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President McNair joins 20-plus black leaders for May 16 nationwide virtual HBCU graduation event

May 14, 2020

Maribel Ferrer,
Justin Grant,


Like most academic institutions around the country, historically black colleges and universities have been forced to cancel or postpone graduation ceremonies due to the COVID-19 outbreak. To celebrate the achievements of more than 27,000 students, black leaders — including Tuskegee University’s president, Dr. Lily D. McNair — and 78 HBCUs are joining forces virtually during the upcoming “Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition” commencement event, presented by Chase on May 16 at 2:00 p.m. eastern time.

The two-hour event will be live-streamed on Chase’s YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn channels, as well as HBCU Connect’s Facebook page and Essence Studios.

President Barack Obama will share a special message during the event. Hosted by Kevin Hart, guest appearances for the two-hour program will include Steve Harvey, Chase Consumer Banking CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett, Ariel Investments Co-CEO and President Mellody Hobson, National Urban League President Marc Morial, and academic leaders from participating HBCUs. Other sports and entertainment participants will include 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter, Debbie Allen and Vivica Fox.

The virtual commencement will also include performances by Anthony Hamilton, Wyclef Jean, Omari Hardwick and other musical guests — as well as a drumline mash-up featuring Doug E. Fresh.

“Every student graduating in the Class of 2020 deserves to celebrate this moment — they earned it, even more so during a challenging year for our country and the world. We are showing up for them because we recognize they are our now and our future, and the way forward is full of opportunity,” Chase Consumer Banking CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett said.

The idea for hosting a virtual commencement ceremony for HBCU students was conceived by Dr. Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College and member of the Advancing Black Pathways (ABP) Advisory Council. Additional organizers include Howard University, The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United Negro College Fund and the National Basketball Association. Essence is supporting the event as a live-streaming partner.

“As a result of COVID-19, our students have been robbed of a moment that they and their families have earned,” Sorrell said. “I am so grateful that this coalition of partners stepped up to answer the call of the HBCU community and stand in the gap for our students and their families.”

JPMorgan Chase is supporting the “Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition” through its Advancing Black Pathways (ABP) initiative, created to help black communities close historical achievement gaps in three key areas: wealth creation, educational outcomes and career success. Support for HBCUs is a core focus for JPMorgan Chase because of the vital role they continue to play in helping African Americans forge pathways to long-term success.

“Historically black colleges and universities remain a critical resource in educating our young people and putting them on a path to lasting and rewarding careers,” said Sekou Kaalund, who heads ABP. “Here at JPMorgan Chase, we are firmly committed to supporting HBCUs and helping them continue a tradition of excellence that has helped generations of black people achieve academic and professional success.”

The first HBCUs were founded before the Civil War, and these institutions educated generations of African Americans during a period when other colleges and universities would not. Today, HBCUs produce 70% of African American doctors and dentists, 50% of black lawyers and 80% of black judges. HBCU graduates can also expect work-life earnings of $130 billion — an additional $927,000 per graduate, 56 percent more than they could expect to earn without their HBCU degrees or certificates, according to UNCF.

More information about the virtual graduation event is available at, including a list of participating schools.

© 2020, Tuskegee University; with content contributed by JPMorgan Chase