WILBERFORCE — The nation’s first, private, historically black college/university (HBCU) held its spring commencement May 6 at the university’s alumni multiplex.
As keynote speaker, Cleveland City Council member Stephanie Howse challenged the students to pursue a life that is well lived, to understand the importance of balancing a commitment to community, and to identify and experience new, wholesome, forward thinking opportunities.
From 2015 to 2021, Howse was a state representative from Ohio’s 11th District (Cleveland). She was elected to the Cleveland City Council last year.
The commencement also marked the last time President Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard participated in conferring degrees to Wilberforce graduates. Pinkard officially retires at the end of May, and in July he will begin his new duties as an HBCU presidential fellow at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In this role for Brown, Pinkard will build greater relationships with HBCUs for educational and institutional equity.
Also in July, Dr. Vann R. Newkirk will succeed Pinkard as Wilberforce University’s 23rd president.
The Wilberforce commencement was also highlighted by the recognition of the “Golden Grads.” These are Wilberforce alumni who graduated in 1973. Each year, graduates from the class 50 years prior are honored. They are identified at graduation by their bright gold colored caps and gowns.