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graduating Morgan students cheering Commencement

Morgan’s Spring Commencement Celebrated Transformation and Excellence

by Morgan State U
May 18, 2024

BALTIMORE — A young man from a mining region of Ghana traveled abroad to become an engineer and leveraged that education to become one of the world’s most influential businesspeople, then chancellor of western Africa’s top-ranked university. A mother, educator, wife, and pastor of a church in Baltimore found inspiration in her father’s attainment of a Morgan State University master’s degree last year at age 80, then joined him and her three brothers as a Morgan alum by earning a master’s degree from the College of Interdisciplinary and Continuing Studies. A bright Marine Corps veteran learned to apply himself fully to his studies and realize his full academic potential as a nontraditional student at Morgan, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He is headed to Austin, Texas, now, to work for Google as a software engineer.

These and countless other examples of the transformative power of higher education were showcased at Morgan’s 147th Spring Commencement Exercises, during the School of Graduate Studies ceremony at Murphy Fine Arts Center, on May 16, and during the Undergraduate ceremony today, May 18, at W.A.C. Hughes Memorial Stadium, on Morgan’s campus. More than 800 doctoral, master’s degree and baccalaureate graduates — including 219 Latin Honors graduates — were called to the platform to receive their Morgan diplomas this spring.

9 graduating students smilingJubilant guests at the Undergraduate Exercises filled the seats around the basin of Hughes Stadium, undampened by the trickling rain, in celebration of Morgan’s first undergraduate class to enter the University during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the highlights of the event, attendees were treated to a videotaped message of congratulations to the nation’s newest HBCU graduates from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Sir Samuel Esson Jonah, the Ghanaian engineer mentioned above, gave the keynote address for the Undergraduate Exercises. Jonah, and Valerie LaVerne Thomas, Ed.D., a Bachelor of Science in Physics graduate of Morgan’s Class of 1964, received honorary doctorates at the ceremony. Dr. Thomas, who grew up in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood and overcame gender and racial discrimination to become a high-achieving technologist, inventor and executive at NASA, spoke about the importance of her Morgan education to her later career success, including a patent she received for 3D imaging technology still used by NASA today.

One degree was conferred posthumously: a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design to Class of 2024 member Kendall Murray, who passed away in December. Kendall’s mother, Rosalyn Murray, accepted the diploma during a moment of silence in her daughter's honor.

Blessed to Empower 

Sir Jonah, the longest-serving leader of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, spoke powerfully about the strong historical bond between Ghana and America’s HBCUs; about the importance of student activism in solving the multitude of problems facing humanity; about the need for greater acceptance and recognition of women’s contributions to society; about the responsibility of young people to prepare to manage the enormous change being wrought by artificial intelligence (AI); and about the power of education to change the world.

Sir Samuel Esson Jonah delivering keynote addressJonah also told the audience about his own career, beginning with his upbringing in a small mining town named Obuasi, during a time “when mining was not the most fashionable trade (but rather) the preserve of unskilled, nomadic laborers,” he said. “All the management positions were reserved for white British migrants or expatriates, who worked and lived in Obuasi under a system akin to the apartheid regime in South Africa.” Advised by his father that he would have to work three times as hard as his white peers to achieve success in the white-dominated industry, Jonah said, he did that. By age 37, he had been appointed CEO of Ashanti Goldfields Company Limited. Ten years later, the company became the first African corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2004, a merger made him executive president of the world’s second-largest gold producer, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. A former advisor to numerous African heads of state and leader of businesses around the globe, Jonah has received many high honors for his service, including knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain in 2006. 

But success for him remains community currency.

“I was blessed to create for the empowerment of many young men and women through scholarships, training and progress in various careers. My progress had to uplift others to be truly meaningful,” Jonah said. “We believed that mining had to be carried out with a human face. In this regard, we worked relentlessly to safeguard the environment in the knowledge that when the tree dies, the last man dies.” 

Honored for Excellence

Academic excellence worthy of mention abounded at Morgan this spring and was not limited to the eight candidates who shared the title of class valedictorian: Segun Adewara (B.S., Psychology), Taylor Ellis (B.S., Actuarial Science; international student, from The Bahamas), Taiwo Lawson (B.S., Social Work), Mia Merritt (B.S., Engineering Physics), Cordelia Otono (B.S., Social Work), Emily Raubuch (B.S., Business Administration), Jah’l Selassie (B.S., Multimedia Journalism) and Imani Singleton (B.S., Construction Management). Among the many others:

Don-Terry Veal Jr., Iyana Gross, and Teqwon NormanDon-Terry Veal Jr. became the first student to receive a degree in Morgan’s 3+2 dual degree program with Purdue University. Veal will take his newly conferred Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics to Purdue this fall to begin work in the Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering master’s degree program there.      

The U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Teqwon Norman, grew up in Baltimore City and in Charles County, Maryland. At Morgan, he learned that his earlier struggles made him an effective mentor for other Computer Science students, which, in turn, helped his own self-esteem and STEM proficiency.

“The hope is that I inspire people. Because that’s kind of what happened to me,” Norman said. “I meet somebody; they inspire me. I want to be just like them, or I want to follow that path.” 

Tushina YamenyIyana Gross, a Bachelor of Science in Biology graduate with a double minor in Chemistry and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, received many accolades and distinctions during her matriculation at Morgan, among them a Featherstone Scholarship awarded for academic excellence. A Chicago native aspiring to become a physician, she has been accepted to Columbia University’s Narrative Medicine program and the University of San Diego’s Master of Arts in Social Innovation program. 

Tushina Yameny, daughter of Samuel Sawyer, the high-achieving octogenarian mentioned earlier, earned her Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Health and Human Sciences with a 4.0 grade-point average this spring. Sawyer earned his Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Organizational Policy, Governance and Administration at Morgan in spring 2023.

The Spring Class of 2024 also embodies Morgan’s 157-year tradition of students’ service to the broader community. Bachelor of Science in Social Work graduates Desiree Lane, from Brooklyn, New York, and Khalia Scott, from Baltimore, joined Class Valedictorian Cordelia Otono, from Parkville, Maryland, as recipients of the School of Social Work’s Dr. Mildred McKinney Outstanding Community Service Award. Lane and Scott gained recognition this year for their research of Ethical Considerations in Using AI in Social Work Education and Practice.

The 10 Spring 2024 graduates of Morgan’s ROTC Bear Battalion were recognized for their commissioning as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, continuing the long Morgan tradition of service in the military. 

Three other outstanding members of the Class of 2024 had the opportunity to speak to their peers, during the Salute to the Graduates addresses. Ph.D. in English candidate Jacquetta Ayewoh and Master of Arts in Higher Education candidate Nailah Dawson did the honors at the Graduate School Commencement, and Senior Class President Crai-Symone Watson, a Bachelor of Science in Social Work graduate, delivered the remarks at the Undergraduate Exercises. Ayewoh celebrated African American women’s recent gains in doctoral degree attainment and the fact that many of them had achieved their academic success “out the mud.”

“According to Quora, to get it ‘out the mud’ means ‘to achieve success or wealth through hard work, perseverance and overcoming difficult circumstances,’” Ayewoh said. “…What will we pass on to our brothers and sisters coming after us?  What can we teach them? What can we show them? We can show them that success is perpetual. It’s ongoing.” 

Brooke Foyles and Theodore Wimberly standing with President Wilson and Provost YuThe two recipients of the undergraduate awards from Morgan President David K. Wilson exemplified the force driving that success. Nursing candidate Brooke Foyles accepted the President’s Second Mile Award for outstanding leadership and participation in student affairs, and Computer Science candidate Theodore (“Teddy”) Wimberly received the President’s Award for Exceptional Creative Achievement.

Vice President Harris’ message aimed to motivate and encourage the latest cohort of graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

“As a proud HBCU graduate, I know firsthand the value of attending an institution like yours,” said Harris, who is an alum of Howard University. “You leave here having been taught that you can do and be anything and that you have a duty to be excellent, to work to uplift the condition of all people and to fight to protect our most fundamental rights and freedoms…. Remember there is no obstacle you cannot overcome, there is no barrier you cannot break, and there is no limit to your capacity for greatness.”

President Wilson’s closing remarks echoed Harris’ theme. 

President Wilson speaking at the podium“We have challenged you in every respect and dared you to dream dreams bigger than those that you had when you entered this institution. We have summoned you to reach for the stars and cautioned you that, if you reached your star, your aspiration was not great enough,” Wilson said. “We have urged you to be committed to Growing the Future and Leading the World. And you have responded to our charge and received your calling to step onto the world stage with Morgan Pride and with remarkable vigor and enthusiasm.”


To view the 2024 Spring Commencement Exercises online, click here for Graduate School and here for the Undergraduate Ceremony. Click here to view a curated collection of photos capturing the Spring ceremonies' highlights and ‘best of’ moments.