Pittman Graduation Ceremony
May 26, 2021
First, let me say congratulations to all of our 2021 graduates!
We know that each of us stands on the shoulders of many others who paved our way. So, it’s my privilege to also welcome all the parents, family and friends of our graduates who are viewing this celebration tonight.
To everyone who provided encouragement, love and support to our graduates along the way, thank you.
Every Drexel graduate can take pride in the fact that they are joining an esteemed group of 150,000 alumni. And our graduates tonight have a further distinction: They are walking in the footsteps of William Sydney Pittman. He was the first African American male graduate of the Drexel Institute of Technology, which grew into the university we know today. This ceremony for students from the African diaspora is named in Mr. Pittman’s honor.
Born in Alabama, the son of an enslaved father, he became a noted architect and an advocate for civil rights. After training first as a carpenter, he received a scholarship to the Drexel Institute in 1897 and completed the five-year architectural program in just three years.
Mr. Pittman’s career took him to both Washington, D.C. and Dallas, where in each city he left his mark. Overall, he designed more than 50 buildings across the country, including several that are National Historic Landmarks. But William Pittman’s greatest achievement may have been how he helped pave the way for more Black people to become architects.
Drexel and the country have come a long way since William Pittman graduated, but we’ve also had many painful reminders over this past year that we still have a long way to go toward achieving our founders’ goal of ‘a more perfect union.’
The last year has shown us all that we have much work to do to open all doors, eliminate prejudice and discrimination, and achieve justice for all. A big part of our renewed effort in this regard was the creation of our Anti-Racism Task Force with a focus designed by many of your voices. It’s led by Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Kim Gholston.
One of our most major and rewarding accomplishments is a short distance from where we stand today — the Drexel’s Center for Black Culture in the Rush Building.
Even with the pandemic and studying and working in this virtual environment, the Center is already becoming a place of discovery, support, community … and fun.
It is also a place that we look forward to you visiting and reconnecting with your Drexel friends and family when you join us on campus as an alum or spend some time if you are pursuing graduate studies at Drexel.
This last year has also shown us that we have a graduating class of students being honored today at the Pittman ceremony who are resilient and determined to change the narrative for our University and our country.
Thank you for pushing us to examine every aspect of University through an anti-racist lens.
Let me close by wishing you all the best on your career and personal journeys.
And, once again, congratulations!