Claflin's Emmanuel Pressley Graduates with Honors, Distinction as University's First-Ever Truman Scholar

May 07, 2015

Emmanuel Pressley ClaflinWhen Emmanuel Pressley receives his degree from Claflin University, it will mark the realization of a goal the Hemingway native had set for himself long ago.

Claflin will hold its 145th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 9, 11 a.m. at the South Atlantic Seventh-Day Adventist Convention Center.

“I was on the debate team in high school,” said Pressley. “I have always enjoyed talking about political theory, how government works and sports. I also believe the political science curriculum provides you with the tools necessary to succeed in any profession.” University’s first-ever Harry S. Truman Scholar.  Named after former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, the scholarship is a highly competitive, merit-based award offered to U.S. college students who plan to attend graduate school in preparation for a career in public service.  Pressley, who graduated as valedictorian of Hemingway High School in 2011, was one of 59 Truman Scholars who were selected from among 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities. When asked why he chose political science as a major, Pressley said that he was attracted to the thought process and critical thinking that comes with persuasively articulating a certain perspective.

“Emmanuel’s selection as a Truman Scholar was no small feat,” said Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, president at Claflin University.  “We are extremely proud of him and Emmanuel’s achievement also represents the caliber of students we are committed to recruiting and retaining at Claflin University.”

As a Truman Scholar, Pressley is also invited to participate in the Summer Institute and Truman-Albright Fellows Program. He has an opportunity to participate in a 10-week summer institute in Washington, D.C.   Pressley has been offered the position of diversity and inclusion intern with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. After that, he plans to attend graduate school and eventually law school.  However, Pressley will continue developing the concept of his second passion – helping ex-offenders who have been incarcerated transition back into society.

“As a candidate for the Truman Scholarship, I was required to write a policy proposal on a topic or issue believe is important to the future of the country.  My proposal focused on mass incarceration and the Second Bridges Program I want to create.”

Pressley’s motivation is the result of having a family member who was incarcerated and watching him struggle with maintaining employment, housing and other basic needs after his release.

“In many ways, ex-offenders are denied the basic rights that citizens of this country expect,” said Pressley. “This is unfair.  I am blessed to be in a position that enables me to help those who are the victims of these policies.  I believe I can make a difference.  That’s the role of the servant-leader. That’s what I learned at Claflin.” 

Pressley can look back and be assured that he truly had a meaningful and impactful presence at Claflin.  In addition to his stellar academic achievements, he studied abroad in Brazil and served for three years as a senator in the Student Government Association (SGA) before being appointed chief of staff last spring.  He will introduce the keynote speaker – The Reverend Sharma Denise Lewis – at Claflin’s 2015 Baccalaureate Service (Friday, May 8, at 7 p.m., at the Edward L. Tullis Arena of the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center) in one of his final duties as an undergraduate.

“I remember when I was accepted to Claflin University. It was Valentine’s Day and I received a big envelope with a card inside and on it was written ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’  A letter was included which notified me that I would receive a full academic scholarship. Claflin was the first of six colleges that offered me a full-scholarship. I’m confident I made the right choice.”

Pressley becomes somewhat emotional when asked what he’s going to miss most about Claflin.  His involvement with almost every facet of the University allowed him to build strong relationships with classmates, faculty, administrators, alumni and other supporters of the University.

“This will always be home,” he said. “When I think of Claflin I will always be reminded of Homecoming when everyone – the students and alumni – gather on the floor in the Edward L. Tullis Arena to sing the Alma Mater.  I also recall my introduction to the Panther Steps Program where we were challenged to raise the expectations we had for ourselves,” he added.  “I know what I had planned for myself but I reassessed my goals. I began to realize that Claflin is a small – but powerful environment that has everything you need to become a well-prepared and dynamic individual.”

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