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Howard University Celebrates 156th Commencement

The Class of 2024 is the largest group of graduates in the University’s history.

by Amber D. Dodd

Photo by Latrell Caton

howard commencement

Photo by Latrell Caton

For many of this year’s Howard University graduates, it was the first commencement ceremony of their lives.

After many high school graduations, proms, and other milestone events were shut down due to the pandemic, the Class of 2024 then started their Howard journey at home, attending what they dubbed “Zoom University.” 

Annabelle Jules remembers spending freshman year remotely from her home in Exton, Pennsylvania, engaging in her Howard classes online.

“I was blindsided. I was excited and then everything was put on pause,” said Jules, who served as vice president of Howard’s Petey Greene Program. The organization pairs students to tutor incarcerated people to learn about the prison system.  

“Being able to graduate today is a memory of what was and how we were stopped early on, but we still persevered even with all the turbulence and troubles down the road.” 

Howard commencement
Graduates gathered at the Capital One Arena for the main commencement ceremony.

The graduates gathered excitedly at the Capital One Arena in Washington’s Chinatown on the morning of May 11 to finally take what some call the longest walk ever.

The Class of 2024 is the largest graduation class in the institution’s history with 2,508 degrees conferred during the ceremony. Approximately 439 graduates are first-generation degree recipients. Nearly 2,000 of the degrees conferred were bachelor’s degrees; 1,167 Bison hail from Southern states. The College of Arts and Sciences housed the largest group of undergraduates with 739 candidates. Nearly 50 members of the Class of 1974 gathered for its golden reunion, sitting on the left side of Capital One Arena. 

With the 2023-2024 academic year his first as the 18th president of Howard University, Ben Vinson III, PhD said he was honored to see the culmination of the Class of 2024’s success.  

“You embody the true essence of this University, the true essence of a Bison, and because of all you’ve endured over this timespan, I believe you are uniquely positioned to create some of the necessary changes we need in our world,” Vinson said.  

Vinson acknowledged the difficulties and the perseverance that the Class of 2024 experienced. “And yet here you are, in person, on the verge of being officially conferred with your Howard University degree. Your journey from then to now has been unlike any other graduating class before, yet that is precisely what makes each of you prototypical Howard students: your strength, perseverance, resilience, and steadfast commitment to achieving your goals.”

President Vinson delivered remarks at his first Howard commencement.

Former vice president of Costa Rica Epsy Campbell Barr, hospitality leader J. Williard Marriott, Jr., NASA astronaut Victor Jerome Glover II, and attorney Fred David Gray received honorary degrees during the ceremony. Thasunda Brown Duckett, TIAA’s president and CEO, received an honorary degree and served as the oratrix of the 156th Commencement.  

In her speech, Duckett shared her wisdom and encouraged the graduating Bison to “lead with courage.” “Courage is women into the very fabric of Howard’s history, especially its incredible legacy of firsts, founders and fight,” Duckett said. 

“Have the courage to be excited about all the world has in store for you. In the years ahead, know that you’re going to have to summon up courage; in the workplace, with your families, in your careers. You will need to find and use your voice to be great.” 

Scenes of the 156th Commencement

This story appears in the Spring/ Summer 2024 issue.
Article ID: 2116

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