Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Tells Claflin Graduates to “Always Be Mindful That the World is Watching You”

Dec 16, 2021
The Claflin 2021 Fall Commencement celebrated student success and reaffirmed that the University has not only survived but thrived during the current coronavirus pandemic. Claflin conferred bachelor’s and master’s degrees to more than 170 graduates during the ceremony held Friday, December 10, at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.
“Today is one of the most important milestones for our graduates. Many years of dreaming, sacrifice, and hope have paid off for our graduates today,” said Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack.
“When many of you arrived at Claflin three or four years ago, I am pretty sure you had no clue that you would face the most challenging global pandemic of our lifetime – COVID-19,” Warmack said.
“But I am excited to say to each of our graduates today, if not for your hard work, dedication, and real accomplishments, your degree would mean nothing. It would just be a piece of paper. But instead, it is a tangible symbol and outward recognition of the increased knowledge and skills that are now a part of you. Your diploma is a well-earned honor and recognition of your accomplishments.”
Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was the keynote speaker. Secretary Fudge is the 18th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Throughout her career, Fudge has worked to help low-income families, seniors, and communities across the country.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be here with you on one of the greatest days of your life,” said Fudge. “Throughout history, Claflin University graduates have been trailblazers, innovators, and groundbreakers, and we expect no less from you. You are the future history makers of Claflin.”
Fudge served as U.S. Representative for the 11th Congressional District of Ohio from 2008 to March 9, 2021. She was a member of several Congressional Caucuses and past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1999, Fudge was elected the first female and first African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, a position she held for two terms.
“This commencement ceremony represents a defining moment in your life,” said Fudge, whose career in public service began in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, where she served as the Director of Budget and Finance. “You will have many more to come but enjoy this one as long as you can. But as you prepare to embark on your next chapter, always be mindful that the world is watching you and be mindful of the example you set for those who look up to you.”
Fudge earned her bachelor’s degree in business from The Ohio State University and a law degree from the Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall School of Law. She is a Past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a member of its Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter.
“Take pride in your success, and remember that people choose to hire, mentor, and promote people they like and respect,” Fudge said. “Resist the temptation to take the easy way out. Things that are important and valuable come at a cost. Opportunities will always come -- you just need to be prepared for them, so do the very best you can and trust that you have the talent and skills to overcome any situation. It’s not important to be the best to the world. Be the best to yourself.”
Claflin’s commitment to student success and academic excellence was further illustrated by Mykia Deshay Hugee, a psychology major from Columbia, S.C. Hugee earned valedictorian honors for the Fall Class of 2021 by maintaining an accumulative 4.0 grade-point average.
“Today, we celebrate our triumphs and achievements,” said Hugee in her Senior’s Challenge speech to her classmates. “Each of us had our own unique experiences–a combination of good times and bad times. What people don’t understand is that we are not like any other graduating class. Not at just this institution, but in the world.”
Hugee referenced the global health crisis that disrupted every aspect of society – including higher education–while reflecting on her Claflin experience.
“If people look at us after today, they will see simply college graduates,” Hugee said. “But I see students who went home for a spring break and did not return until a year and a half later. Students who were in the classroom one day, but were in virtual classes the next day; students who were forced to enter the real world half-way through college.”
Hugee plans to work during the Spring 2022 semester before returning to school to pursue a master’s degree in social work or clinical psychology.
“Moments away from receiving our college degree, people say "I hope you are ready to enter the real world,” Hugee said. “But what makes us so different is that we have already entered the real world. We do not need to prepare for it–the world needs to be prepared for us. As we begin writing our next chapter, let us remember all we have accomplished so far and how we did not let anything deter us because Claflin creates the visionaries the world needs.”
Claflin alumni in the distinguished Golden Class of 1970 were also recognized during the Commencement Convocation.
“The Golden Class of 1970 is truly special,” Warmack said. “They could not have imagined 50 years ago they would be seated here today. Two members of the class are on the Board of Trustees - Janice W. Marshall and Joan Steward Stevens. They represent being committed and giving back to this institution.”
Warmack hosted a Presidential Luncheon for the Golden Class of 1970 on Thursday, December 9, at Ministers’ Hall. He thanked the members for their service and contributions to the University and announced that the Golden Class of 1970 had donated nearly $100,000 to support scholarships at Claflin.
“This class not only gives their time and talent – but their treasure as well,” Warmack said.

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