LOWER OXFORD — The Lincoln University family shared an emotional moment on Friday as student Kadeem Fulmore walked under his own power to receive his diploma.
Fulmore was a passenger in the car that crashed into a tree along Ashum Road on Nov. 4, 2011, killing his friend Anthony Washington and changing life forever for him and the driver, Phillip Tomsic.
Fulmore, now 24, suffered bad burns over 50 percent of his body, two collapsed lungs, traumatic brain injuries and damage that led to the loss of his right foot and left leg below the knee and the loss of use of his left arm. He had to undergo more than two years of hospitalization.
But at the 2014 commencement ceremony in the university’s stadium, Fulmore was helped up by friends from his wheel chair to a large walker and made his way slowly up the ramp to the stage. There he received his long-awaited diploma.
The audience of several thousand friends, students, faculty and parents rose to their feet and cheered.
The Lincoln University President Robert Jennings raised his hand and shouted, “There is nothing that a Lincoln man can’t do.”
Scores of friends greeted him when he returned to the field, hugging him and taking his picture.
When he was asked if he had practiced for that walk, he said he had not. “It’s overdue. It should have happened years ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tomsic, the driver of the car, is in prison, having been sentenced last October to five to 10 years in prison for homicide by vehicle and aggravated assault while DUI.
The university graduation this year was a little different from previous ones that had been held on Sunday afternoons. A supervisor at the ceremony said the change was made for economic reasons to avoid the expenses of overtime for the staff.
The early hour of the event — 8:30 a.m. — did not deter parents and friends from attending. By the time the speakers had assembled on stage, the seats on the east side of the stadium were full as well as several indoor locations where the event was shown on large screens.
In his greeting, Jennings praised the 491 undergraduate and graduate students who sat before him as “People who will make a difference in the world.”
He said it would not surprise him if someone in the class discovered a cure for cancer, gained political office or even became president of the United States.
Board of Trustees Chair Kimberly Lloyd, class of 1994, told the graduates, “Do not let today end. We always expect you to come back.”
The commencement speaker was Stacey Davis Stewart, United States President of the United Way Worldwide.
She praised Jennings for reaching out to his students in general and, in particular, taking students to black tie events in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
She told graduated they must have a “brand,” give back and have gratitude for gifts they have received.
“If you don’t define your brand, the world will define it for you. Everything you put on social media will define you,” she said.
She added, “Nothing you do in your life will give you more satisfaction than what you do to give back to others.”
Stewart, along with Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church Alyn Waller received doctorates of humane letters.
Undergraduate senior class valedictorian Shauna Ebanks gave a rousing speech quoting the late South African President Nelson Mandella: “Education is the most profound when you can bring change to the world.”
The Lincoln University is the nation’s first degree-granting historically black college and university.
Among its graduates are Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes, Lillian Fishburne, Nnasmdi Azikiwe and Kwame Nkrumah.