Speaker Roland Martin, right, urges graduates to “do you.” Photo by TSU Media Relations

By Kelli Sharpe

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Parents and friends were welcomed to a festive fall commencement ceremony for nearly 800 Tennessee State University graduates December 7.

Speaker Roland Martin wouldn’t have it any other way. The award-winning journalist and political analyst had the band director strike up the band before delivering his keynote address.

With the theme of “do you,” Martin encouraged graduates to follow their own path and be proud of having attended TSU.

“The people who are willing to take risks in life are the folks that are often brought back and are celebrated for being distinguished alumni of this university,” said Martin.

“You’ll never be happy if you’re unwilling to do you. You can’t let fear drive your decision-making.”

TSU President Glenda Glover presided over the winter graduation that consisted of 513 undergraduates and 260 graduate students. Among them was Merna Henin, a business administration major with the distinction of having the highest GPA.  A native of Egypt, the Nashville resident had the honor of introducing Martin to the capacity filled crowd because of her academic achievement.

“I felt like I accomplished something spectacular and now I’m being rewarded for it,” said Henin, who plans to pursue her master’s at TSU and work in supply chain management. “It confirmed to me that hard work pays off.”

Kalid Truitt, an interdisciplinary major with a concentration in health science and healthcare administration, said Martin’s message resonated with him as he prepares to leave TSU and Nashville. 

“What he said hit home for me,” said Truitt. “It was my last time to soak up the feeling that I’m at TSU. His energy and his words were exactly what I needed to see and hear, especially the parts about his own life experiences.” 

Truitt is off to Atlanta in a few days to pursue an acting career, but said he has a backup plan, something his professors and advisors stressed throughout his college experience. The Memphis native believes he got the perfect send off from TSU.