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    Graduation, 2012 

Shaw Gets New Batch of Alumni

May 15, 2012 - Saturday morning at J.S. Dorton Arena found the spring commencement ceremony for Shaw University, attended by an eager graduating class, proud relatives and a long-overdue honor.

Number of graduates: 371.

With 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.

Commencement 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 cowbell.

This story was written by Carla Turchetti and published in the News and Observer on May 13, 2012