Remarks by Honorary Degree Recipient Frank G. Pogue
President of Grambling State University in Louisiana
Thank you President Stanley, nominating committee, Board of Trustees for State University of New York, friends and colleagues of SUNY Oswego, and the SUNY Oswego University Council for supporting the nomination. Let me first say congratulations to the 2011 graduating class and thank you to the faculty, staff, and parents who have supported the success of their men and women (children, spouses, etc.).
It is an honor to be recognized in such a grand and honorable way. An Honorary Doctorate, in my view, is the most rewarding and prestigious degree one can receive. It is the highest degree an institution can bestow upon an individual and I am pleases to be honored in this way. I spent 24 years in the SUNY System. That was the longest period of my life spent anywhere so it is doubly rewarding to be recognized by one of the most prestigious universities in the largest and most complex system in the United States called SUNY.
I have been tremendously blessed over the past 47 years to have held nearly every academic title one can hold in higher education. I am currently serving my fourth presidency having first served as Interim President at SUNY Cobleskill, as President of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for 11 years, as Interim President of Chicago State University, and now President of Grambling State University. And so, it’s with honor that I bring greetings from the Grambling State University Family.
In my short lifetime, I have personally lived through a period in our society of legal segregation, separate and unequal, to serving as a higher education leader at several institutions—all black institutions, institutions that were 95 to 99 percent white, large urban institutions, public, private, church related, small rural institutions, institutions located in the North, South, and Southwest, institutions that were co-ed and single sex (gender), and other different types of institutions. But the one thing that I have learned about the value and impact of the role that colleges and universities play is that of bringing people together to experience each other. Universities have been doing it for hundreds of years. We have brought different races, international students, low income to super rich—we have brought these very diverse groups together. This is important to me—the value of bringing people together. I believe quite strongly that if there is ever to be a solution to hate, incivility, poverty, hate crimes, bullying, drugs, alcoholism, homelessness, imprisonment, hunger, wars, distrust, unemployment, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, discrimination against persons because of disability, sexual orientation, inequality . . . the solutions will come from people who care about each other. The university setting is a very special place—We bring people together unlike any other—many are living together for the first time—some taught to hate others; some are poor, others are rich; some have spent their lives on welfare; and some have come from segregated communities. Colleges and universities may be the only hope we have left to ensure the creation of a civil democratic society.
Again, thank you for this prestigious honor and noteworthy recognition. I am delighted to be one of the newest alumni of the State University of New York - Oswego.
(Posted: May 12, 2011)