Bennett College 2018 GraduationBy Yasmine Regester / May 10, 2018
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Bennett College conferred degrees upon 78 graduates at its 2018 Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 5 on the campus Quadrangle.
“Dear Bennett Belles, please cherish this day, a day that is truly all about you,” Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, Bennett President said. “After all, despite your anxiety when you first entered the college, and the failures and disappointments you have experienced, you have made it. You have become college graduates and accomplished a goal that some only dream of.”
April Ryan, White House correspondent and CNN Political Analyst seved as the keynote speaker for the commencement ceremony. Ryan encouraged the graduates to embrace the possibilities of their futures.
“Do not let anyone stand in your way. You are going to challenge the system,” said Ryan.
A proud graduate of Morgan State University (Baltimore, Md.), Ryan said she will always have a soft spot for HBCUs and urged students and alumnae to give back to their alma mater.
“As you begin the next chapter of your lives, you will need to hold on to what you’ve learned at Bennett. Do not let this world define you or put you in a box. Let this world know who you are,” said Ryan. “Aspire to inspire.”
Ryan was presented a special gift from the college by Chasity Byrd and TyQuan Hutchinson, pre-K students who attend the Martin Dixon Intergenerational Center, which is named after Bennett alumna Dr. Joyce Martin Dixon from the class of 1956.
2018 valedictorian Shani McMichael, a psychology major from Dayton, Ohio noted that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the help of the professors and support from her peers.
“Take responsibility for your own lives: the past, present and future. No matter how hard times may get or how hard your situation may seem, you are the determinant of your own fate. Remember to put your all into everything you do, and be open to the assistance of others,” said McMichael, who will be attending graduate school at Columbia University (New York City) in the fall.
The college also celebrated its Alumnae Weekend and the induction of the Honor Class from 1968 into the Bennett College National Alumnae Association, led by Gwendolyn Mackel Rice, a ’61 alumna and president of the Bennett College National Alumnae Association.
“The stories of our 50 year class are the stories of all alumnae Belles, who have been educated for their future and joined a sisterhood for life,” said Rice.
Dr. Alan K. Goble, chairperson of the Psychology Department and an associate professor of psychology, received the Teaching Excellence Award, presented by Board of Trustees Chair, and State Senator Dr. Gladys Ashe Robinson, a 1971 graduate of Bennett College.
Bennett College’s 11th president, Dr. Gloria Randle Scott, was on hand to deliver a tribute to the late Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who was the commencement speaker in 1989 during Scott’s presidency and was given an honorary degree by the college.
The college also bestowed an honorary degree upon Linda McGill Boasmond of Chicago. Boasmond is a chemist who runs Cedar Concepts Corporation, the country’s first and only African American, woman-owned chemical manufacturing plant. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from DePaul University in Chicago.
On Friday, May 4, graduates heard words of encouragement from Civil Rights icon, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., as he delivered the keynote address for the Baccalaureate service held in the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel on campus.
Jackson was introduced by former Bennett College President Dr. Julianne Malveaux, who served as the college’s 15th president from 2007-2012.
Jackson talked about how strong women have always been at the forefront of social change, particularly the Bennett Belles. He reminded the audience of the college’s past leaders and student’s long-standing commitment to social justice and their role in the fight for civil rights.
“We can’t move forward looking back. You must vote right now. You must care right now,” Jackson said. “We must fight the right now fight. There is nothing you can’t do because strong women keep coming.”
He added that while it is important to remember their history and where they come from, it’s more important to understand the world they are facing now.
“More than that, you must be transformers. Think beyond just having a degree,” said Jackson, who was later presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Through tears and smiles, senior class president Joy Bullock, a political science major from Henderson, N.C., thanked family and friends who supported each graduate throughout their time at Bennett and told classmates not to forget all they have learned.
Bullock said, “Although we are leaving Bennett College, we will not forget what we have learned. We are young, Black, educated women, which makes us the most dangerous thing walking.”