North Carolina Central University (NCCU) awarded approximately 490 graduate and professional diplomas – including the university’s first Ph.D. degrees in over more than 50 years – during its 129th Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 12, 2017.
NCCU Interim Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye recognized the three doctoral graduates during the ceremony at McDougald-McLendon Arena.
“The three young ladies who have earned the Ph.D. degree in Integrated Biosciences are the epitome of strength, tenacity and Eagle Excellence,” Akinleye said.
The graduates, Elena Arthur, Rasheena Edmondson and Helen Oladapo, were in the first cohort of students to enter the doctoral program when it was created 2012. The program has two tracks, Integrated Biosciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Arthur’s graduate studies focused on alternative treatments for diabetes, while Edmondson and Oladapo both conducted cancer research. The doctoral program is geared toward the investigation of conditions that disproportionately affect people of color.
Also awarded were master’s degrees in Arts, Music, Science, Public Administration, Social Work, Business Administration, Arts in Teaching, School Administration, Information Science, Library Science and Juris Doctor.
North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Mike Morgan, an NCCU alumnus, urged graduates never to forget the past or the people who helped them along the way.
“Class of 2017, when you begin to become overwhelmed, remember who you are, and remember the list of people who got you here,” Morgan said. “Remember your series of successes, that ladder that you climbed… that destiny you are fulfilling, and remember that North Carolina Central University has prepared you magnificently to go out and conquer this world.”
Morgan recalled his own graduation from NCCU School of Law in 1979, when he was told that the world didn’t need any more lawyers. However, the warning fell on deaf ears.
“Don’t worry about who else is out there,” he urged the graduates. “There’s always room for one more good one.”
Morgan worked as an associate district attorney for the N.C. Department of Justice and as an administrative law judge before being appointed by N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt Jr. in 1994 to the District Court in Wake County. He was elected in 2005 to the Wake County Superior Court bench. In 2016, he won popular election to the North Carolina Supreme Court, becoming the first African-American to win that post without first being appointed by a governor.
NCCU’s previous doctoral program was in the School of Education and operated from 1951 to 1962. Dr. Walter Brown, the first to earn a Ph.D. from that program, was in the audience for the Graduate and Professional Commencement.