Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President & CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), not only delivered the keynote address Saturday, May 10 at the Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) 2014 Commencement, but he also delivered a $100,000 donation.
The TMCF gift, which will provide scholarships to deserving SUNO Students, capped off a year in which the University made tremendous progress in renovation projects on buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
“We all know that getting to college is half the battle,” Taylor said. “However, education only pays off for those who actually graduate and TMCF is proud of the 498 SUNO graduates.”
SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo said the TMCF donation is coming at a critical time for the University. “Hurricane Katrina was more than eight years ago, but many of our students still are feeling the financial and emotional effects from that storm,” Ukpolo said. “The TMCF donation will help those students faced with financial challenges complete their college education and achieve their career goals.”
During his speech at the Lakefront Arena, Taylor told the graduates that the degrees they received are not theirs. “At the end of the day, that degree belongs to a whole group of people who brought you here. You may possess it, but the state of Louisiana helped pay for your education. Then there were the people who prepared you: your K-12 teachers … the SUNO faculty and staff … and your families,” he said. “I want you to use ‘our’ degree to make this world a better place.”
Taylor leads the only national organization representing nearly 300,000 students attending this country’s 47 publicly supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). With approximately 80 percent of all HBCU students attending TMCF member-schools, the organization is responsible for providing this country with a diverse pipeline of talented workers and future leaders.
SUNO’s Class of 2014 consists of 54 honor graduates: five Suma Cum Laude, 10 Magna Cum Laude, 27 Cum Laude and 12 Honors. Business Administration Major Bruce O. McLean graduated with the highest grade-point average of 3.975. The University also granted a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems to David Perryman posthumously. Perryman, 42, was killed in an auto accident Sept. 18, 2013.