Commencement exercises were held Friday for the summer Class of 2014 in the chapel at Tuskegee University. The ceremony was the first graduation in which Tuskegee's president, Dr. Brian L. Johnson, presided. In opening remarks, Johnson urged the graduates to remain focused and congratulated them for their hard work.
"We're so very proud of you and so very excited for your accomplishments," he said.
Johnson's mentor and former president of his alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy, served as the keynote speaker. Yancy is President Emerita at Shaw and Johnson C. Smith Universities.
Johnson is the author of "The Yancy Years: the Age of Infrastructure, Technology and Restoration." Published in 2008, the book is the official institutional and presidential history of Yancy's tenure at the helm of JCSU. He said Yancy made a great impact on him as a student and helped guide him as a young administrator at JCSU.
"She gave me an opportunity on the path that eventually led me here as the seventh president of Tuskegee University," Johnson said.
Yancy said she shared several connections with Tuskegee because one of her role models, Annie Ruth Cunningham, was a graduate of this institution. Yancy shared memories of her youth in rural Cherokee County, Alabama, and how Cunningham helped change her perspective. She said Cunningham possessed an impeccable appearance and "Tuskegee Swagger." Yancy said Cunningham taught her and other girls how to be capable ladies who were well versed in social graces as well as intelligent.
"She never allowed us to get bogged down in mediocrity… After all, she had a Tuskegee education," Yancy said.
She also encouraged today's graduates to take their Tuskegee educations and change the world. She urged them to become mentors to others and to help the next generations of Tuskegee University students by giving back to their alma mater.
"You cannot build your own future without helping others build theirs," Yancy said.
INFORMATION SOURCE: Tuskegee University news release