Nearly 500 graduates earned degrees from Southern University at its fall commencement, December 14. Led in by Traci Smith, chief student marshal, graduates convened to receive bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as commissions to the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. The newest alumni heard from one of their own, Dr. Maurice Sholas, a physician and principal for Sholas Medical Consulting LLC.
“You may look at today as a glorious ending, but it is a glorious beginning,” Sholas said to the graduates.
The Baton Rouge native reflected on his family legacy of Southern alumni, beginning with his parents, who met each other at the university.
“My first visit to Southern was while I was in my mother’s womb,” Sholas said. “My heart was set on Southern from the start in spite of naysayers — those who said I could go to a “good school” because I had good grades. Well, Southern University wasn’t just good to me. It was great.
“I came here to see what is possible for people like us. I became a part of a community that cares for and cared about me.”
Sholas said that Southern prepared him for life beyond the Bluff in a number of ways, including him going on to Harvard to earn his M.D. and Ph.D.
“Southern gave me the confidence to stand with those from corners of the world I’d never heard of,” he said.
Sholas told the graduates to not fret about tomorrow as they celebrated their achievements today.
“You don’t have to know today (what’s next),” he said. “When I was sitting here, I had no idea what I would be doing for the next 20 years. While you sort it out, keep moving forward. Excellence defines us. Pride sustains us. Tradition guides us. We are Southern.”
Sholas closed by reminding the graduates that Southern is a family-oriented organization that reaches well beyond the acres in the capital city.
“Your SU tribe is a short phone call or text away,” he said. “And my service to you is not over after this message. What I know… what I have experienced is yours. We are Southern.”
Former Louisiana Sen. Diana E. Bajoie received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the university. The Southern University alumna who is a pioneer in state politics. In 1976, she was the only woman serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives; in 1991, she was the first black woman elected to the Louisiana Senate; and in 2004, she was the first woman elected as Senate President Pro Tempore.
By Jasmine Hunter
Special to The Drum