1,074 degrees awarded at Spring Commencement
Texas Southern University awarded 1,074 degrees in a joyous, standing-room-only Spring Commencement ceremony on May 14. The commencement speaker was Rev. Dr. Marcus D. Cosby, senior pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.
TSU graduates, many with elaborately decorated caps, engaged in the solemnity of the moment, but also basked in the joy of accepting their degrees. Family members carried pom-poms, gigantic photo cutouts of their graduates, and a range of pre-printed and handwritten signs.
Valedictorian LaMonde Howard graduated with a 3.96 GPA and a degree in Speech Communication. Salutatorian Alan Pho, who speaks four languages, graduated with a 3.94 GPA and a degree in Biology.
The TSU Presidential Medal was awarded to Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto), the first woman of color to be named to the National Foundation of Women Legislators, who secured a total of $3.7 million in funding for TSU. TSU President Dr. John Rudley said he was grateful to Giddings for mining her legislative relationships to help TSU and announced that a scholarship program will be designated in her name.
Giddings urged the students to stand up for injustice and move society forward.
“When you reach the place where people will listen to you, you no longer have the luxury of just speaking for yourself,” she said.
Other dignitaries present included U.S. Congressman Al Green and U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and TSU Regents Derrick Mitchell, Wesley Terrell, Marilyn Rose, Samuel Bryant, Sarah Monty-Armoni and Glenn Lewis. Student Regent Dominique Calhoun graduated magna cum laude with a juris doctorate degree from TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
President Rudley, who is stepping down from his post, received a medal from Regent Lewis and an American flag from Rep. Jackson Lee for his eight years of service to the university.
Rev. Cosby exhorted the assembly to understand the “perks and perils of perseverance, perspective, privilege and priority.”
“It’s time to go to another level,” Rev. Cosby said, directing his remarks to the graduating class. “A mind stretched to a new idea never returns to its original shape.”
He urged them to watch out for pride, arrogance and pretention while remembering to help someone else.
“It can’t just be about yourself,” Cosby said. “Go back to your community…it becomes your responsibility to get rid of racism, classism and sexism.”
The ceremony included 456 students who are the first in their families to earn a college degree, representing 46% of the graduating class. There were 98 students representing 27 countries, including 49 from Saudi Arabia and 17 from Nigeria, and 76 veterans and veterans’ dependents. The youngest graduate was 20 years old and the oldest was 82.