The educational experiences of 430 graduate and undergraduate students at Lincoln University reached fruition Sunday afternoon at the school's 147th commencement ceremony.
Unlike other universities, the 2,270-student school only has a spring commencement.
The university was founded in 1854, on the eve of the Civil War, by freed blacks. It has since grown to include black American notables, such as poet Langston Hughes and recent U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall among its alumni.
Others, such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, have made their presence known during the school's history.
The graduates included students from Africa and the Caribbean as well as the local region.
School administrators say Lincoln University has maintained ties with Africa and the Caribbean since its early days and is well-known in those areas of the world.
Students, their families and other participants sat for three hours under the sun as they were addressed by a succession of administrators and honored guests, including state Rep. Dwight Evans, D-203rd, of Philadelphia, who delivered the commencement address.
Evans also was awarded with an honorary doctor of law degree on account of his legislative service.
"Some of you are the first graduates in your family," Evans said. "I was the first in my family to graduate. It made a difference in my family."
He admonished the class to avoid political extremism on "all ends of the political spectrum" and to be aware they face global competition for their talents, not just from other Americans.
"Do not abandon your basic values; too much is beyond our control," he said. "But, do expect a changing moral code. It will shift as you acquire experience, self-knowledge and perspective."
University President Dr. Ivory V. Nelson said graduation is his favorite time of the year because it allows him to see how those he knew as freshmen four or five years before have matured as men and women.
"It's amazing," Nelson said. "We have 10 to 15 percent of our students who come right out of here to become doctors and lawyers."
Nelson said the school's small size makes students feel like "part of a family" because professors and instructors know what is happening in their students' lives because classes seldom have more than 25 students.
The students were equally enthusiastic about their graduations.
"I want to thank this institution for making us part of its legacy and for bringing out our best," said Valedictorian Darren R. Dolly. "The events we shared were more enjoyable because we shared them with a friend when our family was too far away."
The graduation was especially touching for Theresa Thomas, a native of Trinidad, who graduated in her daughter Petra's place because she died in December 2004 before being able to finish her studies.
"I feel good about it," Thomas said. "I enjoy seeing the different students who were her friends and seeing them graduate."
Marcus Cobham, also from Trinidad, said his friends as Lincoln were his second family while he was so far away from home, and they would be missed.