Graduates are honored across Maryland

May 22, 1994|By Frank Langfitt and Darren M. Allen | Frank Langfitt and Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writers

William James Cunningham walked onto the Baltimore Arena's stage yesterday before several thousand people, accepted his diploma and then leapt into his father's arms.

After six years and two majors at Loyola College, Mr. Cunningham had finally graduated with the help of his father, Francis, a philosophy professor and assistant provost at the school.

"It's been a long time coming," said the senior, who hopes to teach math or work in the Peace Corps.

Mr. Cunningham joined more than 2,400 men and women around Maryland yesterday in celebrating years of work on their final day as college undergraduate or graduate students. Cheered on by family and friends, college seniors at Loyola, Baltimore City Community College, Bowie State University and Western Maryland College said goodbye to their alma maters and to many friends.

Loyola had the most widely known speakers and honorees, but as in all college commencements, the primary focus was on the graduates. Many were traditional students in their 20s, but some had returned to school after years away to reach old goals.

Among the latter was Yvonne Daniels, 55, a single mother of nine children and grandmother of 18.

She decided two years ago, she said, that she "was going to make something" of herself after a lifetime of struggling to rear a family. Yesterday, along with almost 500 other students, Ms. Daniels graduated from Baltimore City Community College.

"I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it, and I did it," she said.

Ms. Daniels graduated with honors with a human services assistant associate's degree. She plans to work for the college's drug-counseling service this fall.

During yesterday's ceremonies, various professional, political and civic leaders offered inspirational words to students as they began the rest of their lives.

Speaking before Loyola's Class of 1994, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, urged the 792 graduates attending to serve others and to become more involved in the world.

"In the end, it will be the servants who will save us all," she said, quoting her husband, Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps' first director. During her speech, Mrs. Shriver also briefly mentioned her sister-in-law, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who died Thursday.

"She always reminded us that loyalty to one another was to be fiercely protected," she said. "I invite you to remember her with love."

Mrs. Shriver was joined yesterday by her husband and five grown children -- including television journalist Maria Shriver -- as Loyola granted the entire family honorary doctorates of humane letters.

Mr. and Mrs. Shriver, who live in Potomac, Montgomery County, helped launch a public-service center last year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County devoted to combating urban decay.

The Shriver Center brings together several programs, including the Choice mentoring program for inner-city youths, founded by their son, Mark, who lives in Bethesda and is running for a seat in the Maryland General Assembly.

At Baltimore City Community College, city businessman Harlow Fullwood Jr. stressed the importance of family, dignity and honesty in his keynote address at his alma mater.

"You are a part of what is to come," said Mr. Fullwood, an honors graduated of BCCC before going on to Virginia Union University, a brief stint with the Baltimore Colts and an 22-year career with the Baltimore Police Department. "Please, please never be ashamed of dirty work, as long as it is honest work."

In Westminster, Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon Benjamin S. Carson Sr., who came to prominence in 1987 while leading a team of surgeons in separating Siamese twins, spoke to Western Maryland College's some 500 graduates, advising them to "think big" and then outlining how that should be done.

And at Bowie State, U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, 7th District Democrat, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, addressed about 870 graduates at the school's new football stadium.

Grammy Award-winning singer Toni Braxton, a native of Severn, was also on the platform yesterday as her father, the Rev. Michael Conrad Braxton Jr., 46, received a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Ms. Braxton, who won two Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards this year, also received the President's Medal of Excellence. She is a few credits short of a music degree from the school.

THINK BIG

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson gave Western Maryland College graduates an acrostic yesterday to apply to their lives. "Think Big. Each of those letters means something special," he said, explaining:

* T is for talent, meaning intellectual talent.

* H is for honesty.

* I is for insight.

* N Nice, which cannot be overemphasized, and remember, if you are nice to people, once they get over their suspicion of why you are being nice, they will be nice to you.

* K is for knowledge, which makes us into more valuable people.

* B is for books, the best mechanism for obtaining knowledge.

* I In-depth learning, as opposed to superficial learning.

* G is most important and is for God. We live in a nation where

some people think it violates the separation of church and state to talk about God in public, and yet every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallets says "In God We Trust." Our Pledge of Allegiance says we are "One Nation Under God;" every courtroom . . . has written on the wall, "In God We Trust." If we will embrace those values that made us into a great nation, a caring and loving nation, we will establish this country as the greatest nation the world has ever known.

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