Friday, December 18, 2009
It may have been cold outside of Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Alfred Lawson, Jr. Multipurpose Center Teaching Gymnasium for the 2009 fall commencement, but inside parents, family and friends of nearly 700 FAMU graduates packed the gymnasium near capacity with shouts of joy and excitement.
Among those graduates was Chantell Black, a broadcast journalism major, who left two days after commencement to join her unit in Fort Dicks N.J., before deploying to Afghanistan. Black should have deployed with her unit on September 13; however, her commanding officer allowed her to finish her final semester with the expectation that she would join her unit after graduation.
“This semester I have not been on active duty,” said Black. “I’m in the Reserves. I would typically serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year.”
Black is no stranger to Afghanistan. Black enlisted in the military after high school and spent a year in Afghanistan. Now, almost four years after returning from Afghanistan, Black feels that she is mentally prepared because of her years of experience and education.
Commencement speaker Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a FAMU alumna, encouraged the graduates to be leaders like Black because their leadership is needed today.
“We are facing some very tough times and we are looking for your leadership,” said Brown. “When you are born, we receive a birth certificate and when you die, your family receives a death certificate. The dash between your birth and death stands for what you will do to make this world a better place.”
Graduate Cheryl Truesdell Mitchell, a third generation Rattler, stated she wanted to be a great example for children.
“I wanted to get my master’s degree so I can be a good example for children,” said Mitchell, who received her degree in educational leadership. My experience here at FAMU has been outstanding.”
Mitchell is a first grade teacher at Hawks Rise Elementary in Tallahassee. She is a National Board Certified teacher and the first African American to be named Teacher of the Year at Hawks Rise in 2007.
She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from FAMU in 1990.
During the commencement ceremony, FAMU President James H. Ammons presented former FAMU Presidents Walter L. Smith and Frederick S. Humphries with plaques for recognition as President Emeritus.
During the administration of Smith [1977-1985], the University grew to 11 schools and colleges and a Division of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education. In 1984, the University was granted the authority to offer its first Doctor of Philosophy degree, the Ph.D. in Pharmacology.
In 1985, Humphries [1985-2001] became the eighth president of FAMU. The Humphries Years were heralded as a time of unprecedented expansion and achievement. During Humphries’ tenure, enrollment soared from 5,100  to 9,551 . And by the 1998-1999 school year, enrollment had reached 12,000 students.