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Johnson C. Smith University Graduates Class of 2013

Charlotte, N.C. (May 19, 2013) – Johnson C. Smith University awarded 252 degrees during the 141st Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2013 on May 19.

Ambassador Andrew Young delivered the commencement address to the graduates, family and friends who packed Irwin Belk Stadium. The Class of  2013 contributed a combined 13,346 hours of community service during their education at JCSU. Nearly half of the students (121) graduated with honors.

Valedictorian Hanoi Darden of Norristown, Penn., earned the highest GPA of a senior having matriculated all four years at JCSU. The business administration major served as president of the Student Government Association and president of Gamma Delta Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. After graduation, she will enter the Leadership Development Program with BB&T.

Salutatorian Kirashae Graham earned the second highest GPA of a senior having matriculated all four years at JCSU. The Memphis, Tenn. native majored in information systems engineering. While at JCSU she was a tutor for HBCU-Up and assisted with the IT Help Stars Plus Program. She also served as vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers. She has accepted a position with AT&T in the Project Management Department where she will be a network design engineer.

The commencement ceremony awarded the honorary doctorate degree to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for serving as a formidable ally to the university and the Northwest Corridor as well as for his work in helping to bring the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte.

Young was also presented an honorary doctorate degree as a lifetime advocate for basic civil and human rights. In his remarks to the students, Young recalled his anxiety about the future as a new college graduate. “Sixty-two years ago, after I graduated from Howard University, I was driving back to New Orleans scared to death,” he said. After passing through Charlotte, he stopped at Crowders Mountain and ran up the trail to the top. Once there he said his mind and spirit opened up. “As I looked out from the top I couldn’t escape the fact that everything was there for a purpose. It then hit me that God must have a purpose for me. I quit worrying about a job and realized the most important thing for me was to get a life.”

That trail took Young to 152 countries during his varied career in global and national  leadership as Congressman, United Nations Ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta. As he dispensed his dose of wisdom to the students, Young noted that most of the success in his life came one day at a time. “How I did my work today determined how it would be tomorrow.”

In his special tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, he said, “We are redeemed by the martyrs who have gone before.” He challenged the students to be aware of poverty in the world and use technology to help solve it.

Young advocated investing in Africa as he has done with GoodWorks International for over a decade. “You’re going to have to be the generation that opens up Africa to the world,” he said. “Africa includes some of the fastest growing countries in the world and a population of middle class that may out number China and India. The future resources of the world are in Africa.”

In closing, he told the students, “You are coming out in a world that people see as troubled, but trouble is opportunity.” 

Commencement also recognized 32 members of the Class of 1963 as they celebrated their 50th reunion.


 About Johnson C. Smith University

Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University is the premier independent urban liberal arts university located in the heart of Charlotte, N.C. It offers a progressive liberal arts curriculum with 26 fields of study to more than 1,600 students. The University prepares students for success through excellent academic programs with a focus on servant leadership, civic engagement and global responsibility.          


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