Abbott Elementary‘s Sheryl Lee Ralph delivered the commencement address to Rutgers University’s graduating class of 2023.
On Sunday (May 14), the critically acclaimed actress took the stage during the Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Commencement and offered wisdom to the new graduates. Speaking to the adversity the students faced en route to their degree, Ralph pleaded with them to never give up.
“I could have just imagined what it was like when you first came here to the campus as freshmen,” she said. “Our country and the world took a tragic and difficult turn. Kobe died, George Floyd was killed, and then the world and everything changed when COVID-19…shut down the world. But, you stayed the course, you never gave up, you kept doing. We need people who have been through something and still have so much to give and share—that’s you.”
Ralph gave the scholars life advice and told them to focus on their passions instead of riches. “Figure out what makes you happy. If you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like a job,” she added. “Don’t chase money. Money will come.”
At the beginning of her speech, she paid homage to the late civil rights activist Paul Robeson, one of RU’s most decorated alumni, who was born 125 years ago in April. The multitalented force admitted that Robeson was why she wanted to attend Rutgers back in the 70s. After three years, Ralph graduated from her undergrad studies in 1972 and became the youngest graduate in the school’s history at the age of 19.
Ahead of her fiery speech, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway bestowed the Emmy award-winning star with an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree. Watch the full speech above.
In other graduation news, you may now refer to E-40 as “Doctor E-40.” On Friday (May 12), the West Coast artist, né Earl Stevens, accepted an honorary degree in music from his alma mater, Grambling State University. “40 Water” also took the time to offer a few words of encouragement to the HBCU’s graduating class.
“As you know music has always been a lifelong passion of mine. And it’s an incredible privilege to be recognized for my contributions to the industry, especially on the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop,” he said. “They thought it wouldn’t last this long, but here we are.
“My time on campus was the best experiences of my life. I always tell people that Grambling really help mold me in the man and entrepreneur that stands before you. I am proud to set an example for the next generation of leaders. I encourage everyone here today to use their experience at Grambling State University to pursue their passions and achieve their dreams. Thank you once again. Gram fam, for life.”