PRESIDENT’S CHARGE TO THE 2022 GRADUATES – Dr. Romelle A. Horton, Ph.D

SALUTATION

Your Excellency, Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia and our distinguished speaker for this 60th Diamond Jubilee Commencement;

Your Lordship, Bishop James Bombo Sellee, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Cuttington University; Other Honorable Members of the Board of Trustees;

His Excellency, Dr. George M. Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia and Members of the Executive Branch of Government; Members of the House of Representatives and Senate; The Superintendent of Bong County and all county officials; including our dynamic Paramount Chief of the Suakoko Chiefdom; Diplomatic Corps; International and National Partners; Representatives of UN Agencies; the National Commission for Higher Education, the Association of Liberian Universities and Representatives of other Institutions of Higher Education;

Officials and members of the Cuttington University Alumni Association Liberia and the Americas; Administrators, Faculty, Staff, Parents, love ones, well-wishers and my Diamonds – the graduating classes of 2022, Good morning!

STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, the 2022 graduating classes, administration, staff, and faculty, I am truly proud and honored to welcome all of our guests to our 60th Diamond Jubilee Commencement Convocation.  We appreciate your presence and we extend to you a big Cuttington welcome. We also want to thank our hosts, the people of Suakoko district, for the hospitality given to us throughout the years.

Commencement Convocation is one of the most exciting times of the year for our university.  It is exciting because it marks the end of another successful academic year and gives us an unique opportunity to display our campus and the interesting people who study and work here. CU Flight 1889 has been flying for 133 years. Our longevity is a testament to hard work, character and determination. During that time we have learned that our contribution to Liberia remains Sancte e Sapiente – HOLY AND WISE – that translates into MORAL AND ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE and no one does it better. 

The academic year 2021/2022 has had its successes and its challenges.  As you all know, I was appointed Interim President a year ago, in the midst of a global pandemic that the education sector was ill prepared for. During this time of unprecedented challenges, the Cuttington community came together in remarkable ways. We developed new and innovative approaches to academic and student life, shifting to remote learning in a matter of weeks, pursuing life-saving protocol and grappling with the great social imperative of our time — to foster a safe and welcoming environment for all.

We, as an Institution and a Nation, find ourselves in unchartered waters, global pandemic, economic slowdowns, challenging education landscape and financial constraints. It goes without saying, COVID 19 ushered into our world a new reality that has alter how we educate.  It has compelled swift and unplanned changes to academic cycles and our method and medium of education delivery. We, the Cuttington family remained consistent and vigilant in adapting and adjusting to the situation we found ourselves in.

Cuttington University is surrounded on all sides by an invigorating and rapidly growing business and academic community. It serves as both a challenge and a reminder: CU’s relevance in the higher education ecosystem requires engaging with and responding to the needs of the marketplace around us. Today employers want college graduates with specific applicable skills, and it’s also increasingly clear that this is what students want from their educational experience. So, CU is matching the change around us with change within, helping students anticipate the dynamics of the marketplace, becoming the place businesses turn to when they need to fill critical skills gaps or next-level learning needs. That is no small task; higher education is famously slow-moving. But the entire ethos of CU right now is innovation and change.

The University has not only managed through the daunting reality of the present, but is also preparing for an even more innovative and technology driven future. I look ahead with confidence for all that we plan to achieve in the years ahead because of the remarkable response of the Cuttington community to the challenges we faced over the past year. I am profoundly grateful for the commitment and dedication of the faculty and staff of this University. I am also grateful and thankful for the level of understanding and cooperation received from the Board. Immense thanks also to our remarkable and resilient students – you stuck with us when times were tough – your patience, positive actions and support, did not go unnoticed and greatly eased the burden of transitioning. HUGE THANKS TO YOU ALL!!

Our efforts to enliven our campus and community this year reached beyond the classrooms and labs. Visible progress has been made in keeping the campus clean, safe and viable. We have installed VSat units so that the Administration, faculty, staff and students can have access to Wi-Fi and put in inverter batteries so that the Library is always lit for studying and reading. We have also ensured that everyone has a say in rebranding the University for together we are unbeatable. Our commitment to building a University that embraces technology is more than an investment in the families and students of our community. It is one of the many steps we are taking to ensure greater educational opportunity and diversity in CU’s, Bong County’s and the Nation’s future.

One University – Four Campuses! Yes- FOUR! – we have now added an on-line campus! All of our campuses are striving to remain attractive to students and qualified instructors. We added a fifth School to our Graduate Studies Program  – the School of Global Affairs and Policy which has several tracks;  Sustainable Development, Foreign Service, International Relations and Diplomacy and Tourism and Hospitality.  But we are not done, with the blessing of the Board and diligence of our Administration, faculty and staff, I am pleased to announce two major programs;

  • Cuttington University, in partnership with the Trinity Dental Clinic, will launch the Liberia Dental Therapist School  – a two-year diploma program  to be offered at the Trinity Dental Clinic at ELWA Hospital. This is a major feat as Cuttington will be the first University to be affiliated with a Dental School/Clinic. This program is slated to begin in September 2022.
  • I am most pleased to announce that beginning January 2023, we will be launching our Doctoral Program in Ministry and Theology, making Cuttington University the first University in the Nation to start a Doctoral Program. Congratulations Team!!

Cuttington University current and historically, has had strong academic programs and graduates, that continue to attract new opportunities for collaboration and partnership from other universities and institutions within and  outside Liberia in the areas of staff training and development, student exchange and collaborative research.  With these cooperative ventures we look forward to providing more faculty and staff enrichment programs as well as increase the number of staff who gain advanced degrees.

Cuttington University was blessed by the progressive and forward thinking Chief Suakoko with this remarkable land space we now occupy – thank you Madam Suakoko – we will endeavor to utilize the land. Therefore, I pleased to announce, with the blessing of the remarkable Board, that Cuttington University has entered into partnership with the Episcopal Church of Liberia to explore investment opportunities that will not only benefit Cuttington and the Episcopal church but also the farmers and the community.

            Cuttington University as we all know is nationally and internationally recognized, and unmatched. We, like other educational institutions, have our share of challenges that need intervention from the government, donors, partners, our alumni association and our friends – power has been a major challenge and our Administration has developed a long-term strategy to address our Power needs by employing a trifecta of LEC – Solar – Generator and we are calling on all to help us achieve this. If you were here for the Gala last night, you would have seen that we have started the effort by placing solar street lights from the gate to the cafeteria. Another challenge is the issue of low faculty and staff salary – to recruit and retain the best, we need to increase the salary of our faculty and staff. Additionally, creating e-learning classrooms and spaces is paramount to ensuring our students remain empowered to compete and succeed in the global market.

To our students, we know that times can be economically challenging and that your need for quality education is great. Because Cuttington University offers quality education and we want you to come here, I am pleased, with the blessing of the Board, to announce that effective September we are reducing the Registration fee at the undergraduate level from 232.50 to 160 Junior College from the 112.50 to 85.

I am also pleased to announce that we will be maintaining the President Work Scholarship for the Dux of all high schools in Bong County and the Dux from all Episcopal High Schools in the country to receive a scholarship to attend Cuttington University. We are also happy to announce that all graduating high schoolers from any Episcopal High School will receive free admissions to Cuttington University. 

We, at Cuttington University, are grateful for the sacrifices, timeless dedication and enormous contributions of those whose shoulders that we stand on and the legacy they have left behind. I am most proud and pleased to announce that we are honoring two of our past presidents by naming two colleges in their honor.

The College of Education will now be named Dr. Melvin J. Mason College of Education and College of Theology will be named the Very Rev. Dr. Emmanuel W. Johnson College of Theology.

We also take this time to say special thanks to the Government of His Excellency, Dr. George M. Weah for the continued subsidy support which has provided much needed relief  – to our partners, scholarship donors, alumni association and friends –  we thank you for supporting us and joining us in the fight to educate and develop the next generation of leaders. We are confident that the university will continue to be the pace setter of higher education in Liberia with your continued support.

The year ahead will be a pivotal one for CU as we move from planning processes that have engaged so many members of our community to implementation of a wide range of strategies that will position the University to continue to be an innovative leader in higher education. I have no doubt that our entire community will continue to do incredible things — none more important than working to see that Cuttington is living up to the vision of greatness, innovation and integrity at the core of our founding and central to our mission today.

CHARGE TO THE GRADUATES

To my Diamonds, I offer my most sincere congratulations to each of you. My special congratulations extend, also, to your parents, guardians, families, and friends. They share in your achievement. And likewise, I congratulate our Diamond Shiners, the faculty and staff who gave you knowledge and support, walking beside you on the road to this great moment. It is a proud day for them as well.

Graduates, in taking on the rigorous demands of a Cuttington education, and in succeeding, you have accomplished something difficult, but worthwhile, that will stand you in good stead throughout your lives.

Today, however, I want to focus on a different kind of challenge: moments of truth, when the stakes are extremely high, when you must rise to the occasion. Rise to the occasion with integrity. Your legacies may be determined by mere moments in time. These moments may take the form of a crisis, or of a window of opportunity that opens unexpectedly, inviting you down a new path with greater responsibilities, if you have the courage to choose it. Many years of preparation, hard work, and experience can be tested in an instant. Hold on to your integrity. This is leadership. This is greatness.

In the words of William Shakespeare, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

It does not matter how you arrive at those moments, All of us face such moments in our lives—hold on to your INTEGRITY.

As you leave us for wonderful careers and lives, I hope that you continue to develop the character that will allow you to act with great honor and discipline in a crisis  – And if, in such a moment, you worry that you may not be able to live up to what is expected of you, or what you expect of yourself—I hope you remember that you are a SCORPION AND YOUR STING IS POWERFUL. You all have grown—in multiple dimensions and like the alumni who preceded you, it is now your turn to take your education and use it to serve your community. Do not forget Cuttington and the community from which you came.  Give back. 

You are more than ready for life—Be confident. Be compassionate. And most of all, HOLD ON TO YOUR INTEGRITY.  Our parting gift to you my Diamonds, is to give you your degrees, official transcripts and class pictures today.  CONGRATULATIONS MY DIAMONDS go out and SHINE and may `God’s blessings and favor BE UPON YOU ALWAYS.

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