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Gregory L. Robinson Encourages Students to Cherish Their Howard Experience in Charter Day Speech

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Images

Howard University hosted its 2023 Charter Day convocation, where keynote speaker Gregory L. Robinson ‘83 spoke about his personal journey and the role that Howard University played in shaping his worldview and instilling a commitment to science.

Earlier this month, in his speech, Robinson, a scientist and engineer currently working as a senior NASA official, attributed his successes to his family, close friends and specifically Dr. Eugene M. DeLoatch. 

DeLoatch served as the chair of the electrical engineering department at Howard from 1975 to 1984 and then went on to create the school of engineering at Morgan State University. 

“I often get asked who influenced me while I was at Howard,” Robinson said. “I would like to mention one in particular, Dr. Eugene DeLoatch…One of Howard’s news stations called him the ‘man who created an army of Black engineers.’”

He spoke about Howard and its important legacy today. In his speech, he said, “It pales in comparison to 1867. Howard in its first five years educated 150,000 freed slaves,” he said. “156 years later it is still the real HU!”

He continued, saying, “Those 150,000 people educated by Howard in the first five years had no running start. The people they were trying to catch up with were already gone because they had a running start for many, many years.”

Robinson worked for more than 30 years at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and is credited for steering the launch of the James Webb Telescope in 2021 at NASA. He was named among the 2022 Times 100 influential people and 2022 innovator of the year. 

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Lastly, he talked about the future of space exploration. “Hopefully, we will have humans on Mars in my lifetime. That’s a daunting task,” he said.

In his speech before Robinson’s, President Wayne A.I. Frederick mentioned his gratefulness for his cabinet members in what appeared to be an allusion to this convocation being his last. “I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank the cabinet of this great university,” he said. “They’ve been an excellent team.”

On April 13, 2022, Frederick announced that he would retire by June 2024. He spoke about the circle of life, social ills and forces against freedom that exist in our society today.

“We must make sure that Howard University is strong. A way we do that is that we need to internally innovate and continue to make sure we provide excellence for our students” Frederick said, “that we participate in research activities that will uncover uncomfortable truths and some solutions that are necessary to make our society a better society.”

He also congratulated and awarded the Presidential Medal to the Dean of Howard Law, Danielle Holley on her next steps towards becoming the new president of Mount Holyoke College.

Students at the university heard Robinson’s message resonate with them regarding Howard and its pursuit of science.

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Imani Tookes, a sophomore Biology major from Maryland, wrote that “Convocation this year was very inspiring! I hope to attend the next one too!”

Another student, Lori-Ann Knight, a sophomore Mathematics major from Jamaica, said, “I’m really happy that I had the chance to attend and I particularly enjoyed the speech given by the speaker. I would highly recommend anyone who didn’t get a chance this time to go next time.” 

The event concluded with a closing statement from Frederick and he expressed his gratitude for those who could attend and to Howard University. 

The Charter Day Convocation is an annual event that celebrates the founding of Howard University and its rich legacy. The event features distinguished speakers, performances, and recognition of notable alumni and students who have made significant contributions in their fields.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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