WASHINGTON (May 10, 2014) – Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Combs presented the commencement address at Howard University to more than 2,600 students on Saturday, May 10. During the ceremony, Howard conferred 105 doctoral degrees, the largest Ph.D. class in the University’s history. Combs gave an impassioned speech and led an energetic crowd in the famous Howard spirit chant, “HU, You Know.” He encouraged the graduates to be fearless, be decisive and fully embrace their inner power.
“Do you know how powerful you are?” Combs asked. “When you leave here today, go forth with the knowledge that you have the power to change the world. Embrace your power and turn your dreams into reality.”
Combs shared insights from both his time at Howard and his own personal experiences, stressing the support of his mother, the importance of believing in yourself and not being afraid to fail. He also credited his late father for inspiring his business acumen.
“I made a conscious effort to follow the entrepreneurial spirit of my father, the legal way,” said Combs. “I want you to take the craziest dream in your head – the dream that you're too embarrassed to tell anyone else about, and I want you to go after it.”
Combs received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities in recognition of his achievements as an entrepreneur and champion of education. He is chairman, chief executive officer and founder of Combs Enterprises, one of the world’s preeminent group of companies and brands.
Howard also granted honorary doctorate degrees to Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s lead political anchor; Clive Callender, M.D., Professor of Surgery at the Howard University College of Medicine and the first physician to perform a transplant at Howard University Hospital; Benny Golson, internationally renowned jazz legend; and Indra K. Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo.
Howard University Interim President Wayne A.I. Frederick pointed to the year’s record-breaking number of graduates from Howard Ph.D. programs as reason for special pride and optimism. He charged the graduates to frame their degrees with love, mentorship, service, compassion and philanthropy.
“You earn your degree not just to adorn your wall, but to change the world around you,” Frederick said. He asked graduates to, “Consider what you knew when you entered Howard’s gates and consider what you now know, what you now can do, and what you now are in a position to become in the next 20 or 30 years. That transformation is what this University is about.”
During the ceremony, Howard bestowed more than 950 graduate, professional and certificate degrees, 1,679 undergraduate degrees, and 105 PhDs. Howard University produces more on campus doctoral degrees among African Americans and people of color than any institution in the country.
Howard also welcomed the return of John Pinkard, a 1935 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who later earned a Master of Science degree in 1938 from Howard. In addition, graduates of the Class of 1939 – Hortense K. McClinton and Lydia Mussenden – celebrated their 75th anniversary of graduation from Howard.
Graduates come from 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia. The Class of 2014 also represents 33 countries on five continents. Members of the class have received a number of prestigious scholarships and fellowships, including the Luard-Morse Fellowship, and the Fulbright, Rangel, Woodrow Wilson and National Science Foundation fellowships.