Renowned Scholar and Educator Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Inspires and Challenges Graduates in Keynote Message at Claflin University's 147th Commencement Convocation
May 14, 2017
Renowned author, scholar and educator Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. delivered a powerful message of inspiration and self-reflection to nearly 400 graduates, family members and faculty and staff at Claflin University's 147th Commencement Convocation on Saturday at the South Atlantic Seventh-day Adventist Conference Center in Orangeburg, S.C.
"Life can be a strange journey- no matter where you start," said Glaude, who also is the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. "But the place from where you started is one of value because you - someone uniquely unprecedented -- reside there. And, beauty and brilliance can emerge from the most unexpected places. All too often the underestimated turn out to be the visionaries who transform the world."
Glaude, who received an honorary doctorate degree from Claflin prior to his speech, is widely regarded as a prolific author, columnist, television commentator, and one of the most important black intellectuals in the United States today. Highly sought after for his insightful commentary, Glaude has appeared on the Tavis Smiley Show, CNN and C-SPAN. Along with noted scholars, Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson, he also appeared in the documentary, “Stand,” produced and directed by Smiley. Glaude holds a master's degree in African-American Studies from Temple University and a master's degree in religion from Princeton University, where he also earned his doctorate degree.
Glaude referenced several literary luminaries such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin in his speech and used excerpts from their stories to emphasize the power of transformational change.
"In Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk: Of The Coming of John we see how the easy going country boy is transformed by his exposure after attending college. He no longer looks into the glass darkly," said Glaude. "He sees the world anew and he is ready to make his mark. This happens in places like Claflin.
The world has a way of conspiring often with others to make you feel small. And we often fail to resist and conform to the imagination that leads us to believe that everyone should be as much alike as possible. But this precious place -- Claflin University -- offered you refuge and opportunities to imagine yourself otherwise. Each experience of significance especially here at Claflin calls you to a higher sense of yourself and requires the abandonment of old versions. These years at Claflin have been your training ground to forge a distinctive self in right relations with others."
Glaude's message included his perspective of America's social and political landscape and he issued a call to action to Claflin's Class of 2017.
"Most of you have dedicated your years in college to the arduous task of self creation and preparing yourselves to enter a world that has become exceedingly dark ," said Glaude. "You are graduating into a world defined by Donald Trump who believes that some people should be valued more than others. You are graduating into a world marked by economic insecurity, war and unimaginable greed and callousness. How will you respond? Will your resign yourself to the world as it is or dare to risk everything to create the world as it could be? Sometimes you have to sing off-key to be heard. What will be the nature of your steps once you leave the hallowed halls of Claflin? You are that beauty. You are that brilliance. Now go out and transform the world."
Following Glaude's remarks, Claflin conferred bachelor's and master's degrees to graduates who were eager to walk across the stage to the cheers and applause of family members and classmates.
"The class of 2017 is among the largest in the university's history," said President Henry N. Tisdale. "It includes candidates ranging in age from 20 to 62. Members of the class hail from 17 states and the District of Columbia and other regions of the world, and a growing number of students who are earning degrees through the online program.
The Class of 2017 has brought recognition to the university through scholarly research and capturing nationally competitive awards. All of these distinctive qualities are underscored by the academic quality of the institution which has been cultivated and nurtured by world-class faculty and highly supportive staff," Tisdale said.
History was made as Claflin celebrated its inaugural graduates of the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and the Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction programs. Also, 10 graduating seniors achieved cumulative 4.0 grade point averages. These students, referred to as "The Talented 10," were presented Presidential Academic Excellence Awards. Emmanuel Mong, a computer science major from Nigeria, was selected to issue the "Senior Challenge" to the Class of 2017 through the criteria used to determine the Top Honor Graduate. All 10 were members of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. Joining Mong were Sakshyam Dahal (computer science); Javan Francis (sport management); Joshua Hughes (psychology); Pradip Khanal (computer science); Abigael Kosgel (biochemistry); Brandi Miller (business administration); Taylor Reynolds (early childhood education); Jenna Washington (mathematics); and Raven Woods (business administration).
"This is a tremendous honor and a very humbling achievement, "said Mong, who has accepted a position with Survey Monkey in San Francisco, Calif. "My experiences at Claflin have prepared me to take on the world."
In his senior challenge, Mong's exhorted his classmates to dream big to achieve their goals.
"This is only the beginning of our journey, said Mong. "Never stop dreaming -- and if your dreams do not frighten you -- they are not big enough. The world is big enough to accommodate a limitless range of possibilities. It's up to us to tap into the resources at our disposal to realize and achieve our dreams."
Special presentations were made to Dr. Arezue F.B. Boroujerdi, recipient of the James E. Hunter Excellence in Teaching Award and Dr. Ananda Mondal, who received the Attorney William H. and Annette B. Johnson Endowed Faculty Award for Innovative Scientific Research.
"Boroujerdi, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, excelled in classroom performance and played an integral role in the department's program and curriculum development," said Provost Dr. Karl Wright. "She has exhibited innovation in the classroom and the ability to integrate cutting-edge research and technology in teaching."
Mondal, an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, was recently awarded the prestigious Early Career Development Award and $550,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"Dr. Mondal has taken bioinformatics and data analytics to new heights at Claflin," said Wright. "He is one of the few professors in the country to receive that award."
The Golden Class of 1967, which celebrated its 50th anniversary as Claflin graduates, was presented Golden Diplomas. More than 30 members of the Class of 1967 returned to the University for Commencement Weekend activities that included a luncheon hosted by President Tisdale and First Lady Alice Carson Tisdale.
The Presidential Excellence in Leadership and Service Award was presented to senior Andy Michel, a criminal justice major from Seat Pleasant, Md. Michel served as president of Claflin's Student Government Association (SGA) as a junior and he was a Battalion Commander in the ROTC program.
"Upon Michel's arrival to Claflin four years ago, he fully embraced the characteristics of leadership and community service," said Tisdale. " His stellar academic performance during his freshman year led to an invitation to become a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. He is graduating with a 3.9 grade point average and he founded and is the executive director of the Academy of Gentlemen at Claflin. He is also a member of the Wesley Foundation's board of directors."
Claflin also presented degrees posthumously to the families of Melvin Lionell Jackson Jr. and Darrell Renard Pendergrass Jr., seniors who were killed in a car accident that also claimed the lives of two underclassmen. A fifth Claflin student, also an underclassman, survived injuries suffered in the accident that occurred on October 13, 2016 on Interstate 77 in Columbia, S.C.
Jackson, of Chester, S. C., had a 3.04 grade point average as a sport management major. Pendergrass, of Society Hill, S. C., was also majoring in sport management with a minor in business administration. He was on the Dean’s List every semester during his matriculation at the University and had a 3.42 grade point average. He was also a member of the Gammu Nu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
“These young men left an indelible imprint on our hearts as students who embraced the principles and concepts of scholarship and visionary leadership," said Tisdale.
Four Claflin University graduating seniors were commissioned with the rank of Second Lieutenant (O-1). The cadets completed South Carolina State University's Bulldog Battalion Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program through a partnership with Claflin University. Akalyah Gilliard, Rashodd Howze, Connie Sherow and Brittany Singletary earned active duty commissions in the United States Army. Michel, also completed the program and he will be commissioned at a later date. Taylor Jones will be commissioned after completing advanced camp.