Cheyney University of Pennsylvania celebrated its 163rd Commencement on Saturday, May 12, and welcomed a total of 236 graduates (including master’s candidates) to the network of alumni that represent the nation’s oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
More than 2,000 visitors, ranging from distinguished guests, to alumni, to family and friends, convened under the large, white tent, on University’s Historic Quad to grab a glimpse of this significant moment.
In true Cheyney tradition, the 2018 graduating class was led by the Class of 1968, who returned to their alma mater to celebrate their 50th class anniversary. The graduates, decked in their traditional academic regalia, topped off with expressively decorated mortarboards, beamed with pride as they entered the ceremony space to large rounds of applause and cheers from the audience.
“I am inspired by the commitment of this senior class who excelled academically, participated in internships, research programs and who have studied abroad”, said President Aaron A. Walton, who also marked Commencement 2018 as a personal milestone – his first to preside as Cheyney President.
On the 20th Anniversary of his graduation, keynote speaker and alumnus, Dr. Irvin Clark drew wisdom from the influential likes of James Baldwin and Nelson Mandela to craft his speech that highlighted the theme of perseverance and responsibility and the role it, alongside with the training they’ve received from the University, will play during their journey.
“At Cheyney, we produce leaders. We produce innovators. We produce men and women who are ready to be the change that this world needs. From our humble beginnings, Cheyney has been a cornerstone for building strong, intelligent, proud Black people who never bow to policy, practice or false prophecy that claims we are less than excellent,” said Dr. Clark.
Following the ceremony, Dr. Clark reflected on his experience, recounting his first time walking along the quad as a Cheyney freshman and his feelings of gratitude on being able to return to his beloved alma mater, with a family of his own, to offer words of inspiration to the new class of alumni.
“The one thing I hope that the graduates took away from my speech is that it is important to be champions of Cheyney University,” said Dr. Clark. “Cheyney has prepared them well, but they have to be motivated and inspired to reach back and leave no one behind. That’s what Cheyney did for me, and I know that it’s done the same for the students that graduated today.”
Class Valedictorian, Samuel Owusu, a biology major and Keystone Honors Academy scholar, will intern this summer at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, where he will conduct original research under the instruction of world-class scientists. Following his internship, he will enroll in a post-baccalaureate program at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.
Owusu spoke the sentiments of his class, saying that while they will never forget their time at Cheyney, the day was a culmination of all their hard work and that it felt like a dream come true. He closed out his speech, offering a piece of advice to his fellow grads on how they should allocate their first big paycheck, “Give 50 percent to your parents, 25 percent to the University and now that we’re all geniuses we should be able to figure out how to spend the remaining 25 percent.”
Fellow Keystone Honors scholar and this year’s class Salutatorian, Abioye Mohammed, shared this, “I am humbled and honored to be the Salutatorian of my class. The journey was not easy, but it was worth it.”
Mohammed will now put her education in computer science to excellent use in her new position as a software engineer with tech giant Microsoft to begin this July. She credits the University, and the honors program, for instilling in her the importance of networking and taking advantage of career and professional development opportunities prior to graduation.
Before the close of the ceremony, Reverend Dr. Barbara Green Moses, of the class of 1968 presented the University with a check for $40,000, raised by the class, to benefit student scholarships.
President Walton ended convocation by extending sincere congratulations on behalf of the entire Cheyney community, reminding the graduates to stay connected with the institution and sharing these final words of wisdom, “May you continue to carry on the tradition of excellence that is the cornerstone of our historic legacy.”