Lincoln University’s Class of 2020 finally celebrates its commencement05/25/2021 10:43AM ● By Steven Hoffman
Lincoln University President Brenda Allen made good on her promise to the class of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic: that they would have their in-person commencement ceremony one way or another.
Last Friday, that promise was realized as they celebrated their graduation in the stadium on the west end of the campus. The ceremony wasn’t as expansive or elaborate as in previous years. The academic procession marched in single file, many staff and students wore masks, and the chorus sang virtually on large screens instead of in person.
Still, a large percentage of the class appeared able to return for the festivities a year later, and those who could not make it were recognized virtually on the large, outdoor screens preceding the issuing of diplomas.
A highlight of the ceremony was the recognition of Emery Wimbish, retired dean of the Langston Hughes Memorial Library, who received an honorary doctorate.
During his more than 50 years at Lincoln, he served as assistant librarian, associate professor and professor, leading up to his being the representative who received the personal library donated by Lincoln graduate and poet Langston Hughes, as part of his estate.
Wimbish has had a career serving on many committees and overseeing a significant number of projects.
A peer and friend of civil rights king Martin Luther King, Wimbish is currently involved in the workings of King, the restoration of the Hosanna African Union Methodist Protestant Church adjacent to the campus and writing a history of the Tick-Tock Day Care center in Avondale.
Also receiving honorary doctorates were civil rights lawyer and commencement speaker Benjamin Crump, World War II veteran Nelson Henry, who died last year and who fought a “blue [discriminatory] discharge” from the U.S. Army, and Professor Emeritus of African Studies at Rutgers University Leonard Bethel.
Crump is nationally known for his firm’s representation of the families of black individuals killed in encounters with police, notably Travon Martin, Michael Brown and George Floyd, as well as the residents of Flint, Michigan, who were affected by poisoned water.
He delivered an impassioned speech, telling the graduates that Lincoln alums poet Langston Hughes and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall are “arguably two of the greatest and most prolific intellectuals that the world has ever known.”
“And I didn’t say African-American intellectuals. The same Lincoln University that has produced the best and the brightest minds that we had to offer America is the best we have to offer from you, and you will change the course of the world,” he said.
He also praised the students and others of their generation for “posting, texting, protesting and marching for justice” for the family of Ahmaud Aubrey, an unarmed 25-year-old black man who was pursued and fatally shot while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia.
Additionally, Crump complimented them for their help in “fighting in the court of public opinion” following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the conviction of Derek Chauvin to let America know that “nobody is above the law.”
Both President Brenda Allen and Board of Trustees Chairlady Theresa Braswell referenced the effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on that 2020 Class.
Allen said, “It’s a little bit late, but you hung in there… you have persevered and made a commitment to finish a journey you began four, five six or more years ago. … It was especially hard for you students to complete your education facing uncharted territory.”
She also recognized several graduates who had overcome significant odds in their work toward their graduation.
Braswell said this: “Earning the degree, you are survivors indeed. You succeeded in spite of invisible unknown enemies called COVID-19.”
Valedictorian Jordyn Imani Adams-Morris told her classmates, “Reward yourself for having such resilience.”
In addition to presenting a full commencement ceremony a year later for the Class of 2020, the university followed up on Sunday, May 23, with the Class of 2021 ceremony.
Both ceremonies took place at the Lincoln University Football Stadium.