|NCCU student Shawn Muslim|
North Carolina Central University awarded more than 700 bachelor’s degrees on Saturday, May 11, in ceremonies at O’Kelly–Riddick Stadium. But before the graduates walked across the stage to collect their diplomas, they were challenged by veteran broadcast journalist and entertainer Ed Gordon to “start the journey to success today.”
Gordon, currently the host of the nationally syndicated radio program “WEEKend With Ed Gordon,” led the BET network’s coverage of the 2012 election, and has worked as a correspondent for CBS, NBC’s “Today” show and NPR. He replaced the scheduled commencement speaker, CNN correspondent and anchor Fredricka Whitfield, who was ill.
“The effect you have on others’ lives,” Gordon said, “is how you measure your success. Greatness follows success. Success is born of preparation. And preparation is initiated by a dream.” But he cautioned also that success “is hard work — it will not come knocking at your door. Wishing and hoping is not a game plan for success.”
Chancellor Charles Becton joined Gordon in congratulating the graduates and, in keeping with NCCU tradition, he publicly recognized a few of the graduates for their accomplishments and their success in overcoming obstacles.
He praised Shawn Muslim, a mother of 10 who graduated with honors with a B.S. in physics, who had first enrolled in college more than 30 years ago. Over the years, as life and parental duties intervened, she has operated a school for her children and others focused on Islamic values, opened a mental health center, and opened her own home to many families who were facing hardships. She also had a goal of completing her own college degree before any of her children did — and she did so by several hours: Her oldest daughter, Sajaa Waheed, graduated later in the day with honors from Meredith College.
Becton also recognized Korey J. Mercer, who graduated with a B.A. in political science. Active throughout his four years at NCCU as a volunteer and student leader, Mercer was one of 35 graduating members of the first cohort of the Centennial Scholars Program. Established in 2009, the program is designed to improve retention and graduation rates of male students by providing mentoring, networking, advising, leadership and training opportunities. It has since grown to include more than 400 students.
Four faculty members were honored during the ceremony. Susan E. Hauser, associate professor in the NCCU School of Law, received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. NCCU awards for teaching excellence were presented to Dr. Lorna E. Grant, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice; Dr. Alisha D. Malloy, assistant professor in computer information systems in the School of Business; and Dr. Lisa Paulin, assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication.
According to preliminary figures from the NCCU Registrar's Office, the university awarded 712 baccalaureate degrees at the ceremony on Saturday. At the commencement exercises on Friday, 246 master's degrees and 162 law degrees were conferred. The unofficial total of 1,120 degrees awarded this spring is a record for NCCU, exceeding the previous record of 943 in May 2012. When combined with the 597 degrees awarded in December 2012, the total for 2012-13 academic year is 1,717 — also a record, topping the 2011-12 total of 1,550.