Students, faculty and staff of Florida A&M filled the Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium to bid farewell to 650 graduates. Overjoyed family and friends patiently waiting for their loved ones to stride out.
The students marched inside the arena promptly at 6 p.m. waving toward the crowd in their forest green cap and gowns.
Keynote speaker, Dr. Larry Robinson, former assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, encouraged the Rattlers to bless the world with their gifts and talents.
"I know how much this occasion means to students and alumni," Robinson said. "I stand before a new set of Rattlers. You all will be legendary because the world is in dire need of your talents."
FAMU president James H. Ammons congratulated the class with words of wisdom. He assured them that even though the university is facing a rough time, the students will still prevail as graduates.
Ammons asked for a moment of silence to honor fallen Rattlers Thomas Nelson, Rasheed Ola-Seyi Lasaki, Shannon Washington and Robert Champion Jr.
Narayan Persaud, member of the board of trustees, gave a speech about the champion in each graduate.
"He (Champion) became a champion as a drum major in the band," Persaud said. "You must continue to rumble your drums because you are all truly champions."
Ammons presented former Mr. FAMU, Joseph Agboola, who received the President Student Leadership Award for his role in representing the university.
In the end, four officers were sworn into the U.S. Armed Forces. Outside, hundreds of graduates exited the arena in search of their families and friends. Greek and non-greek organizations linked arms, chanted and strolled for everyone to see.
Jaris Johnson received his bachelor's of criminal justice. His mother traveled from Miami to celebrate her son's accomplishments.
"One thing I will remember most is him calling me to send him money," she laughed. "He stayed in Paddyfoyte his freshman year and always locked himself out of his room. I am so proud of him."
Agboola graduated with his bachelor of science degree in graphic design and he thanks FAMU for instilling in him life skills he learned as Mr. FAMU.
"I developed leadership skills during my time as Mr. FAMU, he smiled. "I was honored to spread the good news of FAMU. FAMU gave me everything."
James Matthew Lee, 62, graduated with his bachelor of science degree in music. His mother clung onto his sister Pate for support.
"I am so proud of him for sticking it through," she said. "His greatest obstacle was Spanish, but I was there to always encourage him."
Jarvis Green graduated with his bachelor's of arts degree in psychology. He said FAMU played a huge part in preparing him for manhood.
"FAMU has taught me responsibility and helped me learn the importance of mentoring," Green said. "Im going to miss the Hill."