Willie E. Gary, a nationally-known attorney, delivered a message of inspiration to faculty, staff, students and friends as he praised honorees for their achievements at the annual Honors Convocation Tuesday.
A graduate of both Shaw University and North Carolina Central in Durham, N.C., Gary is a multi-millionaire who owns a Boeing 747 jet, numerous cars and a luxurious home.
In all of his prosperity, he takes pleasure in donating money back to communities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the nation.
“When you make it, don’t get amnesia,” Gary said. “Black colleges were good back then when we had no other place to go and they’re good now. Graduates from black schools are some of the best graduates in the nation.”
After a quick film presentation depicting Gary’s occupation and prestige, he began his speech by giving reverence to God and explaining that it was because of him that he was able to achieve such great success.
“When other attorneys ask me how is it that I win so many cases, I tell them that it is because I realize there is a greater power above me.”
Gary told students that they deserved to be praised and that their hard work and determination would pay off. Congratulating them on their achievements, he reminded them that they were indebted to those who came before them.
“They marched from Selma to Montgomery on Bloody Sunday,” he said. “They kept marching for you. They couldn’t give up. You have an opportunity they didn’t have and you can’t let them down.”
Through his own life testimony of success and accomplishments, Gary told students that they were among the nation’s best and that black students were – and always had been – more than qualified to complete any task.
In urging the honorees to attain their big dreams, he also put in their minds to not become cocky, but confident once reaching their goals. “Don’t look down on anyone unless you’re picking them up”, he advised.
Even faculty members were amazed by Gary.
“I’ve been here for 10 years and this spear has been the most exciting,” said Dean C.J. Chen of the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering. However, due to the low turnout of students, Gary’s message was not delivered to as many as it should have. “Students either did not show up for their awards or left early. The speaker was excellent as usual, but more students should have come to hear him,” said Rashani Boynton, a senior photography student from Detroit.
Upon leaving, Interim President Henry Lewis III, shared humble words of gratitude for Gary’s commitment to HBCUs and presented him the President’s Award. The Marching 100 presented Gary with uniforms for he and his wife and they gained honorary membership
Ivy Mitchell was recognized as well at convocation for her dedication to the honors program and Eli Lily and Company was presented a plaque for their cooperation and support of FAMU students.
As Gary exited, he reminded students of their potential to great things.
“Students, you can do it. Success is reachable, goals are attainable and it doesn’t come over night. Prepare yourself for some of the bumps and curves in life. The road to success is always under construction.”