Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, was the keynote speaker at Tennessee State University’s fall Commencement exercises last Saturday. Lomax told the students and their families and friends that by working so hard and achieving a university degree in spite of difficult and insurmountable odds, this positions the graduates to be leaders who are “doers, makers and shapers of events and outcomes.”
College graduates are expected to be leaders with capabilities that impact society beyond their families and personal careers, Lomax told the more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students who received degrees in various disciplines.
“America and the world need active and engaged citizens who are not just satisfied with their personal success,” Lomax said. “As leaders you must see that some part of your life, some portion of your personal power, and your leadership are invested in work beyond yourself, your family and close friends.”
While challenging the graduates, Lomax, leader of the nation’s largest provider of scholarships and other educational support to African-American students, also called for strengthening of the educational system if those leaving institutions of higher learning are to have any chance to succeed.
“The global, technology-driven knowledge economy demands that educational institutions be more effective and efficient in producing measurable student outcomes and graduates who can transition smoothly from the classroom to the workplace,” he said. “Those (graduates) who either don’t have the advanced skills or cannot attain them will be punished with low-wage jobs at the bottom of the employment ladder.”
Lomax, under whose leadership the UNCF has fought for college readiness and education reform, also said, “The increasing emphasis on test is to confirm that students are learning, building the knowledge and skills they will need to advance and compete and demonstrate that their diploma is more than a piece of paper.”
“Congratulations, best wishes on this, your day of celebration,” said Lomax.. “But remember, we are expecting much of you. Don’t disappoint. Go forth and make a difference. Lead!” He extolled the leadership at TSU under President Glenda Glover, calling her an “exemplary leader.”
“The challenge of building and maintaining a 21st century university is great,” he said. “This calls for leaders who can envision the future, set bold and challenging goals and guide the institution through disagreements and controversies toward attaining its goals. This is the work that TSU’s dynamic, determined, focused and keenly intelligent president, Dr. Glover, is called to do.”
President Glover thanked Lomax for agreeing to be the speaker, and him with a plaque as a token of appreciation from the university. She also congratulated the graduates for their accomplishments.
“You have endured and prepared yourselves to reach this goal which may have seemed unattainable, but you stuck with it,” Dr. Glover said. “You must always remember that you did not accomplish this goal all by yourselves. There were parents, relatives, friends and mentors who helped you along the way. Remember to thank them.”