Hampton University Marks a Milestone with 665 Degrees Conferred at the 154th Commencement Ceremony

Record-breaking 36 Doctoral Candidates Honored During Weekend Celebration

Hampton, Va. – Hampton University proudly conferred degrees to over 665 graduates at its 154th Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 12th, a historic event that included the university’s youngest graduate to date, and the largest group of doctoral degrees. This year’s ceremony not only celebrated academic achievements but also the resilience and adaptability of the Class of 2024, who navigated the transition from virtual to in-person learning environments.

In his address to the graduates, Hampton University President Darrell K. Williams highlighted the successes of this graduating class whose members have won regional and national awards, spoke and sang at the White House, presented research papers at national conferences and earned full-ride scholarships to pursue advanced degrees, received jobs at Fortune 500 companies. President Williams emphasized the importance of becoming servant leaders who will build and restore communities across the nation and the world.

A Symbol of Hampton Brilliance

“We celebrate not just your academic achievements, but also your profound impact on our community and the world at large,” said President Williams. “You are a symbol of our institutional success, our Hamptonian brilliance, and a manifestation of our ‘Standard of Excellence.’

The Commencement Keynote Speaker, Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, social justice advocate and pastor of the 10,000-member megachurch Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, delivered an impassioned speech that inspired the graduates to take active roles in shaping the future.

“Today marks the beginning of your obligation to shape the post-COVID world that is evolving and devolving at the same time,” Wesley stated. In his awe-inspiring speech, Wesley, an Urban One Network radio host recently named as one of the top 100 most influential African Americans in the nation by The Root, quoted a recent Kendrick Lamar tune and cited lines from John Singleton’s 1991 blockbuster, “Boyz n the Hood.” He told the graduates, before a packed Convocation Center, to care about what is going on in the world around them and to use their degrees for more than their own prosperity.  

“Your degree is not only a blessing for you but it should also be a blessing to someone else,” said Wesley. “When you decide to walk in your intelligence, when you decide to let every boardroom know that you are a proud Hampton grad, when you rise above mediocrity and declare that ok [isn’t] ok, when you walk in excellence and determine that ‘good enough’ [isn’t] good enough you will change this world by showing them the God-given intelligence that is within you to shape and change this world.”

Wesley further motivated the graduates by reminding them of their unique journeys and responsibilities, and that their loved ones have prayed, sacrificed and gave up so much for the graduates to reach this momentous occasion.

Ancestors’ Dreams

“You are the dreams of your ancestors,” said Wesley. “Show them who you are. Class of 2024, go change the world.”

During the ceremony, President Williams awarded the 2024 Alumnus-at-Large Award to Former Dean of Student Life, Jewel Long, who served Hampton University for 54 years in various capacities. Additionally, Attorney Jaaye Person-Lynn, class of 2004, was honored with the Twenty-Year Alumnus Award, highlighting the ongoing legacy of Hampton’s alumni in making significant contributions to society.

Hampton University Sophomore Kevin Casey, the first male student poet in the university’s history, recited a moving poem entitled, “Boys by the Sea,” one student’s reflection on the journey from boyhood to manhood.

This year’s graduates have demonstrated exceptional resilience, having adapted to online classes and virtual platforms before transitioning back to face-to-face education. For many, this commencement ceremony was their first public graduation, marking a significant and joyous occasion in their academic journey.

Hampton University continues to uphold its Standard of Excellence, fostering an environment where students not only pursue academic excellence but also contribute meaningfully to their communities and the world.

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