Shaw Gets New Batch of Alumni
May 15, 2012
morning at J.S. Dorton
Arena found the spring commencement ceremony for Shaw University,
attended by an eager graduating class, proud relatives and a
Number of graduates: 371.
honors: An honorary degree was awarded
posthumously to Dr. Fred J. Long Sr., who graduated from Shaw in 1968
and was an all-conference baseball and football player for the
university and is in the school’s athletic hall of fame. Long was a
general surgeon in Raleigh for 32 years. Many times during
his life he declined Shaw’s offer of a doctorate of humane letters.
This year his family accepted.
speaker: Thomas Dortch Jr., entrepreneur, community activist and
chairman emeritus of
100 Black Men of America Inc., an organization that focuses on programs
that improve the quality of life for African-Americans. There is a
campus chapter at Shaw.
What he said: Dortch told the graduates there isn’t enough straight talk in the world anymore. His
straightforward speech urged them to become active alumni.
“So goes Shaw, so goes your reputation,” Dortch said.
He admonished them not to think that having a degree made them any better than anyone else. He said
his greatest degree and the one he uses most often in his life is common sense.
Dortch spoke of his unwavering commitment to historically black colleges and universities. Shaw,
founded in 1865, was the first historically black college in the South.
And then he dispensed some fashion advice, telling the male graduates to keep their pants off the
ground and the female graduates to dress modestly in longer skirts and dresses.
“It doesn’t always pay to advertise,” Dortch said.
What he was paid: Dortch was offered $15,000 to speak at another graduation but opted to speak at
Shaw, where he was paid nothing. “This is the best speech you’ll ever hear for free,” said Dorothy Yancy, Shaw’s president.
33 minutes: The length of time it took to call the name of each undergraduate as he or she walked
across the stage and was handed a diploma cover. The actual diplomas were not inside.
Friendliest competition: Historically, the university choir and the university band try to outshine
each other during commencement performances.
Student speaker: LaMarcus Davis, student government president, issued a challenge to fellow graduates
to support the university in the years ahead.
“We are all who we are because of Shaw University,” Davis said.
Number of summa cum laude graduates: 29 graduates in the class of 2012 had grade point averages between
3.75 and 4.0.
Most ignored item in the program: “Applause is the most appropriate method of conveying congratulations
as your graduate’s name is called. Other methods may keep your neighbors from hearing their graduate’s name.”
Each and every graduate not only heard applause, but most also heard cheers and shouts and the occasional
This story was written by Carla Turchetti and published in the News and Observer
on May 13, 2012