Tag Archives: Commencement 2013

Do not Settle for Average, TSU Commencement Speaker Tells more than 700 Graduates

Kayla Arroyo (left), Academic Excellence Award recipient, shares a candid moment with TSU President, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover during the commencement ceremony Dec. 14 in the Gentry Center.
Kayla Arroyo (left), Academic Excellence Award recipient, shares a candid moment with TSU President, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover during the commencement ceremony Dec. 14 in the Gentry Center. (photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn., (TSU News Service) – Saying that average breeds mediocrity, Tennessee State University’s fall commencement speaker told nearly 700 graduates on Saturday to be part of a world that demands excellence.

“Don’t be a victim of a world that settles for average,” said Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, pastor of Nashville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church. “Many settle for average because average is easy. As you enter the next chapter of life, you are about to enter a world that will challenge you at every turn and you must be ready to make the hard choices to be at the top of what you aspire to be.”

Walker, recognized by EBONY on the magazine’s “Power 100” list as one of the nation’s most influential African-American leaders, applauded the graduates for their determination to complete their university journey, urging them to “use that same determination” to be the best.

Bishop Joseph W. Walker III (left) , pastor of Nashville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, receives a plaque of appreciation from TSU President, Dr. Glenda Glover. Walker provided the commencement address for the Fall 2013 graduation ceremony. (photo by John Cross, TSU Creative Services)
Bishop Joseph W. Walker III (left) , pastor of Nashville’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, receives a plaque of appreciation from TSU President, Dr. Glenda Glover. Walker provided the commencement address for the Fall 2013 graduation ceremony. (photo by John Cross, TSU Creative Services)

“Press your way until you can be at the top of the world. It didn’t matter how you got here or where you came from. It is your determination to defeat average that has you graduating today,” said Walker, leader of the 28,000-member Mount Zion Baptist Church, which he started pastoring in 1992 with 174 members.

Among those who graduated on Saturday were 440 who received undergraduate degrees, 219 received graduate degree, while 45 received doctoral degrees. Nine graduate students received education specialist degrees, and eight received graduate certificates.

Reflecting on his own climb through the education ladder and professional life, Walker, who holds a Doctorate of Ministry from Princeton University, told the graduates to watch out for skeptics along the way, pointing to many who doubted he would amount to anything.

“In high school because I was an overactive kid, they said I had attention deficit, but I went on and not only finished high school, but I completed my college work at Southern University in three years, earned my master’s degree at Vanderbilt, and went on to become the youngest in my class to get a doctorate at Princeton.

“Don’t allow anyone to hold you back. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. If I can do it, you can do the same,” Walker, a Baton Rouge, La., native, who has authored and co-authored eight books, told the graduates, to repeated thunderous applauses. “Do not forget to say thank you to those who were there with you along the way,” he added.

TSU President, Dr. Glenda Glover, presiding at only her second commencement since taking the helm about a year ago, congratulated the graduates on their accomplishment, and also applauded them for their determination.

“You have endured and prepared yourself to reach this goal which may have seemed unattainable, but you stuck with it,” Dr. Glover said. “You must always remember that you did not accomplish this goal all by yourself. There were parents, relatives, friends and mentors who helped you along the way. Remember to thank them.”

Later, Dr. Glover thanked Bishop Walker for a “wonderful and inspiring” speech.

“You have certainly inspired not only these graduates but all of us here today are encouraged and moved by your words. We thank you,” Dr. Glover added.




Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
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Nashville, Tennessee 37209



About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Young Kurdish Immigrant Beats Near Insurmountable Odds to Earn University Education, American Dream

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Ghariba Babiry is a classic American dream story.

Coming to the United States 15 years ago without understanding a word of English, no prior schooling, and soon to receive a college degree,  …with a potential teaching job in tow, that’s quite an accomplishment.

“It’s all still a dream,” she said.

For the young Kurd, it all started at about age 14 when she, her father, mother and three younger siblings had to flee the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. They left their Kurdish homeland in northern Iraq for a new life in the U.S.

They landed in Nashville, Tenn.- a totally different culture and way of doing things.

“This was all a new experience and yet my siblings and I were required to cope and succeed amid some serious challenges,” Babiry said.

But challenge, for Babiry, was an understatement.  It was an awakening.

“For my first time ever in a classroom, I was thrust into the eighth grade at Cameron Middle School, with no understanding of English and totally dumfounded,” she said. “I had a separate interpreter with me in class about three hours a week to guide me through the instructions while the teacher was teaching. Worse yet, at 14 years of age, I was the oldest in the class but understood the least. This was very difficult. I tried to give up several times.”

Thanks to Babiry’s very persistent parents, she hung in there through the daily struggle of trying to complete class assignments – almost always the last to finish.

“My mother was constantly on me not to give up. ‘Never give up; don’t be illiterate like me; I can’t even write my own name,’ she would say,” Babiry added.“For my father, all he wanted me to think about was school. ‘I’ll provide you with everything I can after all I came to America for you, so that I can give to you what I did not have the chance to do in Kurdistan,’ he would say.”

The persistence, struggle and what seemed to Babiry then as harassment, paid off through developmental courses -in middle school, high school, community college. …and now Tennessee State University.

On May 11, she will be among more than 1,000 graduates who will receive their degrees when Tennessee State University holds its spring commencement at Hale Stadium.

She will be the third among her siblings to receive a college degree since arriving in the U.S. Two younger brothers, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Nursing, have also graduated from TSU. Her youngest sister is pursuing a nursing degree at Middle Tennessee Sate University.

“The idea of graduating May 11 is very surreal because I have been through so much and there were many times that I was not sure I would get through the Praxis exams,” said Babiry, who will receive her degree in Early Childhood Education. “It is even more special to know that my parents will finally see me graduate after many years of hard work. I am thankful to Allah the almighty for their support and for giving me the strength and some very important people who understood my situation and encouraged me along the way.”

While Babiry tries to forget the painful past, she is reminded of “teachers who treated me badly because I did not understand like the other students” did.

“I have made a promise not to do that to my students. Instead, I will be like those who did everything they could to make sure I fit in, understood and treated me with respect and not like I was a burden. A kind word and a little encouragement go a long way; believe me,” she said, giving recognition to some of her TSU professors, especially Dr. Graham Matthews, her senior advisor.

“I had some good teachers, but Dr. Matthews, Ms. (Deborah) Bellamy (also at TSU), and Dr. Tammy Lipsey (Reading Clinical Coordinator for the Metro School System) are heaven sent,” she said. “They were never too busy to make sure I was doing the right thing.”

In addition to her degree, Babiry has completed all certifications required for teaching, with the exception of the English Language Learners Certification or endorsement required to teach in the schools in her area. She should get that certification soon, she said.

She is currently a student teacher at Haywood Elementary School in Nashville.

“I am really enjoying student teaching. I love seeing my students’ faces every day and helping them,” said Babiry, who also worked as a substitute teacher with the Metro School System. “I have a heart for children.  Like many immigrants, I have experienced many hardships in my life, and I am certain that because of my experience, I will be the best role model for my students.”

Babiry seeks no pity, even though it took her seven years to complete her college work, including two years off to focus on passing the Praxis, which she attempted 13 times before finally passing, and spending her first two years of college taking ELL classes and developmental course, she feels stronger.

“This was all because of the difficulty with the English language,” she said. “But I am thankful I stuck with it. I am stronger, more confident, and with my education, I am ready to face the world.”