It was a bittersweet graduation for Texas Southern University outgoing students who, while grateful to be accomplishing their first level of higher education, were missing out on making the highly-coveted walks across the stage. But rising to the occasion, the university went above and beyond to provide the best speakers to offer words of encouragement to the new grads.
TSU conferred degrees to 1,800 graduates in eight ceremonies on campus during a special Fall Commencement Weekend held November 20-22.
TSU’s administration had to shift from its traditional in-person, hybrid commencement exercises to eight virtual ceremonies held over three days in response to the COVID-19 public safety alert and guidelines released by Harris County officials on November 17. TSU’s 10 colleges and schools celebrated its graduates in eight virtual ceremonies that were streamed live on tsu.edu.
“We are excited to celebrate this milestone with our newest Texas Southern University alumni,” said Interim President Kenneth Huewitt. “Although we made adjustments due to COVID-19, we wanted to celebrate the resiliency of the class of 2020 during these unprecedented times.”
“I was watching my online graduation ceremony today when it started and I started crying when the Star-Spangled Banner came on. I walked out of the room emotionally and said, ‘I was supposed to be there today,'” said School of Communication graduate Evelyn Castillo.
The new mom celebrated her special day with friends and family, and is excited about the possibilities her future holds. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.
Dr. Kendall Harris, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Research, is exceptionally proud of the graduates, and the faculty and staff members who made the Virtual Commencement a success.
“This production was truly a team effort. I want to recognize and thank my Academic Deans and the members of the Commencement Committee who contributed in making this a celebration to remember for our graduates. Our students deserve all of the praise for reaching this academic achievement and I am glad to work with such fine people who made our graduates’ dream a reality,” said Harris.
The Thurgood Marshall School of Law held its first ceremony on Friday, Nov. 20. The guest speaker was Paulette Brown, senior partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Locke & Lord law firm in New Orleans. Brown is the first African American woman to serve as president of the American Bar Association.
Two colleges and two schools celebrated graduates in Ceremony II with staggered events on Saturday, Nov. 21.
The guest speaker for the College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences was Pamela Ellis, director of residential services at Houston Area Women’s Center (HWAC) and a TSU alumna.
The guest speaker for the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs was Amber Newman, chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Brazoria Country and a TSU alumna.
The Jesse H. Jones School of Business guest speaker was John Scroggins, senior vice president of commercial lending and community development lending at Allegiance Bank of Houston and a TSU alumnus.
The College of Education guest speaker was Dr. Cherry Ross Gooden, retired associate professor and chairperson of curriculum and instruction for 36 years at Texas Southern and a TSU alumna.
Two colleges and one school honored graduates in Ceremony III with staggered events on Sunday, Nov. 22.
The guest speaker for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology speaker was William Hudson, chief operating and financial officer for Harris Country Public Health and a TSU alumnus.
The School of Communication guest speaker was Tony Wyllie, regional president and managing director for Special Olympics-North American and a TSU alumnus.
The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences guest speaker was Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor School of Medicine.