Your Lives Matter: Graduating Class Urged to Commit to Excellence, Give Back

May 09, 2015

2015 Graduates Listening to SpeechClaflin Commencement speaker Marc Morial, CEO and President of the National Urban League, told graduates Saturday that though a Claflin degree may lead to crystal stairs, there will be obstacles along the way.

“That stair case will have broken floor boards and be rough and stormy in some spots,” he said. “Claflin has prepared you to walk that crystal stair.”

Claflin conferred 380 undergraduate and graduate degrees to students for across the nation and world, with three percent of the graduating class being international students. Morial used the theme “Black Lives Matter, Your Lives Matter, All Lives Matter” to encourage students to be change agents and make an impact in their chosen professions.

“Will you commit to being the very best in your chosen field?” he said.  “As you think about your future, will you be someone who gives back? Will you embrace that it’s not simply about me, although I must take care of myself? Will you commit to excellence?”

“Will you embrace the idea that for black lives to matter – for all lives to matter – achievement and academic performance do matter?”

Morial told students to commit to excellence and be masters of their own destiny.

“Will you be one of the ones who utilizes academic achievement? Will you be one to come back to try to inspire someone else so that they can become what you have become,” he said.

Morial was honored with the Honorary Doctorate of Humanities at the ceremony, along with longtime Claflin supporter Doris Buffett. Buffett, whose Sunshine Lady Foundation has assisted with funding the Call Me Mister Program, GEMMS (Girls Embracing Maturity Strength, and Scholarship) and GENTSS (Gentlemen –Boys Embracing and Nurturing their Transition to Strength and Scholarship) programs said her goal is to try to give people the opportunity to change lives.

“I am very impressed with this place and the professors and the students because you have made some wonderful choices in your lives,” Buffett said. “You have seized the opportunities and you are going to have great lives. I am proud to be a part of your lives, even if only briefly.”

Other awards presented during commencement included the James E. Hunter, III, Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award to Dr. Nesan Sriskanda, professor of mathematics in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; the Attorney William H. and Annette B. Johnson Endowed Faculty Award for Innovative Research to Dr. Gloria McCutcheon, professor of biology in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; the President’s Awards for Outstanding Leadership and Community Service to Dillon Isaac; and the President’s Outstanding Academic Award to top honor graduate Eva Freeman.

Four students were also commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army: Khristen Murdock, Jasmine Floyd, Shellie Golden and Kasey Wilson. Claflin also honored the Golden Class of 1965 with their 50th anniversary golden diploma.

“You’re not just another ID number at Claflin,” Freeman said during her challenge to the graduating class. “Claflin has taught us that confidence is key, and we can change the world.”

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