May 2, 2011
– The weather was picture perfect in Tallahassee, Fla. and the climate inside the Alfred Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium on Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) campus was filled with more than 7,000 individuals full of joy and excitement in celebration of the 9 a.m. Spring Commencement exercise.
A mortarboard with orange letters spelling out “Dan the Man” and individuals shouting “I love you” and “Halleluiah,” FAMU graduates were inspired by words of encouragement from keynote speaker Mayor M. Kasim Reed of Atlanta, Ga.
“Do not miss your time to do extraordinary things,” said Reed. “Don’t let people distract you right now. This is your opportunity to get it together.”
Reed also encouraged the graduates to remember to give back.
“When you see a little girl’s face or little boy’s face that looks like yours, you have to help them get what you have,” said Reed.
Graduates expressed their thoughts on Reed’s speech as well as receiving their degrees.
“It was a great ceremony,” said Eboni Blakley, from Moultrie, Ga. “I really enjoyed Mayor Reed’s speech today.”
Blakley graduated with her bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering and will be working for Southern Company in Pensacola, Fla.
“I encourage students to continue to move forward in their discipline,” said Blakley.
“I still remember coming to FAMU as a freshman,” said Dennard Smith, a native of Newark, N.J., who graduated with his bachelor’s of science in English with a minor in history education. “I cannot believe how fast these four years have flown by.”
Three law graduates were also ecstatic and thankful to receive their degrees.
Charmaine Neal, Kerene Tayloe and Dorothy Smith were all involved in some form of natural disaster as it related to their road toward receiving their juris doctorate.
Both Neal and Tayloe were in Japan participating in a study abroad program through Temple University attempting to complete their requirements for graduation when the major earthquake and subsequent Tsunami struck placing their timely completion in jeopardy.
Smith was an undergraduate student in New Orleans at the time when Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, losing all of her possessions in the process – placing her livelihood, let alone her completion of an undergraduate degree in jeopardy.
“Riding the bus to Tallahassee, getting dressed, lining up outside the stadium, taking photos with my College of Law Class of 2011 and proceeding down the aisle in the new recreation building for commencement felt so surreal today,” said Smith. “Walking across the stage, receiving my degree, shaking all the appropriate people’s hand and hearing my named called as a juris doctorate recipient actualized my dream of graduating from law school. Feelings of excitement, sadness, honor, praise, thankfulness and joy all rushed to me all at once because of my great accomplishment as a first generation lawyer of the Smith family. Tear!”
After the graduates received their degrees, FAMU alumnae T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh received a Doctor of Humane Letters.
“I am so overwhelmed,” said Keymáh, who graduated in 1984 and was recruited to FAMU as a National Merit Scholar. “I am happy to have started this month [April] and end this month in Tallahassee.”
Earlier this month, FAMU honored Keymáh with the unveiling of the Endowed T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh Theatre Scholarship. The unveiling was part of the College of Arts and Sciences' celebration honoring alumni into its Gallery of Distinction.
Keymáh was an original cast member of the comedy series “In Living Color” but is perhaps best known for her roles as Erica Lucas on the CBS sitcom “Cosby” and as Tanya Baxter on the Disney Channel sitcom “That’s So Raven.”
To close out the commencement exercise, President James H. Ammons charged the graduates to make their respective marks on the world.
“Make the most of it,” he said. “Go out and change the world. There is no higher calling than to show compassion to your fellow man.”
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