Keys to Success Focus of Commencement Speaker’s Address

By Hazel Scott

With hundreds of degree candidates, participants and guests in attendance, Alabama State University’s  2023 Spring Commencement on Friday, May 5, at ASU Stadium was an unforgettable,  grand-scale celebration that appropriately marked the academic achievements of the University’s graduates.

During the ceremony, The Golden Class of 1973 was honored and a cadet was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

The University held two formal, in-person graduation ceremonies, one at 8:45 a.m. and the other at 1:45 p.m.

The featured speaker for both ceremonies was Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black college community.

“I’m excited to celebrate you. You all have earned the right to be here today,” said Williams.

He used this time-honored celebration to share seven powerful keys to success, keys that his grandmother, who had a second-grade education, gave him as an undergraduate student.

–Hold onto your faith: “Never let anything come between you and your faith. Your faith will withstand anything. I know you have had some difficult days wondering whether you will make it here. But you are here. It’s that faith that put you in this spot. Never let anything rock your faith.”

–Hold on to your family: “Never get too big where you can’t call home because your family is all you’ve got… You are going to be successful, and you are going  to have a lot of opportunities…a lot  of people celebrating you but hold onto your  family because they will always be there cheering  for you, happy for you and not be judgmental …That’s going to move you forward.”

–Give it everything you’ve got: “When you go to school and you are moving forward, give it everything you got. Come in every single day focused with that unrelenting  passion and that’s what’s going to move you and motivate you to get up in the morning. So, be bold, passionate and committed and you will achieve  excellence.”

–Set bold, strong, arduous goals: “Set them high, really  high. One man, Thurgood Marshall, changed the world and you can do the same by being bold, being confident. Getting a degree from  Alabama State  University is key to allowing you to walk with that confidence and boldness. When you do that,  that’s focus and that’s  excellence.”

–Always be humble: “Never get too big  in your success where you are unapproachable…When you are humble, you  get more than you ever will imagine.”

–Give of yourself: “There is nothing more powerful than helping someone else and bringing them along. That’s  a responsibility that you have when you achieve higher achievements than others.”

–Grab opportunities: “When opportunities come your way, be prepared to say yes. Don’t hesitate to say yes, because when you do, you might miss a great opportunity.”

–Always stay positive: “Always smile and be upbeat and… I guarantee you that people will want to be around you, connect with you and want you to be on their team.”


Entering ASU stadium, the Spring Class of 2023 was welcomed with thunderous applause as they processed to their seats facing the stage; Some sat quietly while others vigorously waved to parents and friends in the audience. Their joy in celebrating this phase of their educational journey was evident. Large video screens captured screams, smiles and more waves as the graduates prepared to receive their diplomas and embark on the next chapter of their lives.

Over the two ceremonies, the University conferred 362  degrees: 288 undergraduate and 74 graduate.

Before taking their long-awaited walk, the spring graduates watched the Class of  1973 take the Stadium stage for their historic moment as President Quinton T. Ross, Jr. presented their Golden diplomas. The Golden Class presented the University with a check of  $250,510, the largest gift from a Golden Class in recent history,  on Thursday, May 4, during their Spring 2023 Commencement Reunion Brunch to support scholarships and Strategic Initiatives of the  University.

Ross told the excited graduates that they are the next generation of game-changers.

“Graduates your degrees signify your accomplishments. I charge you to seize every opportunity to rise to higher and higher levels of professional and personal success,” Ross said.

The ASU Commencement ceremonies were live-streamed on the University’s YouTube channel.