Gordon inspires more than 700 NCCU graduates
On a spring morning that was about as perfect as they get around these parts, N.C. Central University awarded more than 700 bachelor’s degrees Saturday to enthusiastic graduates during the university’s 121st commencement at O’Kelly-Riddick stadium.
And just like the picture perfect weather, veteran TV news broadcaster Ed Gordon also hit the mark, quoting rappers Jay Z, Drake and popular comedian Kevin Hart to connect with the young graduates.
Gordon looked to the past to inspire the anxious graduates, citing Jackie Robinson and his heroic achievement integrating major league baseball.
He urged those who have not yet seen “42,” the movie about Robinson breaking the color line in professional baseball, to do so.
“Had it not been for Jackie Robinson, and yes, he played baseball, but his effect was far greater on society,” Gordon said. “In fact, had Jackie Robinson not broken the color barrier in baseball, you might not be able to go see some of the movies in theaters that you go to see today. It’s about the effect you have on other’s lives. That’s what you should aim for as you seek your own success.”
Gordon’s appearance as commencement speaker was a surprise. He was called to fill in for CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield who was forced to cancel her appearance due to illness.
Last month, Gordon returned to television with “Conversations with Ed Gordon,” a quarterly, one-hour special that will be aired nationally by NBC.
Gordon is also host of the nationally syndicated radio program “WEEKend with Ed Gordon” and has been a contributing correspondent for the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes II” and a contributing correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show” and “Dateline.”
He also distinguished himself during two stints at Black Entertainment Television (BET).
Gordon warned graduates that success will not coming knocking on the door. He said the people he knows who have made it wanted success “deep inside.”
“They want it like they need food, and crave it live a baby needs its mother’s touch,” Gordon said. “They stay when others have gone home. Find what you love, what makes you happy and go after it with a vengeance.”
Gordon also warned the graduates of the “haters” they will encounter on their way to success.
“Don’t be stopped by them, because they will be there,” Gordon said.
In a phrase he repeated often during his speech, Gordon said “success is born of preparation. And preparation is initiated by a dream.”
Interim Chancellor Charles Becton, who will turn his duties over to chancellor-elect Debra Saunders-White next month, congratulated the graduates and recognized a few for their accomplishments and grit in overcoming obstacles.
First, he praised Shawn Muslim, a mother of 10 who graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in physics. Muslim first enrolled in college more than 30 years ago, but was forced to quit as life and parental duties took priority.
Muslim had a goal of completing her degree before any of her children did so by several hours. Her oldest daughter, Sajaa Waheed graduated later in the day with honors from Meredith College.
Becton also recognized Korey J. Mercer, who graduated with a bachelor’s in political science. Mercer was a volunteer and student leader throughout four years at NCCU and was one of the 35 members of the first cohort of the Centennial Scholars Program that was established in 2009 to improve retention and graduation rates for male students.
Four faculty members were also honored during the ceremony.
Susan E. Hauser, an associate professor in NCCU’s School of Law, received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.
And NCCU awards for teaching excellence were presented to Lorna E. Grant, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, Alisha D. Malloy, assistant professor in computer education systems in the School of Business and Lisa Paulin, assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication.
Shortly before marching into the stadium with her 2013 classmates, Delores Hayes stood in line sans cap (she lost it while rushing to get to the commencement).
“I have my tassel, though,” Hayes said.
She said she was feeling proud as she prepared to graduate.
“It’s been an experience,” Hayes said
NCCU awarded more than 400 master’s and law degrees on Friday for a total of 1,120 degrees awarded this spring, a new record that exceeds last year’s record total of 943 by 177 graduates.