FVSU fall 2019 graduates urged to be resilient and willing to take risks when pursuing future goals

by Pamela Berry-Johnson

Posted on Dec 14, 2019

Fort Valley State University graduates were urged to be change agents and leaders at the 9:30 a.m. commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at the Health and Education Complex.

Microsoft executive Fred Humphries, the keynote speaker, told the 239 graduates they should have a spirit of resilience in how they deal with uncertainty and be willing to take risks as they go forward in life beyond Fort Valley State.

"You have just completed an important chapter of your life," said Humphries, corporate vice president of the U.S. Government Affairs for Microsoft and one of the highest-ranking African-American executives at the trillion-dollar tech company. "At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. It is similar to the motto of Fort Valley State – empower the possible. That really resonated with me."

FVSU President Paul Jones congratulated the graduates and told them that Saturday was the day they could say goodbye to any doubts on whether or not they were prepared for the world.

"The faculty seated before you are some of the best in the world and they have poured into you, trained you, nurtured and ensured that the vigorous education you have received would rival that of any institution of higher learning in the country," Jones said. "And while they may have provided your education in non-traditional ways, using technology, innovation and creativity, they instilled in you all the information, skills and confidence you'll need to be successful. Now that you have been equipped, it is time for you to put those tools and experiences to good use because the world is depending on you."

FVSU's fall 2019 graduating class included:

  • Thirty-nine students from the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology
  • One-hundred-forty-one graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Four from the College of Education and Professional Studies

Fifty-five students received their graduate degrees and one ROTC cadet was commissioned.

During Saturday's ceremony, Cherryl Wiliams-Smith was recognized as the oldest undergraduate to complete her degree. The 53-year-old started her educational journey 26 years ago. As she pursued her online psychology degree, the teacher's aide with the Phoenix City Public Schools also raised two children and served in the U.S. Army.

"This is really a special time for me," Williams-Smith said. "I officially started college in 1993. In the course of these 26 years, I raised two kids as a single parent. I had to be a responsible parent and my kids were always the top priority. I took classes when life permitted, but I never gave up. It is only by the grace and mercies of God that I'm able to accomplish this milestone, Williams-Smith said.

To view the fall 2019 commencement ceremony online, visit

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