The graduates ranged from Jaymee Smith, who completed her degree in four years to Maverick McKinney; a football player from the mid-1980s who joined the workforce and returned to complete his degree, culminating in tonight’s commencement.
No matter the time table, the pride remained the same. The culmination of baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees are celebrated in grand fashion at Florida A&M University.
With the Al Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium filled to capacity, family and friends came from far and near to wish the graduates well and to witness the historic moment. Jemal Gibson delivered a commencement address which personified the FAMU experience.
“When I came down here from Chicago, I didn’t have a plan. I had some friends who were coming down to go to school so I came too. You hear people say it all the time, but I came here with $40 in my pocket. Actually, $20 because I gave one of the guys $20 for bringing me down,” Gibson said. He held the audience captive as he detailed his family’s struggles with drug addiction, leading to untimely deaths.
He also told of how he was accepted to FAMU, though unprepared in advance of showing up. But for Richard Flamer, who broke normal protocol to help Gibson, he was given the opportunity to matriculate into what he felt was the only chance he had to excel in life.
Gibson is now one of the most successful pharmaceutical reps in the southeastern United States. He pledged $100,000 to FAMU during commencement and had previously notified the university that he has a $100,000 benefit in his life insurance policy.
Also mixed in the graduates were two former football players who attained masters degrees. Former linebacker Bobby Jackson earned his MBA, while former wide receiver Admasen Felix earned a masters degree in sport management.
The FAMU student-athletes who earned degrees were: Romario Chisolm (Football), Ryan Kopenski (Baseball), Keynote Cash (Football), Alexis Dean (Tennis), Timothy “TJ” Jones (Football), Montavius Williams (Football), Jaymee Smith (Track), Marcus Farlin (Football), Maverick McKinney (Football), Alonzo Palmer-Hicks (Football), Carson Royal (Football), Ronald Harris II (Football), Ashley Giacomucci (Track), Admasen Felix (Football), Kevin Parker (Golf), Tyson Holloway (Football), Bobby Jackson (Football), Chelsea Costin (Cheerleading), and Delysia Davis (Track).