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MSU Awards Degrees to Largest-Ever Class of December Graduates

Past Morgan Presidents and Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford Highlighted MSU’s Third Sesquicentennial Commencement

Maryland’s U.S. senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen with Morgan President

A capacity crowd filled Morgan State University’s Talmadge Hill Field House today for MSU’s fifth December Commencement exercises. Attendees witnessed 490 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees conferred, the largest number of fall graduates in Morgan’s 150-year history. The ceremony was the third Commencement of Morgan’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, which began in December 2016. Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford gave the keynote address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service during the ceremony, and other honorary doctorates were awarded to six former Morgan presidents. Maryland’s U.S. senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, presented a U.S. Senate resolution honoring MSU.

Rutherford’s message was well-received by the degree candidates seated in front of him, who deferred their jubilation to hear words of wisdom from a successful fellow HBCU attendee. Before finding success as a technology salesperson, a lawyer and a high-level administrator in state government, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Howard University and then floundered in his first career as a banker, Rutherford told the audience.

photo of Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford“…I was preparing for those opportunities I could not have imagined when I was in your shoes,” he said. “…I am incredibly thankful that in those times of uncertainty, I chose to follow my instincts. Instead of taking the easy route or the obvious path, I made my own. If you believe in something, and if you work hard and stay disciplined, you will succeed.”

Rutherford encouraged the soon-to-be graduates not to fear failure, to continue to acquire new knowledge and skills and to cast aside labels, including racial stereotypes.

The contributions of Morgan’s past leaders to the institution’s legacy were spotlighted during the ceremony, as MSU’s sesquicentennial year neared its close. Morgan’s seventh president, King Virgil Cheek, J.D. (1971–1974), and eighth president, Andrew Billingsley, Ph.D. (1975–1984), were awarded honorary Doctor of Laws in person, and MSU’s first president, John Emory Round, D.D. (1872–1882), second president, William Maslin Frysinger, D.D. (1882–1888), third president, Francis J. Wagner, D.D. (1888–1901), and fourth president, John Oakley Spencer, Ph.D., LL.D. (1902–1937), were honored posthumously. The remaining three former Morgan presidents — the late Dwight O.W. Holmes, Ph.D., LL.D. (1937–1948), the late Martin D. Jenkins, Ph.D., LL.D. (1948–1970), and Earl S. Richardson, Ed.D. (1984–2010) — are prior recipients of honorary degrees from Morgan. Dr. Richardson joined the platform guests at the Commencement.

But the day belonged to the new graduates.

Candice Marshall, an international student from St. Lucia, became Morgan’s first doctoral graduate in mathematics when she received her degree in industrial and computational mathematics. Biology candidate Esther Aribilola and accounting candidate Anthony Lovelace, both undergraduates, received the President’s Second Mile Award, an annual honor recognizing outstanding leadership and participation in student affairs. Four other bachelor’s degree candidates were honored with the President’s Award for Exceptional Creative Achievement: psychology major Chey Harris, electrical engineering major Dana Holland, architecture and environmental design major Edward Leedy and civil engineering major Joshua Payne. Kirabo Nsereko, a 190-credit electrical engineering major with a 3.96 cumulative average, received honors as the highest-ranking student in the class. Senior Class President Michaela Scott bid farewell to her peers with the “Salute to the Graduates” address.

“For the past year, we have had a spectacular celebration of our achievements over the past 150 years,” said Morgan President David Wilson. “We have celebrated the purpose of our founding in 1867 as a small class of nine students taught at Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church. We have celebrated the progress we have made for a century and a half in meeting the evolving needs and ambitions of our community, and we have celebrated the great promise or potential that we hold today to grow the future and lead the world as Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University.”

About Morgan
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is celebrating its 150th year of excellence in higher education. A Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution, Morgan offers more than 100 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit

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Larry Jones, University PR

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