals Claflin University has set for its 145th year, under the theme “Celebrating Traditions, Pursuing Transformative Change.” 

Speech Given at Matriculation Day

“This is a special year,” President Henry N. Tisdale declared during his Matriculation Day Convocation address Thursday morning in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center. “One hundred forty-five years ago, the city of Orangeburg, the state of South Carolina and indeed the nation witnessed the birth of Claflin University – a beacon of light on a hilltop high, the first doors of higher education opened to African-Americans in the state, an oasis of opportunity for black men, black women and other races in an otherwise dark and hostile landscape.

“Today, we confirm our readiness for the new academic year.”

Nearly 450 freshmen were welcomed as the newest members of Claflin’s student body. Most of them are biology majors, and while the bulk of the class hails from South Carolina, they also represent every region of the United States and several foreign countries.

“This group is a very diverse cohort of high achievers,” Tisdale said. “This class of visionaries comes to us with big dreams and high aspirations.”

Lending a hand to make this year’s Matriculation Day extra special were musical selections performed by Claflin’s Gospel Choir D.R.E.A.M., Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble, as well as a rousing cheer led by the University’s cheerleaders. Student Government Association officials were sworn into office, and ceremony attendees were among the first to take part in a new Claflin tradition – a series of hand gestures for the final chorus of the alma mater.

Tisdale said the University has had much to celebrate over its long history – and a number of achievements from just over the last year.

“Matriculation Day provides us an opportunity to celebrate our traditions and our successes. It also gives us a time to chart our course for the new year,” he said. “Today, we can proudly proclaim that Claflin University has experienced a phenomenal transformation and has evolved into one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education. This distinction is because of hard work, commitment and dedication of the faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters, as people united and working together as a team to achieve a shared vision. There’s much to celebrate.”

Listing many of the University’s achievements during the 2013-14 academic year – from attaining the highest alumni annual giving rate among HBCUs to Emmanuel Pressley becoming the first Claflin student to be named a Truman Scholar, the launch of Claflin Online, the Department of Music earning national accreditation, faculty receiving honors and awards, multiple athletic successes and more – Tisdale said the entire University community should be active in displaying its Panther pride.

“We want to be proud of our history and traditions. We want to be proud of our national rankings and nationally accredited programs. We want to be proud of our distinguished, award-winning faculty. We want to be proud of the extraordinary achievements of our students and alumni,” he said. “We want to be proud of our athletic teams and come out to support our teams. We want to see you here, in this gymnasium, in this arena. This year, we want other schools and other teams to fear and respect the Panthers and the Lady Panthers. This year, let’s get up for the Panthers.”

Showing pride will extend in the form of Claflin Pride Day, a day of service that will be sponsored by the SGA. Tisdale encouraged the audience to participate.

Additionally, the University is focusing this year on improving campus safety and security, sustainability, and health and wellness initiatives, he said.

“We will significantly enhance safety and security this year by installing a system of surveillance cameras to cover the entire campus, including the parking lots and Goff Avenue,” Tisdale said. “We will also install additional call boxes across campus. And, in addition to those enhancements, our Office of Public Safety will reinstate its Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol program, a patrol program that will be available to students and others in the evening who might want to be escorted from a parking lot or one area of the campus to another.

“We want to demonstrate seriously that we care about our students, their safety and security.”

Building on the work of Claflin’s Friends of the Earth chapter and a campus-wide sustainability task force, Tisdale said the University will kick its green efforts up a notch, including the addition of recycling stations in residence halls and administrative buildings and recycling containers with the Claflin logo around campus, the creation of a recycling center on campus and the launch of a sustainability webpage.

The University’s sustainability movement will officially kickoff on Sept. 23 under the theme “Your Future is Orange, Maroon and Green.”

Also coming in September, Tisdale said the University will build on the campus wellness committee’s theme “We Want to CU Healthy” when it opens a new retrofitted weight room in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center and the newest residence hall, Claflin Commons, welcomes students on Sept. 15.

“With the opening of Claflin Commons, we’ll be opening a new fitness center to serve all students,” he said. “Students will begin moving into the Claflin Commons as early as Friday afternoon, Sept. 12.”

Those students assigned to Claflin Commons were offered limited group tours of the facility immediately following the Matriculation Day ceremony.

“For the rest of us, we’re going to schedule a ribbon cutting and grand opening in October,” Tisdale said.

In introducing Tisdale, SGA President Dillon Isaac likened him to the director of a blockbuster film, titled “Envisioning Greatness.”

“You have not heard of it because you’re in it,” he said. “It is being filmed, marketed and produced as I speak. Claflin University is ‘Envisioning Greatness.’ It has a passionate crew that serves as our administrators, faculty and staff; a talented cast comprised of the most promising students – you, the student body; our very important executive producers, the Board of Trustees; and our forward-thinking director, serving as our University’s president.

“With our president’s continued forward thinking and visionary leadership, the best part of this movie is yet to come.”

With that, Isaac awarded an “Oscar” – a miniature version of the Hollywood staple – for “best director” to Tisdale in honor of his 20 years leading the institution.

Tisdale thanked Isaac and “all of the people who supported me through the years.”

Tisdale’s passion and dedication, and the transformational work that has taken place at Claflin under his leadership, has been recognized by a national foundation, with which the University and a select group of higher education institutions will partner with as part of a “national movement designed to change all of higher education.”

“We invite all of you to join us on an eventful academic and student success journey – a journey in pursuit of transformative change. A journey on which we envision designing the future of this University,” Tisdale said. “We’ll need your support as we try to get out of the box in our thinking and think boldly about Claflin’s place in the global higher education landscape.”

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