A jubilant crowd heard Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. announce recently that President Barack Obama will be the speaker for the college’s 129th Commencement in May.
Wilson surprised the nearly 2,000 guests at the college’s largest scholarship fundraiser, the 25th Annual “A Candle in the Dark” Gala with the news, bringing the students, alumni, faculty and friends to their feet in excitement.
“The president’s life story trumpets an ethic that we try to instill in all Morehouse Men, namely excellence without apology or compromise,” Wilson said. “It’s a good thing to have him here for that reason.”
A White House official noted that Morehouse was chosen because it is one of the nation’s leading historically Black colleges and universities and is among the best and brightest institutions of higher education in the country.
The official also said that Morehouse is known for its high standard for excellence in learning and social consciousness and is home to a long list of notable alumni that spans the last three centuries.
Morehouse’s commencement ceremony is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 19. More details will be forthcoming.
It was a night of big announcements as The Ray Charles Foundation also presented Morehouse $3 million in honor of the legendary musician Ray Charles’ mother, Aretha Robinson, for the College’s Music Academic Building. The building is connected to the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center, which was built after a previous gift from Charles.
“Ray Charles cherished his mother,” said Valerie Ervin, president of The Ray Charles Foundation. “I know that Ray Charles had a long-standing relationship with Morehouse based on professionalism, integrity and honesty and that those qualities were very important to him, personally and professionally. He genuinely valued the education and preparation that Morehouse provides to young men.”
Ervin noted that the relationship between Charles and Morehouse began several years ago when he was invited to Atlanta to perform with the college’s jazz ensemble.
Ray Charles’ friend and former Morehouse Trustee Bill Cosby opened that performance, but it was his long-time manager, Joe Adams, who introduced Charles to Morehouse, Ervin said. Adams was an avid contributor to Morehouse, having given a personal gift in support of the construction of the performing arts center, now named for Charles.
In 2001, the musician received an honorary degree from Morehouse; later that year he made two $1 million gifts to the school.
(Photo: Flanked by students, as well as actor Dennis Haysbert (second from right), and Robert Davidson, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College, Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. announces that President Barack Obama will deliver the college’s 2013 commencement address.)