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Ben Crump addressing the graduates at Commencement Commencement

Morgan Graduates Implored to ‘Speak Truth to Power’ at 146th Spring Commencement Exercises

by Morgan State U
May 20, 2023

More Than 600 Undergraduate Degrees Conferred and the Inaugural Baccalaureate Degrees Awarded From the College of Interdisciplinary and Continuing Studies ‘Morgan Completes You’ Program

BALTIMORE – Overcast skies endeavored to set the tone, but the joy of achievement prevailed at the National Treasure today, as 622 candidates received bachelor’s degrees during the 146th Undergraduate Commencement Exercises of Morgan State University (MSU). Acclaimed civil rights and personal injury attorney Benjamin L. Crump gave the keynote address and received an honorary Doctor of Laws at the ceremony, which was held at Morgan’s Hughes Memorial Stadium before an audience that included, among others, the undergraduate candidates, their family members and other enthusiastic supporters, and a portion of Morgan’s 190 Spring 2023 master’s degree and 38 doctoral degree graduates, who received their diplomas at the separate School of Graduate Studies Commencement Exercises at Morgan’s Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center on Thursday, May 18. Members of the Class of 1973, Morgan’s 50th anniversary class, fresh from making a $309,000 gift to the University yesterday, led the Class of 2023 into the stadium and took seats of honor on the platform, adorned in golden caps and gowns.

graduating students celebratingIn addition to Attorney Crump, the University also cast a deserving spotlight on one of its own. Professor of English Emerita Ruthe T. Sheffey, Ph.D., of Morgan’s Class of 1947, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, in recognition of her more than half-century career on the faculty of Morgan, during which time she became the standard bearer for Morgan’s Department of English and Language Arts.

Attorney Crump has gained renown for his successful legal representation of the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Henrietta Lacks and a long list of other clients who have suffered from social injustice in the U.S., and, more recently, for his representation of plaintiffs in the decades-long abuse claims involving Archdiocese of Baltimore clergy. In his address, he praised the many thousands of students who took to the streets in 2020 to protest police killings of African Americans, and he spoke to Morgan’s degree candidates and recent graduates about their role in “the 21st century civil rights struggle, one that you all must lead…. I submit to you, Class of 2023 at the great Morgan State University, it is the right time for you all to take a stand for our children’s future.”

Benjamin L. Crump As Crump has worked to provide equal access to the nation’s arena of opportunity, many of Morgan’s Spring 2023 graduates are already taking to the platform there, “dancing on the world stage,” to use a favorite phrase of Morgan President David K. Wilson, by gaining success in wide-ranging professions.

Jordan D. Brown received her Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Journalism after serving a two-year stint as editor-in-chief of Morgan’s student newspaper, The Spokesman, and was accepted into journalism graduate programs at American University, Columbia University, Northwestern University and New York University. She will attend NYU on a full ride, with scholarships from the university and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Verletta White, superintendent of Roanoke (Virginia) City Schools, and the 2023 Virginia Superintendent of the Year, received a doctoral degree in Urban Educational Leadership at the Graduate School commencement exercises.

Alfonzo Graham Within a week of signing an undrafted rookie free agent contract as a running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Morgan Bears Football scholar-athlete Alfonzo Graham received a Bachelor of Science in Applied Liberal Studies from the National Treasure.

Martin Adu-Boahene, the student regent for Morgan’s Board of Regents and a member of the inaugural HBCU Kirchner Food Fellowship cohort, received his Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and has secured a position with the multinational technology corporation Microsoft, at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Bachelor of Science in Interior Design graduate Aubrey Espanta, a transfer student from Prince George’s Community College and Montgomery College, finished her undergraduate career with a 4.0 GPA. Espanta is an office automation student trainee at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and aspires to transform her passion for interior design into a career in that profession.

Desiree Vanderloop received her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Engineering, Information, and Computational Sciences as one of the first three graduates of Morgan’s newest school, the College of Interdisciplinary and Continuing Studies. A nontraditional student, mother and full-time employee of behavioral health organization Charlie Health, Vanderloop, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a testament to the transformative power of determination, resilience and the pursuit of lifelong learning.

Morgan’s honor graduates likewise exemplified excellence: 90 candidates graduated cum laude, 70 magna cum laude and 78 summa cum laude, including 11 with a perfect 4.0 GPA, who shared the title of class valedictorian.

Kysha Hancock and Jewel Champbell  Monica Joseph and Chidera Ndubueze

Two students, Kysha Hancock (Bachelor of Science, Multimedia Journalism) and Jewel Champbell (Bachelor of Science, Multi-Platform Production), received the Spring 2023 President’s Second Mile Award, for outstanding leadership and participation in student affairs, during the Undergraduate Exercises, and two others, Monica Joseph (Bachelor of Science, Social Work) and Chidera Ndubueze (Bachelor of Science, Architecture and Environmental Design) received the President’s Award for Exceptional Creative Achievement.

Ten bachelor’s degree recipients of the Class of 2023 were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army in a ceremony earlier in the week, on Thursday, May 18, and six were recognized during the Commencement Exercises, after completing Morgan’s Bear Battalion ROTC program.

Two members of the Class of 2023 received their bachelor’s degrees posthumously: Cordelia Slaughter, the mother of the late Anthony Xavier Nicholas Clark, accepted her son’s Bachelor of Science in Psychology diploma, and Sonya Hairston-Thomas, mother of the late Janay Anaya Thomas, accepted Janay’s Bachelor of Science in Accounting diploma, as warm applause filled the stadium.

In her Salute to the Graduates address, Izahné Williams, 2023 class president, called on Morgan’s newest graduates to remember the “unsung heroes” on Morgan’s staff who had facilitated their success through an undergraduate career made more challenging by the pandemic; to lead with intention; to make a beneficial impact on younger people they encounter in the “real world”; and to recognize their influence on those who may be looking up to them, by “remaining committed to your craft, acting with integrity, doing exactly what you say you are going to do, and most importantly, remaining steadfast.”

President Wilson President Wilson congratulated Morgan’s newest graduates for meeting the challenge he gave them in their first year: to complete their degree programs.

“You are now about to enter a very confused and very troubled nation and very troubled world. And while you have been here at Morgan, we have summoned you to be prepared for this moment,” Wilson said. “….We have encouraged you to lift your voices…to address issues of social and economic inequality and racial injustice and intolerance. We have said to you that you must fight for what is right, and what is fair, and that you must understand that our history cannot and will not ever be erased from the history books no matter how hard certain factors push and try and do that.” 

“You have responded to our charge, and you have received your calling to step onto that world stage with Morgan Pride,” Wilson said. “…We look forward to hearing and reading about all of the amazing success in your future.”

2023 Spring Undergraduate Ceremony slate