Celebrating Resilience: Dr. Michael L. Lomax Honors Graduates at Benedict College and Shaw University

Benedict College and Shaw University recently celebrated their graduating classes in 2024 in vibrant commencement convocations. Both events were marked by the inspiring presence and speeches of Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF (United Negro College Fund). His words left a lasting impact on graduates, families and faculty alike, highlighting the remarkable achievements of these institutions and their students.

At Benedict College, which has seen an extraordinary 233% increase in graduation rates over the past five years, Dr. Lomax addressed over 320 graduates. “To you, I say, because of your nurturing and unconditional love, these distinguished student scholars have achieved their dreams of earning a college degree,” Dr. Lomax remarked. “They have done so because the Benedict community is strong and has weathered one of the nation’s most devastating periods in our history. The community is on full display tonight as we celebrate this esteemed and distinguished class of students.”

Similarly, Dr. Lomax delivered a powerful speech at Shaw University to another group of accomplished graduates. Reflecting on the role of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), he explained how these institutions have always punched above their weight. While making up only three percent of all colleges, HBCUs produce nearly 20 percent of all Black baccalaureates and 25 percent of all Black STEM graduates.

Dr. Lomax’s leadership at the UNCF has supported HBCUs nationwide. His unwavering commitment to educational excellence and equal opportunity has fortified the UNCF’s mission, fostering environments where students of color can thrive academically and personally.

Reflecting on the challenges Benedict and Shaw’s graduates faced, Dr. Lomax noted that the 2024 graduating class endured and triumphed over a global pandemic, economic uncertainties and social injustices.

“College life was clearly different these past four years,” Dr. Lomax said. “The education you have received is not merely a collection of facts and figures but a foundation of critical thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship, and you have learned that you are the creators of your life. You will create your best life.”

Dr. Lomax emphasized the transformative power of education and the critical role of HBCUs at both ceremonies. He noted that HBCUs are more than just educational institutions; they are communities where students receive the support and encouragement needed to excel.

Under Dr. Lomax’s guidance, the UNCF has championed initiatives that have significantly enhanced the educational experiences and outcomes at HBCUs, including Benedict College and Shaw University. His advocacy and strategic vision have enabled these institutions to navigate challenges and produce well-equipped graduates to make meaningful societal contributions.

He also highlighted the crucial role of HBCUs in the broader educational landscape and success, which is essential for the future of higher education and the nation.

Dr. Lomax’s presence and words added a profound sense of purpose and recognition to these events, reinforcing the importance of education in overcoming adversity.

The commencement convocations of 2024 at both Benedict College and Shaw University will be remembered not just for the impressive graduation statistics but also for the inspiring words of Dr. Michael L. Lomax, whose vision and leadership continue to propel HBCUs toward a brighter future.

Dr. Lomax received honorary doctorates from Benedict College, Shaw University and his alma mater, Morehouse College, this commencement season. At Morehouse, an official portrait of Dr. Lomax was unveiled. The picture hangs in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel, the world’s most prominent religious memorial honoring Morehouse alumnus. Displayed in the Morehouse International Hall of Honor, Dr. Lomax’s portrait is among 200 original oil portraits of distinguished leaders in the global, civil and human rights nonviolent movement.