Bowie State University’s graduation ceremony on May 20 at Bulldog Stadium in Bowie, Md., had plenty of happy graduates eager to move on with their lives, still under the watchful but approving eyes of their parents and relatives.
“My son Chase had a lot of issues to deal with while in college,” said Walter R. Kirkland, founding president of the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County and CEO of his own firm, Kirkland Global Consulting Group.
“He had to deal with a divorce in the family and financial challenges like finding money to pay for expenses,” Kirkland said. “He also attended several colleges in pursuit of his degree. But he stuck it out and I am proud of him. When he graduated, so did I.”
Chase Kirkland, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, joined 684 other students who received their diplomas in their respective fields of study.
The breakdown of degrees includes 537 bachelor’s, 147 master’s and one doctorate.
Bowie State University President Dr. Aminta H. Breaux presided over the ceremony and shared that the institution recently received recognition from U.S. News and World Report magazine as a top 25 historically Black college and university (HBCU).
Jacqueline McWilliams Parker, commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, delivered the commencement address.
“You are a class of game-changers and transformers and resilient and courageous individuals,” she said. “You are built to dream.”
Family Makes the Difference for Students’ Success
Chase Kirkland agreed with his father that his journey to graduation had its pitfalls. He credits his father and his mother, Robin Tyson, for keeping him focused on getting his degree.
“I became an adult through this process and while it was a long journey I never gave up,” said the new graduate who will soon begin his career in sales with the Hershey Company in Derry Township, Pa.
Family also made the difference for Clarevonte Williams who received a Master of Public Administration during Friday’s ceremony. His family, besides being his greatest cheerleaders, provided essential support as Williams juggled an arduous schedule and tasks: fulfilling the requirements toward his degree, working in support of members of the Maryland General Assembly and managing his own company, Chesapeake Seafood Sauce LLC, based in Fort Washington, Md.
“My family stuck by me and helped me along when I needed it,” he said. “I didn’t have to worry about anything because they had my back the whole time. I went to a historically Black university for my undergraduate studies, Morgan State University, and I wanted to continue the legacy. I’ve earned a terrific degree here at Bowie State which represents one of the nation’s top HBCUs that offers a graduate degree in public administration.”
Williams said he plans to continue to develop his business and someday work in the venture capital field.
“I want to help small and Black-owned businesses get the capital they need to operate and grow,” he said.
Jordan R. Beslow wants to also enter the business world, utilizing his Bachelor of Science in sports management on the road to becoming a sports agent.
His father, Archie Beslow, once coached the junior varsity football team at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast. He also served with the District’s Metropolitan Police Department, prior to his retirement, as a member of the executive protection unit, providing safety for D.C. Mayors Marion S. Barry, Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, Vincent C. Gray and Muriel Bowser.
He beamed when talking about his son’s graduation.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that Jordan would succeed because he is an independent thinker and is determined to get things done,” the senior Beslow said. “He wants to make me and his mom [Tammy Beslow] proud and he has certainly done that.”
Jordan counts as the youngest of four sons who have all graduated from Black universities.
“I am glad I attended an HBCU,” he said. “I don’t think I would have had the kind of positive experiences at a white university that I have had here. I have developed lifelong friendships and relationships.”
While the ceremony mainly had a serious tone, lighter moments occurred which had graduates and their families laughing and cheering. Several members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., chanted and stepped while on the stage to receive their degrees.
The audience applauded the graduates while Breaux stood back and smiled. Dorothy Anderson, a Delta, who received a Bachelor of Science in communications, performed for nearly a minute before being handed her diploma.
“I really wanted to celebrate what I accomplished and let off a lot of bottled-up steam,” she said.