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Knight Challenges Sesquicentennial Class to Be Courageous and Responsible

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Author: Lois G. Russell

Release Date: May 13, 2017

More than 600 students walked into ASU history as members of the Sesquicentennial Class of 2017 during the University’s Spring Commencement Convocation, which featured an address by alumnus and State Rep. John F. Knight Jr.

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The Class of 2017 has the distinction of being recognized as the Sesquicentennial Class of Alabama State University.  That particular honor was highlighted throughout the Commencement Convocation, held on May 13, 2017, before a packed house in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome.

“Today is an awesome day in the life of Alabama State University because we celebrate the Spring 2017 graduating class,” said Board of Trustees Chairwoman, Alfreda Green during her greetings. “We applaud your accomplishment in getting to this point; but more than that, we also look forward to the things that you are going to accomplish after graduation. As we celebrate our sesquicentennial, you…will be remembered because of this historic 150-year celebration.”

More than 600 students were candidates for degrees. State Rep. John F. Knight Jr., a notable ASU alumnus who served the University for more than 30 years before his retirement, delivered the Commencement address. (To view the Commencement address, click here link; to view Commencement photos, click here link)

Knight’s most acclaimed work on behalf of his alma mater was the significant role that he played in securing the academic and physical transformation of the University. Knight was the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit and fought for more than 20 years to end vestiges of segregation in higher education in Alabama. The consent decree in that litigation was eventually issued by Federal Judge Harold L. Murphy and led to millions of dollars in funding for Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University to be used for cutting-edge degree programs and state-of-the-art academic buildings.

Knight began his Commencement address by asking all of the graduates to stand and take a “selfie.” He later referred to the student’s self-portraits, telling them to keep the pictures and look at them later in life to see if they had accomplished the goals set by them when the photos were taken.

“The picture that you just took is something that I want you to keep for the rest of your lives,” said Knight. “You can share it if you like, but it’s not for other people; it’s for you. As you took your picture, I had you do that for a reason, because I have the class of 1967 here today. I want you, when you come back on your 50th anniversary, to have that selfie to remind yourself of today. Today is about you. This is your moment. Today matters and you are special. Only seven of every 100 people in this world have college degrees. That makes you special.”

During his speech, Knight encouraged the graduates to be responsible and courageous.

“The kind of world that we’ll live in will be determined by you because you will be the ones who make the decisions,” said Knight. “How do you fulfill this responsibility? For starters, do things differently than those who came before you. The challenges we face today exist because they remain unresolved, and you can resolve them. But you have to do something different. It will fall to you to take what you have learned at this historic institution, along with your experiences, to find the answers to the great questions of your time…And remember, nobody owes you anything….You have a debt to pay, and you have begun to pay that debt today as you take responsibility for what you do.”

knight honorary degreeThe event also included a special moment for Knight, who was honored for his service to the University and for his esteemed and longstanding record of public service.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure, on the authority of the Board of Trustees, that I confer on John F. Knight Jr., the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa,” said Interim President Leon C. Wilson in conferring the degree.

 

 

 

Other Special Moments

Another special moment occurred unexpectedly when graduate Jimmy Iwezu’s name was called to receive his diploma. Students, faculty and members of the audience erupted into spontaneous applause that became a sustained standing ovation when the popular student from Nigeria walked onto the platform.
Iwezu has spent the last four years at ASU, becoming known as a student leader, a diligent student and as a community volunteer. As one person put it, “You have to love Jimmy. You have to appreciate his passion and his love for ASU.”

Iwezu received his Bachelor of Science in Social Work and wants to continue his education at the University that he has come to love.

“This day has finally come,” said Iwezu. “Alabama State University has really impacted me. The professors in the classroom are really positive-minded people. The people here really love you. We are at our home away from home. The faculty, staff, friends and community—everybody embraced us. Now, I want to give back to the community and give back to Nigeria.”

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Other noteworthy moments during commencement included the conferring of the Golden Class degrees for the Class of 1967, as well as the graduation of the first students to receive the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance and the Master of Social Work degree (visit www.alasu.edu for those stories).

THE CLASS OF SPRING 2017

A total of 602 students – 521 undergraduates and 81 graduates – were candidates for degrees at the 295th Commencement Convocation. The number of degrees includes: College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences – Bachelor of Social Work (42), Bachelor of Arts (51), Bachelor of Science (66), Master of Social Work (7); College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – Bachelor of Science (85), Master of Science (4); College of Business Administration – Bachelor of Science (82), Master of Accountancy (2); College of Education – Bachelor of Music Education (3), Bachelor of Science (57), Master of Education (20), Master of Science (15), Educational Specialist (8), Doctor of Education (4); College of Health Sciences – Bachelor of Science (102), Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (13), Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (8); College of Visual and Performing Arts – Bachelor of Arts (20); Bachelor of Fine Arts (13).

commencement pan

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