My First Commencement: May 7, 2005

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On this date fifteen years ago I presided over my first commencement as a college president. It was an exciting day for me — 38 years old leading the historic Philander Smith College and presiding over commencement. Back then we did baccalaureate in the morning and then commencement in the afternoon.

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At the convention center we also did a class picture which was a cool tradition.

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The toughest part as a new president, starting that December so I only had 5 months with the students, is that I don’t have a real relationship with most of them. My stories about them were second hand. There probably were four or five I got to know well.

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But I started my tradition of sharing stories about the graduates. It was something I carried on from Dr. Portia Holmes Shields who was the president of Albany State University in Georgia where I was VP for student affairs. I know that was a surprise for everyone, but people soon got the hang of it and looked forward to that part of the program (people do here too- I am still getting notes even for the virtual event we are doing).

Fortunately, I am able to keep up with a few of them throughout the years. I saw Natara a few years ago at the Fisk inauguration. That is probably one of the greatest gifts I get as a president.

The Prez

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7th president of Dillard University

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