On Saturday, May 4, 2019, nearly 100 students participated in the 108th Annual Baccalaureate Commencement Convocation.
Dozens of family, friends, and community members filled the seats of the Sumter County Civic Center to witness a profound group of students received their degrees after years of hard work and dedication.
During the ceremony, several citations and honorary degrees were awarded by President Dr. Leroy Staggers. The 2019 Presidential Citations were awarded to Patricia Grant Jefferson (’99) in recognition of the positive differences she has made in Sumter County as the Director of Voter Registration and Elections.
Dr. John C. Williams was also awarded a citation in recognition of his generous support and dedication to higher education as a consistent supporter of Morris College while serving as a moderator of the Fairfield County Missionary Baptist and Educational Association.
Environmental Justice Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ms. Kim Michelle Lambert was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The college recognized Ms. Lambert for her contributions in helping young dreamers become successful.
Morris College alum Reverend McKinley Ravenell received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Rev. Ravenell received his religious education and training from the former Morris College School of Religion and has engaged in pastoral ministry for more than 28-years. The Hornet family recognized his lifelong service, steadfast belief in humanity and giving heart upon him receiving his honorary degree.
Following the conferring of honorary degrees, Dr. Staggers introduced the commencements keynote speaker Lieutenant General Bruce T. Crawford, Army Chief Information Officer.
Gen. Crawford expounded on the importance of support from family, friends, and community members throughout the matriculation of one's undergraduate career as well as throughout life. He also motivated students to take control of their own lives and make a difference in the world.
“To those family, friends, and supporters…..you were there when the canvas was blank….” He reminded the crowd.
The Columbia native is a graduate of South Carolina State University. He spoke on the importance and the impact of historically black colleges and their commitment to society.
“Having gone to South Carolina State University the most important thing is diversity. Not just the ethnic piece but its diversity of thought and experiences.”
He spoke on how historically black colleges help to diversify the United States Army’s way of thinking.
“The army has about 1.1 million soldiers, and of that, about 180,000 of them come from an HBCU. That intellect plays a vital role in diversifying our thinking in representing the United States.
He went on to provide some words of encouragement to those who may seem fearful of what life will be like once they walk across the stage and enter the workforce.
“The world that you will enter is significantly more complex than it was just four or five short years ago when you made the decision to matriculate to Morris College,” he stated.
“However life is less about challenges and more about the opportunities that are waiting.”
He informed the students that they are more prepared than they may realize.
“As our nations next great generation of leaders. fear not, because you were built for this.”
“This is your time, seize the moment and make a difference” regardless of their trials and tribulations he encouraged students to remain confident in what they stood for.
He closed his speech by using the school's motto, “enter to learn; depart to serve.”
“If you want to do well then just stick with your best, and I guarantee that you will do well. But if you want to make a difference, then have a passion and give it your heart. Morris College has given you its heart over the last four-plus years in hopes of making a difference in your lives so that you may be more polished to serve outside of the gates. “
Gen. Crawford message was well received by the students who all come from different backgrounds.
Read the full interview with Lt. Gen. Crawford below.
You have a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, talk about the importance of education and how it helped to shape the career you have today?
Education is fundamental. When you think about the army and I’ve been a part of the army for 33 years; it’s vitally important. The diversity in the education that comes from our HBCUs given the complexities of the world I cannot see a future without a solid education.
Being that you graduated from an HBCU (SC State University). What did you gain from the HBCU experience and how does it feel to be the commencement speaker at another HBCU?
There are a couple of things that you get from an HBCU such as experience. Having gone to South Carolina State, probably the most important thing is diversity. Not just the ethnic piece of diversity, but its diversity of thought, its diversity of experiences. The army has about 1.1 million soldiers active, guard, and reserve and about 180, 000 or so come from an HBCU. That intellect plays I vital role in diversifying our thinking in representing the United States.
You have a number of leadership roles throughout your career. What is your biggest priority as a leader?
Giving back. I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. If it weren't for them I would not have been afforded the opportunity to stand where I am to this day.
Throughout your career, you have traveled a lot. What has those experiences traveling done for your career and life?
It’s about growth. One, surround yourself with people who are different from you. Two, there can be no growth without a diverse set of experience. If you do the same things all the time it’s very difficult to grow. What I found out is, traveling has afforded me the opportunity to experience different things, know a little bit more about myself, and understand my strengths and weaknesses while instilling an idea of growth.
What piece of advice do you have for the students that are about to walk across the stage?
You are built for this. This is your time, seize the moment and make a difference. The reason why I say that is it has to do with their intellectual curiosity. This next generation of leaders is not afraid to ask why. So challenge the status quo, ask why and make a difference.