More than 250 grads receive diplomas at DSU’s December commencement

DOVER – There was nothing that could keep Janika Royall from celebrating on Saturday morning.

Not cold wintry weather, ice-covered roads, or anything.

“Today means everything to me,” said Ms. Royall. “I’m graduating on my birthday, so it’s like the best gift I could ever have. I worked so hard and it finally paid off.”

Ms. Royall, who received her degree in Early Childhood Education, joined more than 250 other graduates at Delaware State University’s annual December Commencement inside the cozy confines of the Memorial Hall Gymnasium on Saturday.

DSU President Harry L. Williams presided over a ceremony in which the university’s latest graduates received their bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

“This is a very special day for each student that’s going to walk across the stage and I’m happy to respect each student as they walk across the stage,” Dr. Williams said. “They’ve earned the right to be here today.

“I would like to say this is a historic day because we’re completing our 125th anniversary celebration.”

Gov. Jack Markell was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the commencement.

He told the graduates that it was their hard work that brought them to this moment.

“It did take a lot of determination and discipline and self-sacrifice to get to this stage,” Gov. Markell said. “There was never anything that was pre-destined to the graduates about being in these chairs this morning and earning these degrees. You made it happen.

“What I really want you to know is the same is true when you leave here. The good news is you leave with a great education, with a diploma from a well-recognized university, and you live in a world where there are more opportunities, frankly, than people of my generation could ever imagine.”

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the president and executive officer of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, served as the keynote speaker. He managed to press on despite battling the flu.

Mr. Taylor leads the only national organization representing nearly 300,000 students attending the country’s 47 publicly supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“You are why HBCU’s matter and why they are relevant, not just historically, but currently,” he told the graduates. “You came, you saw and you conquered – and that’s why you’re sitting here today.

“This is your day and you should be extremely proud of what you have accomplished. The three things that I want to stress to you for your future is to show up, give back and never succumb to the –isms.”

Dr. Williams presented Dover’s Jennifer Seibert with the Presidential Academic Award. Ms. Seibert, an Elementary Education major, graduated with a 4.0 cumulative grade point average.

Each graduate who marched to obtain their degree had their own personal success story. The families that packed the grandstands inside Memorial Hall cheered proudly for the graduates.

Andrew Blake Jr. was able to graduate early so that made Saturday even more special to him.

“This means everything to me,” said Blake Jr., who received his degree in Biological Science. “I’ve been here and am graduating early and it’s the biggest day of my life, thus far.”

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