The dual spring commencement exercises at Tennessee State University will feature two prominent national figures who will speak to the 1,312 undergraduate and graduate students receiving degrees in various disciplines.
Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, and the youngest person to lead the 106-year-old civil rights organization, will give the keynote address at the graduate commencement ceremony in the Gentry Complex at 5 pm, Friday, May 8.
On Saturday, May 9, at 9 am, the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, TSU alumnus and renowned lawyer A.C. Wharton, will address undergraduate students during their commencement in Hale Stadium.
At the graduate commencement, Brock is expected to talk to the graduates about leadership, coping in the workplace, and a vision for the future. Named in Essence magazine’s list of the ‘40 Fierce and Fabulous Women Who are Changing the World,’ Brock is a Diamond Life Member of the NAACP. She has served the organization in various leadership positions starting as a Youth Board Member representing the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
As vice chairman of the NAACP Board Health Committee in 1988, she championed the creation of a standing health committee to advocate for quality, accessible and affordable health care for vulnerable and economically challenged communities.
An expert grant writer, Brock has secured millions of dollars in philanthropic support for the NAACP. From 1999-2010, she chaired the NAACP’s National Convention Planning Committee, in which role she instituted fiscal policies that resulted in the Annual Convention becoming a profit center for the Association.
She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the George Washington University, the American Public Health Association; American College of Health Services Executives; Association of Healthcare Philanthropy; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and The LINKS Inc. Brock holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University, a master’s degree in health services administration from George Washington University, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and a Master of Divinity degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University.
She is currently the vice president for Advocacy and Government Relations for Bon Secours Health System, Inc. <hso.bonsecours.com/about-us-about-us.html>, in Marriottsville, Maryland.
On Saturday, undergraduate students receiving their degrees will hear words of encouragement and how to cope in the changing word from a man who has achieved many “firsts” in his lifetime, and as mayor of one of America’s thriving and fastest growing cities. A lawyer for nearly 45 years, Wharton is in his second term as mayor of Memphis, having previously served for two terms as the first African-American elected mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee. He is known for initiating a number of programs that have reduced crime, improved city services, enhanced quality of life, and created new good-paying jobs for Memphians. Under Wharton’s leadership, Memphis is part of national conversations about cities, including the Obama White House, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Brookings Instit-ution, CEOs for Cities, and the Mayor’s Institute of Civic Design.
Under Wharton’s leadership Memphis is reinvesting in safe and vibrant neighborhoods, creating jobs and prosperity of all, giving every child a fair start in life through early childhood development, and a high-performing government that fights crime and inefficiency.
For Wharton, speaking at TSU’s spring commencement is a “homecoming.” TSU is where he got his start in higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in Political Science in 1962. He later entered the University of Mississippi Law School, where he was one of the first African-American students to serve on the Moot Court Board and the first African-American to serve on the Judicial Council. He graduated with honors in 1971, and three years later, he became the first African-American professor of law at University of Mississippi, a position that he held for 25 years.
At this year’s spring commencements, 925 graduating seniors will receive bachelor’s degrees, while 387 students will receive graduate degrees. Among those receiving advanced degrees are eight Ph.D.s, nine Ed.D.s, and 35 Doctors of Physical Therapy. Eleven others will receive education specialist degrees.