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FRANKFORT — More than 100 Kentucky State University graduates crossed the stage Saturday, Dec. 16 during the fall commencement ceremony in David H. Bradford Hall.

Nurses, educators, business professionals, computer scientists, farmers and future leaders of all kinds now go forth from the University, ready for the next level of success.

Kentucky State conferred doctoral degrees for the first time in the institution’s 131-year history, as the first graduating class of Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students crossed the stage.

“It is an honor,” Jennifer Michelle Walker, a member of the first DNP class, said. “It is definitely time for a vacation. I am also looking forward to reading a non-academic nonfiction book.”

Civil rights leader and pioneering broadcasting executive Xernona Clayton, who received the Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree from Kentucky State, delivered the commencement address.

Dr. Clayton encouraged graduates to either lead, follow or get out of the way.

“You, graduates, can take your pride from Kentucky State, the leadership of this great man, and go out and continue to make the changes and build on the changes we’ve already tried to make,” Clayton said. “There’s still ignorance in our country. There’s a lot yet to do. I’m urging you to take the mantle of leadership and say, I’m going to either lead, follow or just get out of the way.”

Cory May, valedictorian for the class, addressed his classmates.

“You’re not done yet,” May said. “The knowledge you gained while wearing your green and gold will be your foundation.”

For some of the more than 100 graduates, they are the first in their family to earn a degree.

“Wife, mother of three, full-time employee, Jesus enthusiast, community advocate and now college graduate,” Amber Doss, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, said. “I never gave up on the dream of being a first-generation college student regardless of what life handed me and to finally be here and to walk across the stage and receive my degree is such a blessing.”

Doss’ family offered support and congratulations, as well.

“To see her hard work come to fruition, is one of our proudest moments as parents,” Steve and Debbie Gulley said. “We are so very proud of her reaching this major milestone in her life and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.”

The ceremony included the first graduating class of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Kentucky State. The six students are the first graduates from the only doctoral program at the University. The nursing department is also celebrating its 50th year at Kentucky State.

A posthumous degree was awarded to Diego Mardé Jones. His mother, Dr. Tonya McGee, accepted the degree and encouraged graduates to go forth and continue to stretch, echoing the words of Clayton, and promised she would continue to stretch, as well.

“Your hard work and dedication has resulted in you earning your degree today,” Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II said. “Always remember the lessons you learned here at Kentucky State University. You are equipped to do great things and be a productive member of society.”

President Brown gave each graduate their first $2 as “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays filled the Carl H. Smith Auditorium. Graduates reacted with laughter and excitement.

ABOUT KENTUCKY STATE UNIVERSITY

Kentucky State University, building on its legacy of achievement as a historically black, liberal arts, and 1890 Land Grant University affords access to and prepares a diverse population of traditional and non-traditional students through high-quality undergraduate and select graduate programs. Located in Kentucky, KSU offers associate (two-year) degrees in two disciplines, baccalaureate (four-year) degrees in 24 disciplines, master’s degrees in eight disciplines, and one advanced practice doctorate in nursing. KSU has 129 full-time instructional faculty members and more than 2,000 students.