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Fall 2023 Commencement center stage Commencement

Morgan’s Newest Graduates Accept the Challenge to Meet Their Moment

by Morgan State U
December 15, 2023

Achievement and History Illuminate the University’s Fall 2023 Commencement

– Proud relatives and other avid supporters filled Talmadge L. Hill Field House to the brim today, for the joy-filled 10th Fall Commencement Exercises of Morgan State University. A total of 436 candidates received doctoral, master’s or bachelor’s degrees during the fall semester’s culminating event on the campus of “the National Treasure,” and Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, which is now in its 156th year.

Kim GodwinGroundbreaking media executive Kim Godwin, president of ABC News and the first Black woman to lead a major U.S. broadcast news network, delivered the Commencement address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service during the ceremony by the Morgan State Board of Regents’ chair, Maryland Congressman Kweisi Mfume, and David K. Wilson, the 10th inaugurated president of Morgan, who is serving his 13th year. Godwin was one of three outstanding achievers who received honorary degrees at the event, in recognition of their longtime public service in areas that are prominent in social discourse and activism today. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who signed the state’s historic $577-million HBCU equity bill (SB1) in 2021, among many other notable deeds, also received a Doctor of Public Service honor, and George A. Pruitt, president emeritus of Thomas Edison State University, was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters. Dr. Pruitt is a pioneer in achieving social equity through adult education and distance learning.

graduating male studentsThis latest Commencement came during a significant upswing for Morgan, Maryland’s largest Historically Black College or University (HBCU), which is celebrating its third consecutive year of record enrollment on the cusp of reaching a goal of 10,000 students; increased scholarly inquiry in critical areas on the path to coveted R1 “very high research” status for the University; and $1.1 billion of physical infrastructure development over the past decade on Morgan’s campus; among other major milestones achieved.

The buoyant ceremony heightened the celebration of major anniversaries for four MSU academic units. Continuing education, now housed in the recently established College of Interdisciplinary and Continuing Studies, was launched at Morgan by professor Beryl Warner Williams in 1963. The College of Liberal Arts and the School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences were formed a quarter-century ago, in 1998, and the School of Global Journalism and Communication is now in its 10th year in the business of developing outstanding talent for the media.

‘Change the World’

During her address, just before degrees were officially conferred, Godwin, a graduate of historically Black Florida A&M University (FAMU), urged Morgan’s soon-to-be graduates to reach for achievements that will fulfill the progressive mission of HBCUs. Godwin’s spirited appeal to the fall graduates brought thunderous applause to Hill Field House, deftly bridging boardroom savvy with generous doses of sage, maternal, homespun HBCU love.

female graduate standing and smiling“I stand before you symbolizing what’s possible for your tomorrow,” said Godwin, before outlining the challenges she overcame en route to her current leadership of the nation’s most popular TV news network.

At her graduation from FAMU, she was proud but “a little nervous about my future…. I just wanted a job so that I could work to help to get my grandmother out of the projects and so that I could help to get my mother her first car,” Godwin told the Commencement audience. That future became a 35-year career in broadcast media that has taken her across the U.S. — running local newsrooms in the early days — always, she said, dedicated to excellence and diversity in journalism.

“If there’s a theme I want to leave with you today, it’s about meeting your moment in history,” Godwin said, before challenging the degree candidates to help solve the litany of social, economic and political problems that now bedevil the U.S. “Your job, graduates, now, is to do something about it, to change the world, to meet your moment in history. We stand on the shoulders of many who have already met their moments, and now it’s time for you to meet yours,” with resilience, optimism, a ready smile, and excellence, Godwin said.

‘No Barriers’ 

Morgan’s most excellent scholars, the 87 Latin Honors students, enjoyed enthusiastic applause from the audience and kudos from Morgan’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Hongtao Yu, who announced the names of the class co-valedictorians. Those honorees — Computer Science candidates Abisola Arowolaju and Bikesh Regmi, Elementary Education candidate Amira Begum and Accounting candidate Claudia Utria Alvarez — all achieved perfect 4.0 grade-point averages during their time at Morgan and came from the burgeoning ranks of transfer students at the National Treasure. Provost Yu also recognized the class salutatorian, Nutritional Sciences candidate Shahad Khanalhendi, who attained a 3.99 GPA. 

Gledys Melissa Vasquez Ferrufino with President Wilson and Provost YuMorgan’s Core Values of Leadership, Integrity, Innovation, Diversity, Excellence and Respect were all on full display in the undergraduates selected to receive the Fall 2023 president’s awards from MSU President David K. Wilson. Gledys Melissa Vasquez Ferrufino, a Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship candidate, received the President’s Second Mile Award for outstanding leadership and participation in student affairs, and Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Environmental Design candidate Apellonia Terry Ann Williams accepted the President’s Creative Achievement Award, which recognizes exceptional contributions derived from students’ original ideas.

Morgan ROTC officersMorgan’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program is the largest among Maryland higher education institutions. This week, the University continued the 75th anniversary celebration of the founding of its Bear Battalion by adding nine ROTC graduates to its legacy of officers trained for outstanding service in the U.S. Army.

Lt. Col. Michael L. Bell, U.S. Army (Ret.), the recently elected president of the Morgan State University Alumni Association, is also part of that legacy. Bell, a Mathematics, Physics and ROTC graduate of Morgan’s Class of 1976, enjoyed his first opportunity to induct a Morgan class into the ranks of the association, during the Commencement Exercises, after the Salute to the Graduates address by Senior Class President Crai-Symone Watson, and before the closing remarks by President Wilson. 

“I urge you, fellow Morganites, to dream big, set audacious goals and fearlessly pursue them,” said Watson. “Our potential has no barriers if we dare to push beyond our comfort zones and defy the limits society might impose…. Together, we are a force to be reckoned with.”

female graduating student holding up a peace sign“We have urged you to be committed to growing the future and leading the world, because the world today is in such great need of you and your talents and your leadership and your innovation that you must bring to it,” said Wilson, echoing the keynote speaker’s theme. “You have received your calling now to step onto that world stage.”