On Feb. 15 Dillard University celebrated 135 years of academic excellence with its annual Honors Convocation. Each year Dillard University recognizes students with high academic achievement in a ceremony that both encourages and honors. Honors Convocation marks the beginning of graduation exercises and is a collaboration of several Dillard faculty and staff members.
Students who achieved the GPA of 3.44 or better were honored as Academic Scholars, and those with a GPA between 3.00 and 3.44 were put on the Honor Roll. University Scholars, Presidential Scholars, and members of Honors Societies were honored as well. The graduating class of 2005 was also in attendance to be honored as their time here at Dillard comes to an end.
This year the keynote speaker was Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole. She is currently the president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. Cole came to Bennett after serving as Spelman University’s first female president. This makes Dr. Cole the only person to have presided over the only two historically black colleges for women.
Cole first congratulated every student honored in the chapel by asking them to hug themselves, her way of hugging each of them; letting them know that she was truly proud of them. In her speech she challenged Dillard students to know themselves and to know their history, in classic "you do not know where you are going if you do not know where you have been," fashion.
She had a special message for the women and she told them that they could go anywhere. "I do agree when they say a woman’s place is in the house…and in the Senate too," said Cole. She even ventured to speculate that soon a woman will find her way into the biggest house of all.
"She was very powerful and moving," said graduating senior Markeeta Redmon about Dr. Cole’s words to the Dillard students.
Dr. Cole also facilitated a book chat on her book Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African-American Communities, which she co-wrote with Dillard trustee Beverly Guy-Sheftall. During the book chat students, faculty and staff were able to enter into a dialogue with Dr. Cole and ask her opinion on different gender issues. She shared her take on Black feminism, feminism in general and even touched on the Spelman women demonstration against Nelly when he wanted to come to their campus for a sponsored bone marrow drive to which she stated her pride in the women of Spelman.
"I was glad that Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole was chosen to be the keynote speaker because of her accomplishments at Spelman and she shared some valuable information with us," said junior Amber Scott from Los Angles. "For example, I had no idea that one in every four African-American males have been involved in the criminal justice system. Dr. Cole was very inspirational as well as informative."