Morgan State University’s 141st Spring Commencement offered a wealth of history and firsts, as the school continued its yearlong Sesquicentennial celebration. Former U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden delivered the keynote address to a large audience of bachelor’s degree candidates, recent master’s degree and doctoral graduates, faculty, administrators and guests gathered for the Undergraduate Commencement Exercises at Morgan’s Hughes Stadium on Saturday, May 20. Biden, philanthropist and educator C. Sylvia Brown and Sheldon Goldseker, founding board chair of the Goldseker Foundation, received honorary Doctor of Public Service degrees during the ceremony, and veteran broadcast journalist and Morgan graduate April Ryan received an honorary Doctor of Laws. A prominent businessman, political activist and community advocate Michael E. Cryor, of Morgan’s Class of 1968, was recognized as Alumnus of the Year. Morgan’s three living former presidents attended the event, joining current President David Wilson, Ed.D. on the platform, in another historic moment for Maryland’s designated public urban research university.
Two days earlier, on Thursday, May 18, Morgan’s advanced degree candidates received their diplomas in separate Commencement Exercises for the School of Graduate Studies, at the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center — yet another first for the University.
The 50th anniversary of the Class of 1967 — which was also Morgan’s Centennial Class — coincided with the 150th anniversary of their alma mater, which gave added significance to the presence of the class members at the Undergraduate Exercises. The “Soulful Centennials” of ’67 entered the stadium near the front of the processional, standing out in their gold-colored regalia. The members of the Class of 2017 who followed included countless stories of success. A number of graduates were moving on to awaiting employment opportunities with such companies as Northrop Grumman Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
‘Break Down the Barriers’
Biden spoke candidly to his audience about the personal and professional challenges he has faced and about social progress during his two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama. And he acknowledged the big challenges facing the Class of 2017 in the current political climate in the U.S.
In the past election cycle, “we saw just how much of a grip racism and sexism still has on America,” Biden said. “And of course no one has to tell you about the daily indignities of discrimination…. I think even you are surprised not that racism still exists but by the way racism was embraced as a political tool.”
But Biden urged the audience to avoid the temptation “to withdraw, to write off the system as irredeemably flawed…. I assure you it is temporary, and it is transitory.”
“…So much progress has been made since your parents’ (time),” Biden said. “You’re in a better position than anyone who was here before you to break down the barriers…. So go after your dreams.”
Morgan conferred nearly 700 bachelor’s degrees, 202 master’s degrees and 31 doctorates after the Spring 2017 semester.