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Livingstone rejoices during Saturday commencement

Reasons to celebrate abounded Saturday during Livingstone College’s annual commencement ceremony.

With just a few wisps of clouds in the sky, the college held its commencement ceremony at Alumni Memorial Stadium and presented degrees to 157 students. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-12, was the commencement speaker for the euphoric ceremony. Other speakers included the school’s President Jimmy Jenkins, Board of Trustees Chairman Bishop Georgie Battle Jr., outgoing class president Tre’ Holmes and the class of 2015’s valedictorian Solomon Larbi.

Five graduated with summa cum laude honors — denoting a GPA of 3.7 to 4 — seven graduated with magna cum laude honors — a GPA of 3.5 to 3.69 — and 15 graduated cum laude — a GPA of 3.3 to 3.49.

In her speech to the graduates, Adams stressed that graduation was a new beginning.

“While it may seem that we’re in a period with fewer jobs, know that there’s much opportunity for you because you’ve been prepared,” Adams said. “While you could have been someplace else, you weren’t. You were here at Livingstone College.”

She encouraged students to speak up in the world, but use their voice to say something that matters. Adams also encouraged students to help build an inclusive society.

“Talk is nothing more than a mumble if you’re not saying something, and if you’re not willing to walk the talk too,” Adams said. “If young people would just talk to old people, it would make us better all around, and if old people would talk to young people it would make us better all around. If black people would talk to white people, it would make us better all around.”

Adams, a first-generation college graduate, told her story of attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University — also a historically black college. Adams said NC A&T helped to shape who she has become as a person.

Holmes was undoubtedly the most energetic speaker during the commencement. Beginning slowly, the volume of his voice raised steadily until raucous cheers erupted from classmates, school faculty and family members in attendance.

“I want you to know that today is a new occasion,” Holmes shouted. “This is commencement. The beginning of something different. This is a new beginning for everybody.”

In a speech that lasted just over two minutes, Holmes managed to bring nearly everyone in attendance to their feet, drawing a deafening cheer out of the crowd.

The celebration continued with the presentation of degrees. The college first presented several honorary Ph.D. degrees. The college presented an honorary Ph.D. in law to Adams. Another one of the recipients was Dabney Montgomery, who was born in Selma, participated in the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches and received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

For a moment, the noise quieted to a murmur during the honorary degree presentation. With just three words, Jenkins brought the soon-to-be Livingstone graduates to their feet.

“Now, it’s time,” Jenkins said.

Some students took a subdued approach when accepting their degree from Jenkins. Others tossed in a dance or waved to friends and family members when accepting their degree.

Jenkins stood back and smiled, as the 157 students accepted their degrees. Of the students who received degrees Saturday, three were from foreign countries and 70 were from another state. The remainder were from North Carolina.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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