April 30, 2021
The World Needs Visionaries
Nationally-Ranked HBCU Claflin University Holds In-Person Commencement Convocations for Spring 2021, Fall and Spring 2020 Graduates
Claflin University President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack presents businesswoman and philanthropist Ms. Anita G. Zucker with an honorary doctorate degree.
“We are the first institution of higher education in South Carolina – post-pandemic – to have an indoor commencement, so we have a lot to celebrate,” said Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack to more than 300 candidates who were conferred bachelor’s and master’s degrees during Claflin’s in-person Spring 2021 Commencement Convocation. The ceremony was held on Saturday April 24, at 11 a.m. at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex. “We are having this ceremony because you visionary leaders made it possible.” 

The Commencement Convocation was originally planned as an outdoor event at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds. However, it was moved inside due to the threat of inclement weather. 

“Class of 2021, you have been cheated a lot so we did not want you to be cheated out of this tradition of walking across this stage,” Warmack said. “There are many challenges in this world, but we feel a sense of responsibility to overcome these challenges. Claflin University continues to be the beacon of light that transforms you as graduates to go out and do major work - and this you will do.

Warmack had similar remarks for the spring and fall class of 2020 who participated in their commencement earlier in the day at 8 a.m., also in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.  Last year’s commencement was a virtual presentation due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Graduates received degrees but they were denied the ceremonial walk across the stage.  Many of them returned to participate this year to the delight of family members, friends, classmates, and University administrators.

“COVID-19 stole a lot from you,” Warmack said. “It stole family. It stole friends. But we refused to not let you have this moment to walk across the stage so that you can be celebrated by your family and friends – we know this moment is very important.  We were told that today (Saturday), it would be pouring down rain, with lightning and 25 miles per hour winds. They said you have to cancel commencement. But I said not over my dead body – we will find a way. We wanted to celebrate you class of 2020. You have been through so much. This is truly your time.”

Among the highlights of the Spring 2021 Commencement Convocation was the presentation of an honorary doctorate that was awarded to businesswoman and philanthropist, Ms. Anita G. Zucker, chair and chief executive officer of The InterTech Group, Inc. (TIG), a privately held company founded by Zucker and her former husband, Jerry Zucker (OBM). One of the largest private companies in the USA, TIG and its affiliates operate in a diverse array of industries, from aerospace and specialty chemicals to real estate and entertainment. 

“I am a first-generation college student as well, Zucker said. “I am a child of parents who survived the holocaust. They were strong and resilient and immigrated to the United States. I was one of three daughters. My parents gave me the best opportunity in my life which was to gain a good education.”

Zucker, who graduated from the University of Florida, provided a brief chronology of her journey which included intimate details about her personal struggles. 

“I worked my way through school as a teacher’s aide and I was married at 18,” she said. “My husband and I had a restaurant and I began teaching public school in a small town in Florida while my husband also worked at a local paper mill. But in 1978, we moved to South Carolina and we have been here since then. South Carolina is my home.”

Zucker said she continued to teach in public schools when she arrived to South Carolina, but she later began working for the company.  

“I ran the company’s business education partnership programs,” she said. “My passion for education has never left me. I developed my leadership skills serving as a member of the board of directors with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Trident United Way and the Coastal Community Foundation. I later served as board chair for each of those organizations.”

Zucker recalled how in 2008 her husband died of an incurable brain cancer. However, for 21 months prior to his passing, he taught her as much as he could about how to run the company.

“People talk about a glass ceiling in the corporate world,” Zucker said. “I hit the grief ceiling. Being the CEO of a large global company and the sole head of my family – all of this was a very daunting task. But I was able to survive a very sad and difficult life situation and still come away with a smile – with the help of my friends and my incredible work family.” She added that her mother and sister passed away this year.

Zucker shared some of the wisdom she received from her former husband who she refers to as “Jerry Zucker of blessed memory,” when she told the Class of 2021 “it is critical to have a sense of urgency and a bias for action. If you love your job you will never work a day in your life.”

She concluded her remarks with an insightful call to action that challenged the graduating class to step forward to make a positive impact on society. 

“Don’t be a bystander for hate,” Zucker said. “We have to stand up and use our voices for good purposes. Honor and integrity are two of the most important values that guide my life.”

Claflin’s celebration of collective and individual academic achievements during the commencement ceremony included presentations to two outstanding scholars who excelled in the classroom. Thalia Butts, a mass communications major with a minor in English and Emersen Frazier, a political science major, received the Top Honor Graduate Award. Both students had 4.0 grade point averages (GPAs) and are members of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. Butts is a native of Lithonia, Ga., and Frazier came to Claflin from Topeka, Kansas. 

Claflin's student-focused academic programs and a faculty comprised of world-class scholars contributed to U.S. News and World Report ranking the university ninth in its 2021 list of the nation's top historically Black colleges/universities (HBCUs). Claflin is the top-ranked HBCU in South Carolina and the University has earned a place among the top 10 HBCUs in the publication’s prestigious ranking for 10 consecutive years.

U.S. News and World Report also ranked Claflin ninth overall among the schools in the Best Regional Colleges in the South rankings.
In Case You Missed It - 2020 and 2021 Commencement Convocations, Top Honor Graduates Speeches, and Pictures
If you were unable to watch the 2020 or 2021 Commencement Convocation ceremonies, have no fear! Click below to watch the ceremonies or view pictures:

Thalia Butts, a mass communications major with a minor in English, pre-recorded her speech as a top honor graduate. Butts had a 4.0 cumulative grade point average. She is a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College and a native of Lithonia, Ga. Click above to watch her speech.
Emersen Frazier, a political science major, pre-recorded her speech as a top honor graduate. Frazier had a 4.0 cumulative grade point average. She is a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College and a native of Topeka, Kansas. Click above to watch her speech.
Mother and Daughter Receive Diplomas at Claflin University's 2021 Commencement Convocation
After 26 years from when she began her quest to earn a degree at Claflin University, Eydie Moody finally achieved her dream. Moody was among more than 300 scholars who were conferred bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Claflin’s 2021 Spring Commencement Convocation on Saturday, April 24, at 11 a.m. in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex. The moment was particularly special for Moody because her daughter Gari (GiGi) Forehand was also a member of the Class of 2021.  Moody earned a degree in criminal justice and Forehand, a thrower on Claflin’s women’s track and field team, was a sport management major.     

Moody, a native of Long Island, N.Y., completed her associate degree in criminal justice in 1995 at Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y. She moved to South Carolina and was all set to pursue a degree at a four-year institution. However, financial difficulties forced Moody to put her plans on hold.

“I was a single parent and I moved to South Carolina to be near my sister and brother-in-law. They were serving in the Marines and assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, S.C.,” Moody said. “I was a single parent with children who were participating in everything. I had to be there for them. They were my top priority.”

Moody later resumed her studies and began taking classes online. She was again planning to enroll in a four-year college when she encountered another life-altering crisis, this time in the form of colorectal cancer. At the time, Forehand was in middle school and her son Ziaire was attending the Citadel.  However, much like the previous setback when she had to sacrifice attending school to make financial concessions and focus on the needs of her children, Moody faced the challenge head-on. She summoned her indomitable resilience and with the expert care and treatment of her doctors, she has been cancer free for nine years. Once she was no longer under the care of her doctor, she decided to try it again, but by this time, Forehand was entering college. 

“Once I was released from my doctor's care, I was recommitted to finishing school. But GiGi’s needs came first so I had to make sure she was all set to begin college,” Moody said. “Once that was settled, I asked GiGi if she would mind if I attended Claflin, since I always wanted to go to an HBCU. Her only question was ‘are you going to be on campus?’ I enrolled and registered for classes at Claflin through the Center for Professional and Continuing Education. I assured GiGi that all of my classes were online and the rest is history.”

Despite her concerns for whether or not Moody would have a presence on campus, Forehand was excited about sharing the commencement stage with her mother.

“Completing my degree with my mom is something words cannot explain,” Forehand said. “I never would have imagined that my mother and I would become college graduates on the same day. Without a doubt, my mother has always been my biggest supporter. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer, she was there for every school and/or sporting event. Having cancer slowed her down but she never lost her passion to finish and for continuing her education. Graduating with her is a huge honor.”

Forehand, who graduated cum laude, also displayed her leadership skills with several campus organizations. As a senior, she was president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, lead intern in the Department of Athletics, and she also served as the Epistoleus (historian and reporter) of the Theta Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Forehand will continue her education in Claflin’s MBA program in the Fall

Although Moody felt like the years passed slowly, she never wavered from her dream of earning a college degree. She said that her mother calls her a “professional student” because it seems like she has been in school her entire life.

“I felt that I was too close to not finish and since I have always told my children to finish what you start,” she said. “It was only right that I did so as well.”

For the past three years, Moody has worked with the Bluffton Police Department. Previously, she spent 13 years with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. In August 2020, she launched her business, Lowcountry Virtual Assistant, which provides general administrative services and social media support to small businesses. “My goal is to scale my business by having four other virtual assistants under my umbrella,” she said.

-Romanda Noble-Watson
Alumni News
Dr. Travis Boyce, '02, was featured in a NBC LX story titled Your Fear Response is Powerful and Easily Manipulated. The story examines how fear affects our decision-making and what happens when that trigger is manipulated by others (fast forward to 4:06 in the video to see Dr. Boyce). Dr. Boyce is the chair and associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif. After Claflin, he earned a masters degree in history and a doctoral degree in cultural studies from Ohio University. Prior to San Jose State University, he served as an assistant and later associate professor of Africana Studies at the University of Northern Colorado. As a student at Claflin, Dr. Boyce was initiated into the Gamma Nu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Tereion T. Dawson, '07, also known as Tere Tatiana, was recently featured in Grit Daily, a publication based in New York. She is the owner/operator of LabeledBlu Transportation, the first online educator for business owners and entrepreneurs looking to start or scale their trucking business. Click here to read how Tatiana changed her way of thinking that the trucking business was a “man’s” job and how this opened up more opportunities for her to grow as a businesswoman.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Humphrey, '05, former Orangeburg County School District 5 Teacher of the Year, for securing funding for her proposal “Project Paint the Way.” She received assistance from Leadership South Carolina and the State of South Carolina Teacher of the Year, Sarah Gams. The project will provide interior painting to refresh and upgrade the look of Robert E. Howard Middle School (Orangeburg) where she serves as the school level instruction tech. "Project Paint the Way" will also provide students with a sustainable clothes that will provide students access to warm, clean, new, or gently used clothes.
E. Roger Mitchell, ’93, is starring in “Favorite Son” which will premiere on May 6, 2021, on BET+. The movie tells the story of brothers in a gospel group struggling to find the balance between life, love, faith, and religion, while under the strict rule of their father, a megachurch reverend. Click here to watch the movie trailer.
Dove Award nominee Kebra Harris-Moore, '97, has released her first Amazon novel, Love, Lies & Music. She is a singer, song writer, actress, author and teacher. While at Claflin, Harris-Moore was a music education major, a member of the world-renowned Concert Choir, the Claflin Band, the Music Educators National Conference, and the Gamma Chi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Harris-Moore writes under the name "Midnight Storm."

Congratulations to the following alumni who were elected to serve as officers of the Claflin University International Alumni Association (CUIAA). These distinguished Claflinites were elected on April 9 during the virtual CUIAA Convention and were installed during a virtual ceremony on Zoom on April 26.
  • Dr. Darralyn Hooker, '02 - 1st Vice President
  • Ms. Octavia A. Smalls, '00 - Treasurer
  • Mrs. Estella T. Rickenbacker, '73 - Recording Secretary
  • Brigadier General (Retired) Twanda E. Young, '89 - Alumni Representative to the Board of Trustees
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@Claflin is published by the Office of Communications & Marketing 
President: Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack
Interim Vice President for Institutional Advancement: Dr. Marcus H. Burgess, '96
Assistant Vice President for Communications & Marketing: George Johnson Jr.
Public Relations Director: J. Craig Cotton
Web Communications Manager: Colin Myers, '07
Sports Information Director: Romanda Noble-Watson
Photographers: Cecil Williams, '60, Geoff Henderson and Colin Myers, '07