BALTIMORE, MD – Morgan State University President David Wilson announced on Monday that philanthropist, community activist and renowned national radio host Tom Joyner will deliver the keynote address during the University’s 142nd Commencement. The exercises will take place on Saturday, May 19, 2018, beginning at 9:30 a.m., at Hughes Stadium on campus. In addition to addressing nearly 1,000 degree candidates, Joyner will join two other distinguished citizens in receiving an honorary degree: veteran filmmaker and former Morgan professor Stanley Nelson, and Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., a university professor emerita, and president of the National Academy of Education.
According to a press release by the university, Known to millions nationwide as “The Fly Jock,” Tom Joyner began his broadcast career in 1970 immediately after his graduation from Tuskegee Institute, an HBCU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Joyner, a native of Tuskegee, Ala., worked his way up through radio in Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas before eventually parlaying his distinct humor and energy in urban radio to land a high-profile radio position in Chicago.
“We are very excited to have Tom Joyner, one of the biggest supporters of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their mission, join us on such an auspicious and joyful occasion,” said Dr. Wilson. “Morgan has enjoyed a longtime relationship with Mr. Joyner by way of our involvement with the Tom Joyner Foundation. Having him come to our campus as the Spring Commencement speaker adds yet another layer to that ongoing relationship.”
In 1994, entertainment powerhouse ABC Radio Networks convinced Joyner to take his captivating style of radio nationwide, thus successfully launching “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” into national syndication. Over the years, Joyner has taken his radio program to unexpected heights, using his influence to inspire and activate listeners daily while catering specifically to African-American audiences. Well-known for his dedicated philanthropy and community activism, Joyner has led successful national awareness campaign on voter registration law, family/health initiatives and equitable treatment of minorities. Never one to forget his roots, he created The Tom Joyner Foundation to help retain students in HBCUs. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $60 million.
Joyner has received numerous accolades and awards during his distinguished career, among them a Radio Hall of Fame award, an NAACP Image Award, Impact Magazine’s “Joe Loris Award” for Excellence in Broadcasting and Billboard’s Best Urban Contemporary Air Personality award. Other honors include the BET Humanitarian Award, the Denny’s Community Impact Award, the Septima P. Clark Excellence in Black Education Award and Impact Magazine’s “Best DJ of the Year Award,” which was renamed “The Tom Joyner Award” because he had received it so many times.
Stanley Nelson has been acknowledged as one of the preeminent documentary filmmakers of our time. He has directed and produced more than 12 documentary features, including: “Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”; Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders”; “Joestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple”; and “The Murder of Emmett Till.” Nelson’s latest film, “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” which features Morgan and an interview with President Wilson, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. Nelson has won many major awards in broadcasting, including a Lifetime Peabody Award, a Lifetime Emmy Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association. He is a 2014 National Humanities Medalist, multiple Emmy Award winner, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nelson, a former professor of film in Morgan’s College of Liberal Art, is also co-founder of Firelight Media, a nonprofit production company dedicated to using historical film to advance contemporary social justice causes and to mentoring, inspiring and training a new generation of diverse young filmmakers committed to advancing stories of underrepresented people.
Nearly 1,000 candidates are expected to receive bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees during the commencement ceremony. Morgan has awarded more than 50,000 academic degrees during its storied, 151-year history, propelling it to become the top-ranking university in Maryland in awarding degrees to African Americans.