Delaware State University graduates move into the ‘new world’

DOVER — Hundreds of proud graduates crossed the stage Sunday morning at Delaware State University’s Alumni Stadium, bolstered by cheers from family members and friends unbothered by the rain.

About 500 students graduated Sunday, bringing the college’s roster of four-year degree recipients to more than 20,000.

The university’s newest alumni came from Australia and Zimbabwe, Jamaica and China. They ranged in age from 19 to 72 and received degrees for fields as different as music and physics.

DSU’s 126th commencement included a first: a visit by a former head of state. John Kufuor, president of Ghana from 2001 to 2009, spoke at the ceremony, praising the students for their accomplishments and detailing the challenges ahead in the “global village.”

Mr. Kufuor, who has been active in politics for decades, urged the audience of soon-to-be alumni to help the world continue advancing toward progress. Despite past setbacks like slavery and war, society has made myriad advancements and nations have become increasingly global. Now, issues like HIV and global warming demand innovation and courage, he said.

“This is the new world that has been bequeathed to the youth of the world, including you, the graduates of Delaware State University,” Mr. Kofuor said.

Other speakers commended the students and spoke kindly of DSU.

“You have earned the right to be called DSU alumni,” said state Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, who touted the university as one of the nation’s top historically black colleges.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, whose daughter will enter the school in the fall as a freshman, thanked the students for choosing the city as their temporary home and urged them not to forget it.

U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., couldn’t resist cracking a joke as he praised the listeners for their hard work.

Select students received summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude honors, while some graduated “by the grace of the good laude,” the senator said as audience members cheered and laughed. “I know which group I was in.”

Sen. Carper encouraged the students to remember to push themselves to succeed in their careers but also to dance, to love and to live.

As the students filed up to the stage later, one by one, several were given special praise.

Leon Taleh, a native of Cameroon, entered DSU in 2008 without knowing any English. On Sunday, he received the first doctorate in optics handed out by the university.

“It shows people that things can be done at this school and it’s an opportunity to let everybody know to come to DelState and the new program is starting,” he said a few hours before the ceremony.

Early classes were difficult, he said, but he made a DSU family thanks to new friends. Mr. Taleh, who is interning at a semiconductor electronic circuit company, said he may pursue a job in that field.

He was also excited to hear Mr. Kufuor speak.

Unlike Mr. Taleh, agriculture major Kacie Minner didn’t have to leave the country to go to college. She came to DSU from a much closer location — Harrington.

Ms. Minner, who plans to attend the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was one of four students to graduate Sunday with a perfect 4.0. She attributed the unblemished grade-point average to simple hard work. She has a particular interest in chickens — perhaps as a result of growing up on the Delmarva Peninsula, where poultry is a major industry.

Sunday morning, as students gathered outside Alumni Stadium before commencement began, Ms. Minner expressed excitement at the prospect of graduating.

“I love every minute. I think coming to DelState was a great choice for me, and I’ve been really happy here,” she said.

Although it rained on and off Sunday morning, the stadium was mostly full for the hours-long ceremony. The graduates and their guests in the stands frequently cheered with a visible enthusiasm in the air.

As several speakers said, Sunday was a time for celebrating and remembering while also looking ahead.

“The time has come for your generation to aspire to leadership that will be globally transformative,” Mr. Kufuor said.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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