150th (2020) Annual Commencement

149th Annual Commencement - May 12, 2019 - Image of students in graduation garb facing away from the camera.

President's Letter to Graduating Seniors May 8, 2020

May 8, 2020

Dear Hampton University Class of 2020: 

If our circumstances and lives were following a normal pattern, you would be here on campus just days away from graduation. You would be celebrating, attending parties and banquets, memorializing your time here in pictures, reminiscing with friends, and awaiting the arrival of your family members and friends, all in preparation of Hampton University’s 150th Commencement ceremony.  It saddens me that our nation and the world are navigating new circumstances that do not allow for normalcy, circumstances that have placed one of the most important days of your lives on hold.

I want you to know that we miss you.  We miss seeing you around campus.  We miss seeing you taking pictures in caps and gowns at the entrance to the campus.  We miss celebrating with you and your parents at the Senior Banquet. I miss presenting the W. Adrian Freeman Award at the banquet.  This year’s recipient is Ashanti Sallee who will be pursuing the Ph. D. in Materials Science and Nano-engineering. I miss presenting the President’s Cup Award in person at Ogden Hall.  By the way, I gave the President’s Cup to all five finalists this year. They were James Griffin, Morgan Martin, LaShai McCullough, Rachel Sutton and Briana Wills. Congratulations to all of the award recipients.  Perhaps most of all, we will miss seeing your wonderful smiling faces at our Commencement Exercises on Mother’s Day. 

The University plans to honor your achievements during a graduation ceremony in the fall.  If conditions permit, the ceremony will be held Sunday, September 27, 2020.  Although the ceremony will be delayed, the completion of your degrees will not.  Many of you will be moving on to graduate school and jobs.  As your President, I celebrate your accomplishments.  Before you enter this next phase, allow me to share with you some words of wisdom. 

As you depart Hampton University, I challenge you, each in your own way, to allow your academic experiences at Hampton to serve as the foundation upon which you build productive careers.  Allow your social interactions with faculty, staff, administrators, and your fellow students to guide you as you interact with individuals in the workplace and in society, and allow the University’s commitment to you to be a model for your commitment back to yourself, your family, your community, and your alma mater. 

It is my desire for you to live richly, satisfying personal lives filled with love and laughter, to find ways to make your community a better place for yourselves and your neighbors, to grow and to continue learning for the rest of your lives.  Remember that you are conquerors, and you have the courage and the strength to overcome every obstacle set before you. 

Graduates, each of you has successfully completed multiple years of rigorous training and skill development to earn your degree.  You have proven your readiness for success.  You have done well.  Now, you have a different job to do, for the greatest things have not been done.  The greatest picture has not been painted.  The greatest book has not been written.  The greatest song is yet unsung.  There is a job for you, graduating Class of 2020, in every occupation known to man.  It is your responsibility to make something happen!           

My charge to you is to see the horizon not as a limit, but as an invitation.  The torch has been passed to you with the expectation that you will hold it higher and carry it farther than those who walked before you.  My solemn hope and greatest wish, as you depart our Home by the Sea, is that you do for the world what your alma mater has done for you— impart knowledge, share your wisdom, nurture and guide, and maintain the highest ethical standards in all that you do.  Be true to yourselves and hone that truth in others. 

I urge you to do several other things: (1) Pay yourself first, saving something from every paycheck; and (2) Buy some property—it appreciates.  That new car will not; it will depreciate.  (3) Stay away from drugs and drug dealers.  If they do not destroy your life, they will certainly make it miserable. As I said earlier – Do not be common. Do not be ordinary. Anybody can be those things. 

Remember always to support your alma mater—with your resources, with positive words, and with your prayers.  I want you to say to yourselves—“I will always support Hampton.  I will support Hampton with my words, my deeds, and my treasure.”  As you leave our Home by the Sea, remember that you are responsible for sustaining the legacy of the Hampton Empire.  So, I now charge you – members of Onyx XI Class of 2020— 

  • Be positive role models
  • Be men and women who are trusted and always speak truth
  • Be leaders in your respective fields
  • Be men and women who value integrity, respect, responsible behavior and trust.
  • In other words, be somebody! 

I congratulate you on what you have already achieved, and I rejoice, for I truly believe that the world will be made better because of the Hampton University Class of 2020. The world is waiting for you.  Serve it and Hampton well.  Be safe. Be strong. Be positive.           


With all good wishes, 

William R. Harvey