Commencing ....

May 21, 2012


On May 12, 2012, Cheyney University celebrated its 175th Anniversary Commencement and welcomed the American legend, hero, and civil rights leader, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., who gave the keynote address. As I walked in front of Reverend Jackson during the processional entrance, it was clear that his contributions to civil rights and humanitarian causes were more than historically appreciated by the applauding thousands who had gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of future leaders. The love shown to Reverend Jackson was not only gratitude for the years dedicated to needed change in America, but also energizing new bridges to the future––to what can be.

Some parents approached him respectfully, and they thanked him for participating in the 175th Commencement activities.  Hundreds took pictures with iPads, phones, and cameras to memorialize the special moment on the Historic Quad of Cheyney University. 

At the end of his riveting address, Reverend Jackson called the graduates to action by reminding the students that "Graduation is a milestone, not an end zone," and challenging the graduates to "Heal the land."

Actor, musician, and deep thinker, Terrence Howard made a special appearance to commemorate the 175th Anniversary of CU and to share congratulatory remarks.  His presence was a welcomed surprise to students and their families––as was evidenced by the screams that often follow a motion picture star of his magnitude. However, Dr. Terrence Howard, who portrayed Cheyney State College alumnus, Jim Ellis in the movie, Pride, addressed the thousands gathered with profound candor and insights that were appreciated by graduates and the families attending the memorable ceremony.  Howard stressed that the graduates must be ready to adjust to change.  He stated, "How you deal with change will determine how well you succeed."

After what many thought was the best CU commencement ever, I explored the faces of the hundreds of celebrating families and friends as we participated in the ceremonial processional.  I recognized the looks of pride of parents who are often witnessing the first person to complete a university degree from generations of sacrificing families, the looks of deep gratitude of students who came to campus years ago with only uncertainty and hope, the glows of satisfaction at having achieved this great milestone, and the smiles of great expectation for good things to come in a future now so much brighter……for commencement!

Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph.D.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania


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