Hundreds of Howard University’s graduating students and their families filed into Burr Gymnasium on Saturday, May 7, as the university hosted its 154th commencement ceremony. The ceremony location was moved from the Yard to the university gymnasium following inclement weather conditions.
The university awarded 1,225 undergraduate degrees, 711 graduate degrees and 85 research doctorates, which totaled 1,953 degrees for this school year.
The ceremony opened with renditions of the “National Anthem” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Howard University Choir with Orchestra, under the direction of Eric Poole, followed by the invocation led by the Rev. Dr. Bernard L. Richardson, dean at the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel.
“While I know we were all hoping today’s ceremony would take place on the Yard for the first time since 2019… it truly is a blessing that so many of us are able to gather together to celebrate the remarkable class of 2022,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in his president’s welcome.
In his welcome, the president congratulated the class for finishing their matriculation amid a global pandemic, a university-wide cyber attack and heightened racial injustices in America. “The challenges you faced over the course of your Howard careers brought out the very best in you. You encountered disruption, responded with determination, you met uncertainty and countered that with resilience,” he added.
The president had also taken time in his speech to acknowledge graduating seniors Lauren Bush and Alexandra Grayson in founding the Ukweli, the Howard University undergraduate research journal, and their commitment to highlighting student-led interdisciplinary research.
The keynote speaker of the commencement ceremony was award-winning actress, author and Howard alum Taraji P. Henson, who received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from the university prior to giving her speech, presented by Frederick.
“What Howard University instilled in me, Hollywood could never take away. So, my sisters and brothers, on behalf of Howard alum everywhere in the world, congratulations to the graduating class of 2022,” Henson said followed by the infamous “H-U! You Know!” chant to the crowd of graduates.
In her speech, Henson spoke on her Howard experience, sharing how Howard prepared her for the trials and tribulations she would soon face as an actress and single mother in Hollywood. Though her role as Queenie in the award-winning movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” would get Henson nominated for an academy award, she detailed how she only took home about $40,000 on the $167 million project. It was shortly after that Henson received a phone call from acclaimed director and producer Tyler Perry, offering her the lead role in his movie, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” and what Henson described as the first time she had been paid her worth.
Henson left the graduating class with three phrases of advice to take with them in their endeavors: faith over fear, hope over cynicism and love instead of hate. “Whatever you do, step up in hope, rather than seeping into cynicism. Other people don’t get to determine your worth, only you can do that. If you always show up, show out, give it your all and the world will have to pay attention,” she passionately declared.
Henson’s words resonated with many graduating seniors. “It was amazing hearing Ms. Henson speak. As someone who is planning to go straight into the industry in LA post-grad, it felt like she was speaking directly to me at times. She made me realize that anything’s possible with hard work. She also opened my eyes to the changes that still need to be made in the industry, and that we, the Howard class of ‘22, can and will be in the front lines of making those changes. Lastly, Ms. Henson taught me that even when all the odds are against you, with hard work and dedication anyone can achieve their dreams,” graduating senior and acting major John Woods III said.
Additional celebrities were also in attendance at the 154th commencement. Actor Anthony Anderson graduated from the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, alongside his son, Nathan Anderson. Gospel singer Yolanda Adams attended in support of her daughter, Taylor Crawford, who was also graduating from the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.
The entirety of the 154th commencement ceremony is available to watch on Youtube.
Copy edited by N’dia Webb