United Way’s Stewart Challenges Lincoln Graduates To Protect Brand, Maintain Commitment & Give Back

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LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, PA – Dr. Stacey Davis Stewart, the first black woman to serve as President of United Way Worldwide, challenged the more than 350 undergraduates and 150 graduates at The Lincoln University’s 155thCommencement to protect their personal brands, maintain pride and commitment as well as be grateful for what they have been given and subsequently give back to help others achieve their dreams.

Dr. Stewart, who along with Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist – the largest African American church in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – were also awarded honorary doctorate degrees during the Commencement ceremonies in the university’s stadium.

Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller embraces Lincoln President Dr. Robert Jennings as he receives honorary doctorate degree.

“Why is it so important for Coca Cola to spend a $100 million to promote its brand?” she asked, explaining that the company had been in business for about 127 years.  “They should be able to coast, right?  Coke knows that the moment you stop defining your brand the world starts defining your brand for you.”

Dr. Stewart, who works to protect and enhance the United Way Worldwide’s brand and reputation, emphasized that graduates must protect their brands by understanding their own core values and core skills as well as recognizing how important their brands are to employers and as graduates of The Lincoln University.

She explained that they must maintain a certain pride and commitment to protect their brands and to achieve their goals.

“Sadly, today there are too many people who would love to see our community fail, but nothing gives those same people greater pause than by seeing us sharp and committed,” Dr. Stewart said.

She referenced the pride and commitment it took for alums, Lillian Fishburne, who became the first African American female U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and lastly Fritz Pollard, while not an alum, but the former head coach of Lincoln’s football team during the 1918-20 seasons, who became the NFL’s first African American head coach.

“This is the most competitive world today,” Dr. Stewart said.  “You are going to need every drop of pride and commitment you can muster.   Nobody is going to give you anything you have not earned.”

She encouraged graduates to thank those who sacrificed, cried and prayed to get them to graduation and that it was that same gratitude that will be demonstrated in how they live the rest of their lives.

“I’ve committed myself to a career where I give back to millions of people across the country,” Dr. Stewart said regarding her position with the United Way, where she drives the strategic direction for United Way in the U.S., working with leaders throughout the United Way network to facilitate community impact in the areas of education, income and health – the building blocks for a good quality of life.  “Nothing will ever give you the satisfaction as when you are able to give something to someone else . . . that soul satisfaction of helping someone else live their dreams.”

Class of 2014 Valedictorian Shauna A. Ebanks expressed her gratitude in her address.

“These past years we have created memories far too many to remember in their entirety,” Ebanks said.  “Many of us are testimonies of financial miracles (which) have allowed us to sit here today . . . The Lincoln University has given us a gift.  It has provided us with the tools for the rest of our lives.”

On Thursday evening, Rev. Dr. Christopher T. Curry, the pastor of Ezion-Fair Baptist Church in Wilmington, Delaware, addressed graduates, parents, students, faculty and staff during the University’s Baccalaureate Service in its International Cultural Center.

“Class of 2014, things are going to happen to you that aren’t going to make any sense,” said Curry, a 1992 Lincoln graduate.  “Things are going to happen in your favor that aren’t going to make any sense.  People are going to think that because they went to some of these affluent universities that they are going to get opportunities, but they don’t know the sacred grounds of (The) Lincoln University.”

During the service, Curry, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. recognized fellow alum and fraternity brother James Jordan ’88, an active funder of the James Jordan Scholarship Endowment since 2007, who presented a $10,000 gift for his endowment through the university’s first-ever $10 million Student First Campaign for merit and need-based student scholarships chaired by another fellow fraternity brother, Hollywood legend and philanthropist, Dr. William “Bill” Cosby, Jr.

Jordan, who cited an obligation as an alum to further his alma mater financially as well as an obligation to “young African American men who don’t always get a shot,” was then joined by Dr. Andrew Ray, the fraternity’s 39th Grand Basileus, who offered $10,000 gift on behalf of the fraternity.

Not to be outdone, Curry, himself, presented two checks, one for $10,000 from Ezion-Fair Baptist Church and a second from his family for $5,000.