Lincoln University Celebrates its History, Hears from HBCU Congressional Caucus Founder at its 159th Commencement

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LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. – Lincoln University celebrated a number of firsts as more than 400 members of the Class of 2018 graduated during the 159th Commencement.

Brenda A. Allen ’81 presided over her first Commencement as Lincoln’s first alumna president. In another first, Alma S. Adams became the first congresswoman to earn an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.


President Brenda A. Allen '81 (right) with New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver ’74, who received an honorary doctorate at Lincoln University's Commencement on May 6, 2018. Photo by Bob Williams.

Adams, who called Lincoln “one of the finest institutions in the country,” told the graduates that they are now part of the Lincoln story –“the Lincoln legacy of greatness”, reminding the majority millennial audience that graduating from Lincoln is a gift, however, “like all great gifts, this one comes with an important set of responsibilities.”

“Your generation has the power to confront some of the world’s hardest problems; climate change, artificial intelligence, famine and war, hunger and disease, so lead on,” Adams said.

“Anyone can take a cause or a movement to bring change to this world, it’s you, young people, it’s your time to step up and stand out. You have the power to develop your own social, economic and political platforms in ways a group of aging policy leaders can only imagine.”


Congresswoman Alma S. Adams gives the Commencement address at Lincoln University on May 6, 2018. Photo by Bob Williams.

Adams told the audience of more than 4,000 that HBCUs “run in her blood,” noting that this year marks 50 years since she graduated from North Carolina A&T before teaching at Bennett College and later becoming the founder of the first-ever Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus.

Adams said she is “the 100th woman elected to the 113th Congress” and represents 770,000 residents in North Carolina’s 12th district. The Congresswoman is one of the 49 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group she called “the conscience of the Congress.”

The Congresswoman then transitioned into telling her story about her humble beginnings in Newark, New Jersey, after which stating “I shared my story with you to let you know that where you start out in life doesn’t determine where you end up or how far you can go. Only you can determine your destiny, Lincoln has prepared you well for what lies ahead.”

“Generations of students from all backgrounds have come to this school to be challenged and inspired and they’ve gone on to be leaders here in Pennsylvania, and around the world running businesses and educating young people and leading the high-tech industries that will power our economy for decades to come.”


Prisca Obidike, a native of Nigeria, waves to her parents as she begins the valedictory address at the Lincoln University Commencement on May 6, 2018. Photo by Bob Williams.

Valedictorian Prisca C. Obidike, whose parents traveled from Nigeria to hear their daughter speak, gave a valedictory address with a message of persistence. The biology major told graduates she had a rough start in one of her introductory biomedical research courses and almost dropped the course.

Obidike told the audience that she had two options: embrace defeat or be persistent.

“I chose persistence and vowed to give my best… “My losses didn’t define me but my responses to them do.”

Obidike told her classmates, “Lincoln Lions are bold, brave and we leave our mark.”

In addition to hearing from Congresswoman Adams, and the Valedictorian, the audience enjoyed a musical selection titled “Glory”. The inspirational song serves as the leading track from the recent film "Selma" and was composed by John Legend in which he delivers a powerful message of hope. The selection also delivers a message of change which can be heard through its captivating lyrics: “That's why Rosa sat on the bus / That's why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up / When it go down we woman and man up / They say, 'Stay down,' and we stand up.”

Sheila L. Oliver ’74, the lieutenant governor of New Jersey received a Doctor of Humane Letters, as did Vincent J. Hughes, a senator from the 7th Senatorial District in Pennsylvania. James A. Donaldson, an emeritus professor at Howard University who also graduated from Lincoln in 1961, received a Doctor of Sciences. Donaldson also served as Lincoln’s interim president in 1998.

Under a cloudy sky and with temperatures in the upper 50s, the ceremony began. The procession stepped off from the historic Alumni Memorial Arch and winded through the manicured campus to the Thurgood Marshall Living Learning Center Lawn. The ceremony concluded with a group induction into the Alumni Association of Lincoln University by organization’s president, Meta H. Timmons ’79, and the singing of the Alma Mater led by the Concert Choir.

The Commencement program can be found on the Commencement information page.

Article by Shelley Mix, Office of Communications & Public Relations