Oh Happy Day!By Ivan Saul Cutler, Carolina Peacemaker / December 22, 2023
Aggies danced, pranced and stepped into their future at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University’s Fall Undergraduate Commencement held Saturday, December 16 at the Greensboro Coliseum. The happy graduates were lauded with thunderous cheers for their honors and achievements as the university’s beaming Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. recognized their perseverance through a pandemic and a myriad of personal, societal and global challenges.
“While we are no longer in the midst of a pandemic, we’re still navigating our new normal,” he said. “Let me be clear. Your normal is and always has been about excellence, being the best you can be. I believe that for you. You are North Carolina A&T Aggies.”
As Martin focused his attention on more than 900 graduates surrounded by thousands of families and friends, he charged the graduates with responsibility, declaring, “We expect you to excel in your future endeavors. As we look to the future, we remain connected through our Aggie spirit, compelling us to always push forward, never to be satisfied with the status quo. Why? Because that’s what Aggies Do: always doing, never done.”
The commencement ceremony included the conferring of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Chancellor Emeritus Edward B. Fort, the university’s eighth chancellor who served from 1981 to 1999. His daughter Lezlie Fort accepted the honor.
Bachelor’s degrees were conferred posthumously to ROTC Cadet Gabriel Jackson Jabari James, a senior studying industrial and systems engineering, and to DeMarco Jauan Cathcart, a senior studying management. Both gentlemen died in separate traffic collisions before the fall 2023 semester.
A&T Alumna Dena LaMar, executive vice president and chief operating officer of AAA Northeast, delivered the commencement address. She has more than 20 years of experience in sales, operations, retail, customer experience, strategy, financial service and banking. LaMar proclaimed that no celebration is complete without gifts and added that she wanted to impart the gift of wisdom she gained from three professional mistakes she made after graduating from A&T.
“Once I learned these mistakes about human connections the hard way, my career finally took off in a big way,” said LaMar. “So, if you want to jumpstart your success starting today, No. 1, show up. Widen your circle. Build diverse relationships. No. 2, keep it real. Be who you are 100 percent of the time. Build authentic relationships. And No. 3, be fearless. Seek people out. Build strategic relationships.
Additionally, LaMar said, “As you sit on the edge of your seat, ready to get your diploma, ready to start living your best life, I urge you to look around. See the great gift that surrounds you: the gift of human connection. Notice it. Nurture it. Nourish it,” she said. “What you feel when you connect and build relationships transcends your work, your job, your career. What you feel when you connect and build relationships gives purpose, light and meaning to your life.”
Speaker for the fall 2023 Graduate Commencement was A&T alumnus Woodrow W. Winchester III, Ph.D., CPEM. The ceremony was held Friday, December 14, at the Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Greensboro. The university conferred 300 graduate degrees.
Winchester is the executive director of The University of Texas at Austin Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE), where he oversees the management of the Petroleum Extension (PETEX) and the Health and Safety Training Center (HSTC) of the Cockrell School of Engineering.
“He is a Certified Professional Engineering Management Professional (CPEM) with over 10 years of technical program and project management experiences. Winchester also currently serves as the inaugural director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE/I) for the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) and previously served as ASEM’s Director of Professional Development & Continuing Education. Winchester is a member of the second cohort of the National Science Foundation-sponsored IAspire Leadership Academy.”