|Graduates Celebrate at Commencement Ceremony|
|Spring 2014 Graduates|
Published: Saturday, May 10, 2014
Noted civil rights lawyer Lezli Baskerville praised member of North Carolina Central University’s Class of 2014 for their accomplishments then urged them to use their newly honed skills to work for equality, justice and better environmental regulations.
Baskerville was guest speaker for the university’s 123rd Commencement, which took place at 8 a.m., May 10, in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on campus. The university awarded 682 undergraduate degrees. On Friday, May 9, 371 graduate and professional degrees were conferred.
Baskerville reminded the audience that 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
“The torch has been passed. The movement is not yet over,” she said.
“As you graduate today, many of the struggles your ancestors fought are rearing their ugly heads again – even in North Carolina.”
She said 41 percent of children of color are now living in poverty and warned that recently enacted voting laws in several states, including North Carolina, threaten to limit the ability of poor and minority citizens to cast their ballots.
She called on science majors to turn their attention to global warming.
“You must use some of your time and talent to fight these vexing problems,” she urged.
Baskerville has served as president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education since 2004. The NAFEO represents the nation’s 105 historically black colleges and 25 predominately black institutions.
The speaker praised graduates for “moving forward to realize your dreams,” but added that knowledge is more effective when combined with a social consciousness and willingness to work for equal treatment for all.
“I am concerned that we are preparing a new generation of students who have sharp competitive edges, but low cooperative instincts,” said Baskerville, whose mother and grandmother were both Durham County natives.
“But at North Carolina Central University, I know you fully appreciate your responsibilities to serve,” she added.
Prior to the awarding of degrees, Chancellor Debra Saunders-White recognized two outstanding seniors: Migela Evans and Daniel Ball.
Evans’ degree from the School of Business is in computer information systems. She will be leaving NCCU for a full-time job at Microsoft in Seattle. Saunders-White praised Evans for her determination to make the most of her time at NCCU. A Charlotte native, Evans was active in clubs and campus organizations, served as a student ambassador for NCCU, earned a Bank of America internship, and participated in the U.S. Chief Technology Officers Roundtable at the White House in 2012.
Saunders-White commended Ball, who moved from Eastern North Carolina to Georgia in his teens, for overcoming numerous obstacles to education. He was in poverty, became homeless and eventually wound up in prison.
“Upon his release from prison, Daniel enrolled in a community college with the hopes of eventually becoming a social worker,” she said.
He transferred to NCCU in 2012 and received his social work degree on Saturday with a grade point average of 4.0. He will enter a master’s degree program in social work at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the fall.
A honorary degree was awarded to musician and producer Leon Pendarvis, who attended NCCU from 1962-1966. Pendarvis is the first African-American musical director of “Saturday Night Live” and has contributed to more than 80 albums with legendary artists including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Roberta Flack, Diana Ross and others.
Attorney Eric C. Michaux was named NCCU Trustee Emeritus. Michaux served as was a member of the NCCU Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2011. Now president of Michaux and Machaux, P.A., he previously taught in NCCU's School of Law.
University of North Carolina Board of Governors Chairman Peter Hans recognized Jim C. Harper, Ph.D., associate professor and chairman of the Department of History, the recipient of the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. The university awarded three NCCU Awards for Teaching Excellence to: Antonio T. Baines, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology and the Cancer Research Program in the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute; Janice Stockard Dargan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of history; and Tricia Leaf-Prince, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor in the Department of Language and Literature.