TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Since its founding in 1887, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) has committed itself to producing graduates who are prepared to be effective contributors to the needs of society.
On May 2, nearly 1,200 graduates will further prove the effectiveness of the institution’s mission of enhancing lives through innovative research, engaging cooperative extension, and public service. Graduates will celebrate a new chapter in their lives and prepare to make their impact on the world, as degrees ranging from environmental and food science to engineering technology and sociology will be awarded.
The commencement ceremonies will take place at the Alfred L. Lawson, Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium, located at 1800 Wahnish Way in Tallahassee. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will serve as the speaker for the 9 a.m. ceremony, and FAMU alumnus and filmmaker Will Packer will serve as the speaker for the 2 p.m. ceremony.
“FAMU is dedicated to providing opportunities to students from all walks of life to live out their dreams. Here is where the visions of future educators, scientists, artists, pharmacists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and politicians have begun to come to fruition,” said President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D. “So, it is a great opportunity to have Will Packer, one of our most influential graduates, and Secretary Vilsack, the leader of one of the nation’s most vital organizations, to speak to our students as they prepare to go out into the world and enrich our communities.”
Vilsack is the nation’s 30th secretary of agriculture and is leading the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a mission to strengthen America’s agricultural economy through building vibrant rural communities, and creating new markets for the innovation of rural America.
In his six years at the Department, Vilsack has worked to implement President Barack Obama’s agenda to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last. Under his leadership, the USDA has successfully supported the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and growers who are driving the rural economy forward.
The Department has provided food assistance to millions of Americans and carried out record conservation efforts. In addition, it has made record investments in our rural communities, helping to provide a safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for the American people. Prior to his appointment, Vilsack served as the Governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate, and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
Packer has established himself as one of Hollywood’s blockbuster hit makers with seven of his films opening number one at the box office. In 2013, Packer signed first-look production deals with Universal Pictures and Universal Television. Under both deals, he develops new projects for the studios under his Will Packer Productions banner. In 2014, he became one of the only African-American producers to have seven films debut at number one during opening weekend.
His most successful film to date is Universal’s “Ride Along” starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. “Ride Along” debuted No. 1 at the box office in 2014 with record-breaking receipts totaling over $48 million during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, making it one of the biggest January opening box office tallies of all time. The film also went on to be No. 1 at the box office for three consecutive weeks and grossed over $153 million worldwide. Packer’s number one films also include “No Good Deed (2014),” “Think Like A Man Too (2014),” “Think Like A Man (2012),” “Takers (2010),” “Obsessed (2008)” and “Stomp The Yard (2007).” Packer graduated magna cum laude from FAMU in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.
The commencement ceremonies will also mark two special occasions for the University. President Mangum will award a Strong Finish Award to 16 deserving students, who despite financial obstacles completed their degree programs on time with a 3.0 GPA or higher. The award provides a stipend to help graduates with the transition from school to work and provides them with assistance to pay down their college loans.
“What distinguishes FAMU from many other institutions is that we have students who often come from low-income families. However, despite the circumstances they face, they remain dedicated to completing their college education – even if that means working while completing their course work,” Mangum said. “So, it is integral that we honor these students and provide them with the support they need to enter into the next phase of their lives.”
FAMU’s international presence in higher education will also be celebrated during the commencement activities. Special guests include representatives from the White House HBCU – Brazil Alliance and José Vicente, Ph.D., president of Zumbi dos Palmares University, the only historically black college in Brazil and South America. FAMU recently announced a partnership with Zumbi dos Palmares to provide higher education opportunities for underserved Afro-Brazilians.