Skip Navigation
search icon Open Search Field

Tom Joyner

Renowned Radio Personality Challenges Graduates to be Game Changers

Nationally-syndicated radio host Tom “The Fly Jock” Joyner urged the 2017 graduates of Shaw University to follow the lead of their new alma mater to become doers who “change the game.”

He reminded graduates Shaw changed the game often, as the first institution of higher learning established for freedmen, the first college in the nation to offer a four-year medical program, and the first historically black college in the nation to welcome women.

“How will you change the game,” Joyner asked graduates. Instead of “talking about it, whining about it or tweeting about it,” he challenged graduates to take bold action, just as those before them did, no matter what they lacked. “What if Ella Baker had been more concerned with posting than protesting,” he said, referring to Baker’s leadership as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on Shaw’s campus in 1960. “They did what they could. Do what you can. Everybody can do something.”

Joyner delivered the keynote commencement address Saturday, May 13, 2017, at the Raleigh Convention Center in the heart of downtown Raleigh, where Shaw has been a historic cornerstone of higher learning for 151 years as the oldest HBCU in the south.

The Class of 2017 boasts 202 graduates. The majority of them came to Shaw from hometowns in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Most claimed degrees in Business Management, Social Work, Mass Communications, Psychology and Recreation Management.

Joyner, known on "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" for a signature comedic energy that goes deep on issues of human rights and social justice, is lauded as an entrepreneur and philanthropic creator of The Tom Joyner Foundation, using his success to champion historically black colleges and universities and keep students in them. Since it began, the foundation has raised more than $65 million.

As they crossed the stage, Joyner gave each graduate their first earnings: a crisp $5 bill and a $10 Denny’s gift card.

Joyner has been recognized for his contributions with induction into the Radio Hall of Fame, an NAACP Image Award, Billboard's "Best Urban Contemporary Air Personality" award, the BET Humanitarian Award and Denny’s Community Impact Award.

Joyner receives honorary doctorate from Shaw University

During Shaw's Commencement ceremony, Joyner was presented with an Honorary Degree. “You graduates waiting for your chance to change the game - this is it,” Joyner said.  “This is not a time to build walls, Donald Trump; this is a time to tear them down and accept what others have to offer,” he said. “Choose a cause and commit yourself to making a change. What better day or what better time, than right now? You’ve finished the race, but there are many more to come. Change the game!”

Before sending them off, Shaw President Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, serving her second year at the helm of her Alma Mater, advised graduates to be competitive, even if it means speeding past some and never entering the race with others – and to always follow a moral compass of truth and integrity.

“You are entering a high tech world with driverless cars, automated everything, and where Siri and Alexa are the queens of clap-backs,” she said. “But I want to encourage you that, even when technology seems to be driving the world, always commit to being in the driver's seat of your own lives.”

That means grinding harder on an uneven playing field, and to dig beyond what’s in front of them to “read between the lines and be the writer, director, and producer of your own script,” she said. “I charge you to keep a positive mindset as you tackle the seemingly impossible, as you navigate life's wins and it's losses.”

Graduates signal they’re ready

“It’s been a long, hard four years, but Shaw was there with me every step of the way, giving me an opportunity to be great in the real world,” said Los Angeles native Kendal Dukes, 22, who graduated cum laude with a degree in Psychology and begins work this month as a clinical coordinator at Western Wake Counseling. “Shaw made me who I am today. I’m a well-polished professional.”

Joyner later echoed similar sentiments from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. “When you go to an HBCU…, you bring the people who taught and nurtured you everywhere you go. You’re never alone. Don’t forget to reach down to help others. The shoulders we stand on make us taller, not smaller.”