WILMINGTON — Provost Dr. Erika Goodwin said one’s success should not be exclusively measured in terms of the attainment of position, power and material things, but rather “how far you have come from where you started.”
Goodwin presented the keynote address at Wilmington College’s annual Tyehimba ceremony Tuesday, April 26, which, in her words, recognizes the “richness and value” of WC’s multicultural and international students. Tyehimba is a Nigerian word meaning “we are a nation” and is a ceremony with Swahili African roots.
She shared the story of her grandfather born in 1878 in Italy. His incredible life included being sold — “Yes, sold,” she said — to be a French naval officer’s servant, escaping to work the diamond mines in Africa and stowing away on a ship to Mexico. Making his way into the United States, he was picked up as an illegal alien and deported back to his native Italy, After a stint in the Italian army, he emigrated back to America in 1913. He married, reared a family and operated a small, ethnic grocery store in the Dayton area, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1950.
“My grandfather was truly extraordinary,” Goodwin said, noting that, for him, “the measure of success” was looking back at a loving family in a country that ultimately embraced him and his contributions. She asked the soon-to-be graduates to remember the journey that brought them to this day.
“When you walk up to get your diploma, don’t forget about where you came from and take a moment and think about everyone that diploma represents,” she added. “A new chapter awaits. A new life for you begins May 7.”
President Trevor Bates advised the students there are no perfect situations and they have an opportunity to contribute to every situation they face, while Sigrid Solomon, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, described them as “gems we’ve been polishing for three, four, sometimes more years.”
Chip Murdock, director of the Office for Diversity + Inclusion, cited all those faculty and staff members who “help our students to the finish line. Many of these scholars have faced and overcome various challenges and statistics to make it to this point and tonight we celebrate these individuals.”
Indeed, those graduating seniors are part of a very exclusive group, as only one percent of the world’s population are college graduates. He also lauded those African American and Latino graduates for beating the odds, as statistics indicate that only one in four students of color who enter college will graduate.
The D+I Office presented Diversity Impact Awards to Ana Lopez, a mental health counselor at WC and a 2004 graduate, and Provost Dr. Erika Goodwin, a 1995 graduate who is leaving the College after serving in
numerous capacities over 27 years, including interim president, chief of staff, vice president for academic affairs and professor of athletic training.
Lopez spoke on how her grandparents emigrated from Mexico and made it possible for her parents to attend college. In turn, “My parents instilled in their four children the importance of education.,” she said.
Also, 2002 graduate Carlos Stewart spoke of his experience as a first-generation college student at WC. “I navigated this predominantly white campus as a black man, but I learned that Wilmington College is 100 percent a place where flowers are cultivated and grow.”
Each of the graduating seniors at the ceremony was given a colorful stole presented by a special person in their WC experience. The stoles, to be worn with their caps and gowns at Commencement, included the African kente cloth, flags of students’ nations of origin and other symbols of various heritages.
The graduating seniors and their stoles include: Shayna Acuff, Native American; Alex Arevalos, Mexico; Shawndale Arrington, African American; Tavion Bryant, African American; Brittanie Mae Clair, Global Stole of Allyship; Brooke Davis, Kinbati — Pacific Islander; Syndey Elaine Fuller, African American; Ajia Gannaway African American; Moses Garza, Mexico; Emelie Sterner, Sweden; Dawid Bogaczewicz, Poland; Tre Stubbs African American; Shabhir Thompkins, African American; Kennedy Lewis, African American; Felix Maurer, Sweden; Jaden Dominique Proffitt and Nancy Canedo Vargas.