May 15, 2018

Senior James Norman, winner of the 2018 William Lewis Esq. Award for Exemplary Men of Color, deli... Senior James Norman, winner of the 2018 William Lewis Esq. Award for Exemplary Men of Color, delivers remarks.Graduates from the Class of 2018 were honored recently at Susquehanna University’s Umoja multicultural stoling ceremony.

Umoja, which is the Swahili word for unity, is a pre-commencement ceremony that has become an annual spring tradition at Susquehanna. The theme of the ceremony was Still I Rise, the famous poem by Maya Angelou.

“When I started Umoja here three years ago, we wanted to have a time to send you off as a community because what we know is that it took a village to get you here,” Stacey Pearson-Wharton, dean of health and wellness at Susquehanna and director of the counseling center, told that group of graduates. “We are here today because you rose, you’re still rising and you will continue to rise.”

Each graduating student of color was given a stole made of Kente cloth, a fabric native to the Ashanti region of Ghana.

Remarks were offered by William A. Lewis ’68, the first African-American graduate of Susquehanna University and emeritus member of the Board of Trustees.

Lewis encouraged the graduates to persevere.

“Take life’s challenges head-on,” Lewis said. “Take the fine SU education you’ve gotten and do something meaningful with it. Make the world a better place and make SU proud.”

Remarks were also delivered by seniors Tajinnea J. Wilson, of Philadelphia, Pa.; James Norman, of Bronx, N.Y.; and Gabriele Marrero, of Reading, Pa.

“We host this event to … acknowledge the distinct challenges you have encountered and the significant victories you have won as you have navigated a playing field that sadly remains uneven,” said university President Jonathan D. Green. “Today is an opportunity for us to celebrate how you have helped all of us become better as we work to ‘raise up every valley [and] make mountains and valleys low.’ This is what we are called to do as citizen leaders.”

The stoling ceremony was sponsored jointly by the Division of Student Life, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Alumni, Parent and Donor Engagement.