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WSSU celebrates graduates with commission to ‘depart to serve’ and impact the world

Winston-Salem State University welcomed more than 500 new alumni on Dec. 15 during its Fall 2023 Commencement held at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. They entered to learn and now the freshly minted WSSU graduates will depart to serve.

“Commencement is a significant occasion that gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who have realized our motto: Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve, and to those who will serve their professions, communities, the nation and oh yes, the world,” said WSSU Chancellor Dr. Anthony Graham.

Parents, spouses, supporters, faculty and staff were recognized for their parts in making this day possible by many who took to the podium.

“Thank you for the village of support, the village of encouragement, the village that woke them up when they wanted to stay in bed, the village that pushed them through the struggles and times that they wanted to give up,” said the Rev. Frank T. Robinson, Jr., senior pastor of Messiah Community Christian Church in Winston-Salem, during his invocation.

Each student, whether a first-generation college graduate or adult learner, is an example of resilience and perseverance, Robinson said. “Today, they are Rams. And because they are standing here today only confirms that the best that the enemy, opposition and struggles of life have tried to block this day ... all have failed,” he said.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to remain in Winston-Salem. “We’re delighted that you’ve been a part of the fabric of our community, and I hope that some of you will be staying with us … Winston-Salem State University plays a key role in our economic future.”

Lee Roberts brought greetings on behalf of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. North Carolina spends the greatest percentage of its tax revenue on higher education than any other state in the country. In exchange for that commitment, “we get wonderful institutions like Winston-Salem State and accomplished graduates like you,” he said.

Roberts encouraged the graduates to remain in North Carolina after graduation. “I believe that the future belongs to North Carolina. In fact, if I were graduating from college anywhere else, I would be trying to figure out how to get here as quickly as possible,” he said.

Every graduating class is told that it will be successful, Roberts said, “but in your case, we have proof.” One would have to go back to the World War II generation to find another group of graduates who have had to endure more uncertainty or demonstrate more resilience. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.”

Crystal Murphy, WSS senior class president, reminded the students that COVID-19 was among their biggest obstacles. “Your determination, dedication and desire to always bring you’re ‘A’ game allowed you to pivot and adjust.”

Kathleen Kelly, chair of the WSSU Board of Trustees, told the graduating class that they were joining a community of lifelong learner and leaders. “As you step into the next chapter, you may consider to embrace curiosity, pursue innovation and contribute to the betterment of society. As we celebrate this commencement, let us also reflect on the values that define our institution: values of integrity, intellectual curiosity and a commitment to making a positive impact in the world,” she said.

WSSU SGA President Tyrone McNair explained what it means to be a part of the Ramily. “The Ramily culture isn’t just about being a WSSU student. When we say Ramily, we think about the lifelong connections we have made while being here, returning to the university as alumni, enhancing the opportunities of those who aspire to be WSSU graduates like you all, and having a passion for the institution.”

Being a student at an HBCU encompasses a rich culture and collective spirit combined with scholarly brilliance, McNair said.

Others on the program included Dr. Kathy Stitts, interim provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, along with Dr. Montrale Boykin, interim dean of the graduate college, Dr. Manju Bhat, dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education, and Dr. Leslee Battle, dean of Health Sciences, for the conferring of degrees portion of the program; the presentation of colors by the Simon G. Atkins High School JROTC; a “Love Medley” by The Burke Singers, under the direction of Maestra D’Walla Simmons-Burke; and music by the University Wind Ensemble.

Click here to view photo gallery of commencement.


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