Graduating “Eagles” of NCCU Leave the Nest

Posted May 04, 2024, 5:42PM
Master's degree graduate waves to family during NCCU's 143rd Commencement Exercises on May 4.

The 143rd commencement exercises at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) were filled with both big and small moments. 

Among the big moments was a riveting address by commencement speaker Tricia Bailey, Ph.D., owner of 16 companies including Bailey’s Medical Equipment & Supplies and Bailey’s Pharmacy. Bailey, the richest woman from Jamaica, spoke about her own upbringing. 

“There was no running water in rural Jamaica,” she said. “Dirt roads and potholes.” 

She moved to the United States at age 13 and ran track in high school Track led to a full scholarship at the University of Connecticut. Bailey became a stockbroker then entered the medical supply field. 

She advised students to “tap into your excellence, find the discipline, learn financial literacy and be kind and loving to every person. You never know who that person will become.” 

She also used the Eagle – the mascot of NCCU – as a metaphor. 

“Being an Eagle is a big task,” Bailey said. “They are strong and resilient. They embark on a level of excellence no other species can accomplish. 

Malia Lyles, vice president of public relations for the NCCU Graduate Student Association, also used the Eagle as metaphor. 

“You are showing that an Eagle is no ordinary barnyard fowl,” Lyles said. “Walk with your head high.” 

Some speakers quoted from giants. 

Pastor Evan Marbury, for example, quoted poet Maya Angelou during his opening remarks. 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

Not to be outdone, Amber Creft, president of the NCCU Student Bar Association, quoted activist and academic Angela Davis. “I no longer accept things I cannot change. Instead, I change things I cannot accept.” 

In an activity not listed in the schedule, graduates and the audience were treated to a short video by Vice President Kamala Harris.  

“You’ve made it,” Harris said. “Our nation is so proud of you. There is no obstacle that you cannot overcome.”  

There were also small moments: 

  • A male student earning a master’s degree shook hands with the chancellor then waved his diploma around like a sports champion waving around a trophy. 
  • A parent carried a poster with a student’s photo and “Class of 2024” onto the back of the graduation floor and waved it in all directions to applause from the stands. 
  • A police officer took a short break from his duties to pose with a female graduate for a photograph. 

Graduates, Faculty and Doctoral Candidates Honored 

During the graduate and professional ceremony, School of Law graduate Darius Stephens-York was recognized by Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye for his work with youth. Stephens-York volunteered as an assistant coach of the varsity basketball team at Riverside High School in Durham, co-founded and operated a youth nonprofit named The Haven Newberry in his home state of South Carolina and during his third year of law school served as a student-attorney, representing youth in court (under the supervision of a professor). 

During the undergraduate ceremony, Chancellor Akinleye recognized Andraya Yearwood. Yearwood was awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship in Portuguese at Columbia University in New York City. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the fellowship pays a stipend of $20,000 plus up to $18,000 towards tuition. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University will pay the remainder of the tuition. 

Undergraduates engaged in 95,343 hours of community service valued at an estimated $3,193,052. 

Two students who earned doctorates in Integrated Biosciences were invited to the stage. Telchy and Dina Ibrahim Abu Rabe were “hooded” by Provost David H. Jackson, Jr., Ph.D., and their academic advisors. 

Two undergraduates were honored posthumously. Devin Ahmed Butts, who would have earned a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral and Social Sciences and Myles Gresham, who would have earned a Bachelor of Business Administration. 

Stefanie Frigo, Ph.D., an associate professor in the NCCU department of language and literature, earned the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Three faculty were honored with the North Carolina Central University Award for Teaching Excellence. They are: Tanisha Burford, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of psychology, Lindsey Constanini, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of biological and biomedical sciences and Tryan McMickens, Ed.D., an associate professor in the department of counseling and higher education. 

In addition to 983 students earning degrees, the commencement ceremonies were notable for being the last to be officiated by Chancellor Akinleye. Akinleye plans to retire on June 30, the end of the fiscal year, after serving eight years as chancellor.  

“Under his guidance, North Carolina Central University has delivered an educational experience that enables graduates to rise to challenges in unique and impactful ways,” said Kevin Halloway, chair of the NCCU Board of Trustees. 

Of the 983 graduates: 

  • 2 earned doctorate degrees 

  • 145 earned Juris Doctorate degrees 

  • 296 earned master’s degrees 

  • 540 earned bachelor’s degrees (323 in the sciences) 

  • 809 of the graduates were from North Carolina. 

For photos of NCCU’s 143rd Commencement Exercises, visit here.  

You May Also Like

picture _landscape
Dr. Karrie Dixon, who has led Elizabeth City State University to a new era of expansion and success, was elected chancellor of North Carolina Central University today by the UNC Board of Governors.
Christian Worley
Christian Worley was homeless and spouse-less when she decided to earn a master’s degree in public administration at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). Two years later, she has a full-ride scholarship.
Maintenance & Technical Support
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) announced a gift of $9.4 million from technology and networking hardware company Cisco Systems Inc., the company’s largest gift to any HBCU.