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Thousands of family and friends flocked into Chappie James Arena and overflow areas to watch more than 400 students walk across the stage to receive their Tuskegee University degrees on Saturday. The week before, the university conferred doctorate and master’s degrees in the graduate and professional school ceremony.
Saturday’s undergraduate celebration included students who pushed through to earn a degree in three years, those who earned duo-degrees and those who returned to receive their degree after several decades away from campus. Extraordinary scholarship was rewarded with a variety of cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude recognitions.
Board of Trustees Chair Norma Clayton offered a number of pearls of wisdom as graduates prepared to take the stage. “Leave your mark wherever you go,” she said. “Write your own story. Keep your skills sharp. Make time to thank and appreciate the most important people in your life. Go in peace. Do well and make us proud.”
Dr. Lisa D. Cook, the ceremony’s commencement speaker is the first African American woman to sit on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The Fed, which has remained in the news this year, is the central bank of the United States and it influences interest rates, managing money supply and regulating financial markets. Dr. Cook received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Tuskegee.
“It is a distinct pleasure and tremendous honor to return to the great Tuskegee University as your commencement speaker and to share this day with you, your friends, and your family,” said the Spelman College graduate. “The last time I was here, I participated in a symposium in honor of the late Andrew Brimmer, the economist, first African American to serve on the Federal Reserve Board, and former chair of the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee.
“This graduation is an especially celebratory day in your life because you made it through the upheaval of the pandemic and the disruption and uncertainty it brought,” she said. “That makes this occasion all the more meaningful. And today you will receive diplomas from one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning and innovation-centered universities in the world.
“As you make your way in the world, Tuskegee and its rich heritage will always be a part of you and your story of achievement,” Dr. Cook said. “And it will always be a place to call home. You will inspire others to know and attend HBCUs, and they, like you, will look back with reverence and gratitude and feel a connection to an enduring legacy. Congratulations, Tuskegee University Class of 2023! I cannot wait to see you go out into the world and knock those doors down!”
After graduates received their degrees, several students were acknowledged for their commissions as second lieutenants and ensigns the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force.
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