LSU Honors A.P. Tureaud Jr. During 15th Annual Robing Ceremony
BATON ROUGE – More than 350 students, faculty, staff, administrators, family and community members attended the 15th annual LSU African-American Cultural Center Robing Ceremony on Thursday, May 19, in the Bo Campbell Auditorium at the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes.
The Robing Ceremony honors and celebrates African and African-American students who have successfully completed their college careers and will receive an undergraduate or graduate degree at LSU. The Robing Ceremony, which resembles traditional African ceremonies, is held at the end of each spring semester.
At the ceremony, degree candidates receive the traditional African Kente stole, woven in LSU colors, to signify the completion of their academic journey. Parents, faculty members or significant persons to the graduate participate in the ceremony by robing the students using the stole.
"The Robing Ceremony is so special for many because it's a unique celebration for not only the graduate, but the family, the faculty and the staff," said Niya Blair, coordinator of the African-American Cultural Center. "Everyone who has helped the graduate in some way feels like they are a part of the honor, just as much as the graduate. It is a community celebration."
This year's Robing Ceremony included a special tribute to A. P. Tureaud Jr., LSU's first African-American undergraduate student, who received an honorary degree from the university during the spring commencement ceremony. Tureaud integrated the undergraduate ranks in 1953, but spent less than a semester on campus before a court ordered him to leave the university. He transferred to Xavier University in New Orleans to complete his degree and spent the past 38 years as a professional educator in White Plains, N.Y.
The tribute began with a poem, titled "For You," by junior Charlaya Washington. Chaunda Allen, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Cerise Edmonds, coordinator for cross-cultural affairs, presented Tureaud with a SpringFest polo, picture and a special lanyard designed specifically for him to celebrate the student experience he did not get to have during his time at LSU.
The SpringFest Minority Recruitment Weekend is a time when minority, high-achieving juniors visit LSU for a weekend to learn more about the university and capture the LSU student experience. Allen explained that SpringFest consists of five different groups named after influential LSU alumni and that one of the teams is named after Tureaud.
Tureaud discussed what an honor it was to be receiving an honorary degree from LSU and how happy he was to be participating in the Robing Ceremony. He also thanked LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences Dean Gaines Foster, whose nomination made it possible for Tureaud to receive the degree.
The tribute concluded with the declaration of May 19 as A.P. Tureaud Jr. Day in East Baton Rouge Parish by Mayor-President Kip Holden, an LSU alumnus, and with Tureaud being named honorary mayor-president of Baton Rouge.
Sonja Wiley-Patton was the keynote speaker and gave the graduate charge and community response. She encouraged students to commit their "time, talents and treasures" to do their part to change the world, and to be an example that future alumni can follow. She concluded with lyrics from gospel artist Canton Jones' song "Window."
"I see a window over your head, and it's pouring out blessings. You've been in a season of difficult lessons, trying to do your best in this economic depression," Wiley-Patton said, quoting Jones. "As long as you try, you will survive; your friends and family cannot help you. And even in your struggle, they need help too. You'll be OK, I just want to say that I see a window over your head and it's pouring out blessings."
Collin Miller, a University Medalist, spoke on behalf of the class of 2011. As a University Medalist, Miller was honored as one of 50 spring graduates with the highest undergraduate grade-point averages in LSU's 274th commencement class.
In addition, this year's Robing Ceremony celebrated its 15th anniversary with a special acknowledgment of Gwendolyn Snearl, who, along with Tayarikwa Salaam, created the ceremony in 1996.
"Gwen and Tayarikwa Salaam forever changed the way we here at LSU celebrate African and African-American achievement," said Blair.
The Robing Ceremony was sponsored by the African-American Cultural Center; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach; and the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes.
For more information on the Robing Ceremony or the African-American Cultural Center, contact Blair at 225-578-1627.