The 129th Commencement of Philander Smith College

Little Rock, Ark. (May 8, 2017) ---  Philander Smith College awarded nearly 110 degrees during its 129th Commencement Ceremony at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock on Saturday, May 6.

The 2017 Commencement speaker was Roland S. Martin, a nationally-recognized journalist, author and political commentator. Martin is host of a one-hour weekday morning news show, News One Now which airs on the TV One network. The long-time CNN contributor and nationally syndicated columnist, named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2013, had a thought-provoking theme for his address: “Don’t just be present, but have a presence.” The Houston, Texas-native challenged the Class of 2017 to not just go through life showing up, but to make a difference.

Philander Smith also presented honorary degrees to three distinguished individuals: automobile scion Major General (Retired) Harold Gwatney; Rush Harding III, CEO of Crews & Associates and First Security Finance; and Bishop Felton May (posthumously), well-respected United Methodist Church leader and former dean of the PSC Kendall Science and Health Mission Center, who passed away in February 2017 at the age of 81. Both Gwatney and Harding are former members of the PSC Board of Trustees.   

Additionally, PSC President Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., presented the Ozell Sutton Medal of Justice to two outstanding advocates for social justice: Former United States Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a 1952 Philander Smith alumna whose medical career has been dedicated to closing gaps in healthcare disparities; and Commencement speaker Roland S. Martin, who has used the media as a platform to push for justice and equality for marginalized communities. Since its inception in 2009, the Sutton medal has been given to outstanding individuals whose actions have helped to create a more just society.    

And for the fourth year, the PSC National National Alumni Association awarded its Senior of the Year designation. Aleah B. Randolph, of St. Louis, Mo., was the 2017 recipient. Randolph graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor of arts in psychology.

Founded in 1877, Philander Smith College is proudly celebrating 140 years of providing educational excellence as a historically black, private college affiliated with the United Methodist Church.