Hampton University
'Hidden Figure' Katherine Johnson Tells Hampton University Graduates to be a Positive Influence at 147th Commencement Ceremony
05/14/2017 - #204

HAMPTON, Va. —  Cheers poured from the stands of Armstrong Stadium as Hampton University’s 917 graduates marched across the field wearing their cap and gowns. As the sun shined bright, the day was perfect for the 147th commencement ceremony and following a long-standing Hampton tradition, a special treat for moms on Mother’s Day.

HU President Dr. William R. Harvey told to the crowd of friends and families on site to celebrate the class of 2017’s achievements, “The Lord doesn’t let it rain on a Hampton event.”

Keynote speaker Katherine Goble Johnson, former NASA mathematician and the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, delivered a powerful message to the graduating class.

“You got it made graduating from Hampton," she said. People already know that you know a lot of information and they will use it and use it well,” she said.

“Help as many people as you can because it is not fun if you know a lot of stuff and they don’t know anything. Go as many places as you can to help as many persons as you can. Make it worth their while and it will be worth your while all your life.”

Harvey thanked and congratulated Hampton’s faculty for their hard work and dedication saying, “Hampton’s faculty is comprised of the most, in my judgment, scholarly teachers and researchers to be found at any college or university anywhere.”

Then turning to the graduates, Harvey said, “Hampton University has enlightened all of you and prepared you to be creators of original ideas, champions of change conquerors of new territories in liberals arts, education, math, science, politics and technology. You, ‘Onyx Ten’ class of 2017, will be instrumental in moving our nation and our world forward.”

Hampton University Chaplin, Rev. Dr. Debra L. Haggins, imparted inspirational words of wisdom for the graduates during her prayer saying, “The race isn’t given to the swift, but to those who endure to the end.”

As the ceremony came to a close, class Valedictorian and 2017 Rhodes Scholar Finalist J’Niyah Knox-Wilson inspired her peers with a heartfelt speech.

“Across the globe there are humans whose lives are afflicted by some oppressive types of “isms,” whether it is sexism, racism, classism, colorism or even ageism," she said. Although those are a part of our journey ahead and will be formidable challenges through our progress, I know we can win those fights."

"Do you know how I know, I know because we are resilient. We are purposeful. We are Hamptonians!”

Awards Presented at the Ceremony:
    •    Outstanding Alumnus-at-Large Award – Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Acting United States Surgeon General
    •    Outstanding Alumnus-at-Large Award – Mr. John Spencer, Retired Architectural Educator
    •    Class of 2017 Valedictorian – J’niyah Knox-Wilson
    •    Class of 2017 Salutatorian - Susan Elise Chavez


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