Welcome Remarks and Message from the Dean of Liberia College (College of Social Sciences and Humanities),Prof. Dr. Josephus Moses Gray, BA, MA, Ph.D., during the 101st Commencement Convocation program held on February 22, 2021 at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia. Honorable Matthew Gee Zarzar, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia; Prof. Dr. Julius S. Nelson, Jr., President of the University of Liberia; Prof. Dr. Moses M. Zinnah, Vice President for Academic Affairs of UL; Prof. Dr. Jonathan C. Taylor, Vice President for Graduate Education; Members of the Faculty Senate and Academic Coordinating Committee; Vice Presidents and Associate Vice Presidents of the University of Liberia; Madam Kula Fofafa, Commencement Speaker; Dr. Cecelia Cassell , Dean of the William V. S. Tubman College of Education; Dr. John Sellu, Dean of the David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational College; Deans and Academic Directors of the University of Liberia; Chairpersons, Faculty and Staff of University of Liberia; platform Guests, Distinguished graduating Class; Family members and friends; Ladies and Gentlemen.
My most important duty on this special day is to offer a warm welcome to our guests, family members, graduating class and distinguished colleagues. It is therefore my very profound pleasure to welcome you all to the 101st Commencement Convocation of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, the William V. S. Tubman College of Education and the David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational College of the University of Liberia.
With Professor, Dr. Julius S. Nelson, Jr., President of the nation’s premier university, I extend my sincere congratulations to all the 438 candidates who will receive degrees today from the Liberia College (the College of Social Sciences and Humanities). Off the candidates, 11 in English language, 5 in French studies,12 in Geography, two in history, 48 in Mass Communication, 14 in Political Science, 275 in Sociology, 19 in Social Work and 52 in Demography. A special thanks to the Almighty god for His bountiful blessings. I also acknowledged the different kinds of support that have helped you along the way. Thanks all the families and friends with us today, and to those who could not be here physically and are following the ceremony, or thinking of the graduates as they celebrate this historic moment.
Many of you have made huge efforts to join us today. We are deeply appreciative and offer you our most grateful welcome. Today, I stand before you not only as your Dean. But also as someone who, 21 years ago, was part of such a fantastic and auspicious occasion. I would also like to thank all of the staffs who have worked tirelessly throughout this year to help all of us, and who have worked especially hard to make this graduation special for you all. They are the heart and soul of this place, and are committed to our mission of improving education as for all.
Last but not the least, I would also like to thank the faculty members who have served as teachers and colleagues as well as mentors and friends. I’m graciously delighted to give special thanks to the Dean of William V. S. Tubman College of Education, Dr. Cecelia Cassell, and the Dean of David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational College, Dr. John Sellu.
A special thanks to the Chairpersons of the three Colleges. You are the well-grounded pillars of this great institution, and indeed, the true giants in the Field of Human Development. We are here today to celebrate your remarkable achievements, as you join those first Seven (7) graduates in the great historical line that honors your accomplishments, as well as the momentous legacy of the founding fathers of this republic who established this important institution of higher learning. Distinguished graduates please pause a little while you take a moment to acknowledge all those who supported you, near and far, including your parents, family members, loved one, friends, classmates, and the faculty. Would you please stand also, that we can acknowledge you, and show our gratitude to you? Thank you. Please have your seats. Also would the faculty stand so the graduates can acknowledge your efforts and pay their respect in recognition of your exceptional teaching. Thank you. Please be seated.
Today, we’re celebrating accomplishments of over 697 graduates from the three colleges of which 438 are from the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, 208 from the William V. S. Tubman College of Education and 51 from David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational College. The impact of today’s commencement is being felt across the 15 political subdivisions of Liberia as shown by the geographical representations of the graduates.
We who teach in the Faculty of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, William V. S. Tubman College of Education and David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational College are committed to providing our students with the best possible education to prepare them for their future careers in Social Sciences and Humanities disciplines. To meet the needs of both our students and future employers, the members of the faculty are constantly thinking about not only what they teach but also how they teach. Students are given the appropriate practical lessons to enhance their understanding through empirical learning. Our students are prepared in a way that they are practically grounded and able to work effectively, and think critically as and they relate to others.
Mr. president and members of the trustees, kindly permit me to share with you all some historical accounts of this great institution, the first group of students was seven. These students were tested in Greek, Latin and Mathematics, and successfully made it to enroll at this noble institution. I can proudly say the 101st graduating Class will be highlighted in the pages of history for being the “first’’ ,after a century of the University of Liberia’s, and the first group of students to experience eLearning at the university. 168 years ago, On February 4, 1862, the 168 years ago, Liberia College opened its doors to academic activities. It was established by the Liberian Government barely fifteen (15) years after the Independence of the Republic of Liberia. The College is historically the fourth oldest College on the African continent, the second oldest institution of higher learning in West Africa and the oldest in the Republic of Liberia dating far back to centuries ago.
Today, Liberia prides itself in having one of the oldest learning institutions not only on the African continent but also in the world. Without doubt, our past visionary leaders and presidents, from the First President of this noble institution of learning, His Excellency President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, to the 15th and current President, Rev. Prof. Dr. Julius S. J. Nelson, Jr., have worked assiduously hard attended by the experience of sleepless nights to build this great institution so that it is able to address the numerous academic challenges confronting the nation, and widen students’ understanding of issues of global concern as well as enable them make critical decision and act independently.
In 1951, Liberia College and the William V. S. Tubman Teachers’ College, now College of Education, merged to form the University of Liberia through the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL), based in the United States of America. While the David A. Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational College was established about eleven years ago. Since their establishment, these three colleges have contributed immensely to human development, especially in the field of quality education and academic excellence, creative thinking and research in which all scholarly works are cherished and promoted.
Presently, there are fifteen (15) academic departments in Liberia College, nine (9) of which confer undergraduate Bachelor’s degrees in several academic disciplines. The Departments of Physical Education and Sports, and History are the oldest established units in the college, they were established in 1862. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology remains our breadbasket, as it has led in the number of graduates for at least the last four years. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology is followed by the Department of Communication and Media Studies, as the second-highest producer of graduates. In the third and fourth positions are the Institutes of Population Studies, and Department of Political Science. Other degrees granting units include the Departments of History, Geography, French Studies, English and Literature, and Social Work, the newest established Bachelor’s degree program.
The Social Work unit came into existence as a result of a partnership with Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia, the United States of America (USA). The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies in the 2020/2021 academic year will begin the process of conferring Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies. The non-degree granting units include Physical Education and Sports, Liberian Languages, Social Science, Arts and Crafts and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The College is the largest in terms of departments, students’ enrollment, workforce and faculties.
My distinguished graduates let me try to offer you a few thoughts as you start the next chapter of your journey. These are three “special golden rules to follow and observe”. I have tried to observe these three wonderful rules and want to share them with you: One, always build on what is best in yourself, and continue to examine who you are and what your interests are. Respect those things. Remember the people and the values that helped shape your lives. Two, always look for what is best in others.
Before his death about 21 years ago, my father, Abraham K. Gray, a former Kru Governor, reminded me that life is less trouble if you spend it lifting people up, not putting people down. Therefore, I challenge you to help others to learn and develop when you can. You are here today celebrating because our faculty commitment to education and human development. Three, always, and always do your best in whatever you attempt. Never say I am unable to do this—keep trying, if possible, Believe in yourself; Take reasonable risks with caution. It’s never too late to do something if you are really committed to it. But make the effort to do it well. We are on this stage today because we have worked hard. You are here today to receive your degrees because you worked harder.
My father used to say ‘the harder I work, the greater my chances’. Again keep in mind that this world is a stage; We are all actors, we have our own entrances and exits on the stage, and want you to keep peace with yourself; above all try to be happy and always be yourselves. Keep in mind that you will be judged by the intellectual community based on your opinions on issues and your interpretations of critical situations. I urge you to be responsible fact-checkers, open-minded scholars, and most of all, persistent truth-tellers. Use your education to help develop your community, to contribute positively to society’s advancement and to empower your compatriots. Above all, contribute to new knowledge and innovations, be an example of life, not darkness. Serve as promoters of unity, rectitude and love, not a pillar of division and disunity.
While for moments of your life you may be master of your own destiny, life may call you to rise to an occasion, or wake you up to what is really important. For me, when my father died 21 years ago, my equation changed. My father’s death made me realize how precious each second is on this earth. Will you be receptive to what the circumstances of life may be asking you? I believe that inside each of you is a hero awaiting the call to action. Be open to the call. Listen to the small voice inside of you.
To our graduates; You have demonstrated to us that you have overcome borders, and broke through and increasingly re-defined them; and indeed, demonstrating that you are individuals committed to each other, to social change and to the Liberian Society. You are always connected, and you use that connectivity to change things for the better, keeping in mind that you are basically a part of the global community. Today is a moment to reflect on how you spent your time here as the world has changed around us. I urged you to use your education to help develop your community of residence, to contribute positively to Liberia’s advancement and to empower your compatriots.
Keep in mind that you will be judged by the intellectual community based on your opinions on issues and your interpretations of critical situations. I urge you to be responsible fact-checkers, open-minded scholars, and most of all, persistent truth-tellers. Today is a day to acknowledge and celebrate your commitment to advance the causes and the knowledge that matter most in this time. Some of you have braved illnesses and other personal challenges and losses. Today, we also remember those who are not here to graduate or to celebrate your achievements with us. To get to this point, you’ve completed over 124 credit hours of which 60 credit hours represent general requirement; over 45 credit hours for major requirement and 18 credit-hours for minor and six elective credit-hours.
You have made your parents, families, friends, communities and faculty proud for preparing yourselves for a future that matters to you and to the world. We celebrate your commencement knowing that as your journey begins, whether in graduate or professional school, you will continue to serve and empower others in your own unique way. As I look out, I see both great deal of accomplishments and great hope. Live up to them and keep your promise; make progress and be very impressively imperative in the pool of innovation. I see one of the greatest incubators of intellectual and social progress, accomplished graduates and complete thinkers who will do just as our honorary degree recipients have done.
Remember, you will always encounter competition from your major competitors in the market; use all the persuasive tools of your education, and leadership skills acquired to win the academic battles. For the record, Liberia College is well-regarded and strongly valued due to its numerous perceptible achievements. The College is wildly respected for being the first in the Republic of Liberia and second in West Africa to confer degrees in several academic disciplines, and has produced the highest number of Bachelor’s Degree graduates in the country. Hundreds of these graduates from the College have enrolled in other universities across the globe and earned masters and doctorate degrees and some graduated with high distinction, in several academic and professional fields of studies. Bulk of the graduates of the College since its formations in 1862 have made tremendous contributions and are rendering their invaluable services to the various communities and societies across the international sphere with obvious outputs.
Some of the alumni of the College went on to serve as President and Vice Presidents of the Republic of Liberia, ministers, senators, representatives, ambassadors, bishops, Speaker, of the national legislature, Foreign Ministers, deputy ministers, Commissioners, heads of public corporations, standard-bearers of animated political parties, and religious leaders. Others fruitfully moved onward to become presidents, vice presidents, deans, academic directors and chairpersons of the University of Liberia. Currently, some of the graduates of the College are tremendously making contributions to the global society, and serving as engineer, pilot, lawyer, scientist, banker, auditor, professor, manager, politician, entrepreneur, judge, medical doctor, military officer, law enforcements officer, policy-maker, media tycoon, and research fellows, among other professional fields.
Graduates, you need to combine a sense of reasoning and logical thinking with an awareness of their social responsibilities to the Liberian Society, as well as an ability to appreciate their assigned tasks. Also, be mindful that the hard part is that life is full of constraints and amazing surprises: in a 24-hour day, there exists many ‘unknowns’ and including the limited number of seconds each of us has on this earth. You must figure out how to stay balanced on many levels; and it is a moving target. I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.
However, life may call you in an unexpected way. Some of the elements in the life equation you are solving may move from a given to a variable. What do you want to be admired for? How will you measure your success? Will you define yourself by winning at work, or will you seek a broader definition and work to win at what life is calling you to do? Eliminate complaints from your vocabulary. I urge you to be team player and people centered, and serve as a TRUE AMBASSADOR of our great institution-University of Liberia.
WITH GOD ABOVE, WE SHALL ALL PREVIOUS! PLEASE ACCEPT MY CONGRATULATIONS!!
Prof. Dr. Josephus Moses Gray, BA, MA, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Dean