Historic ceremony acknowledges graduates, including first Ph.D. students and longest-serving president

Historic ceremony acknowledges graduates, including first Ph.D. students and longest-serving president

Historic ceremony acknowledges graduates, including first Ph.D. students and longest-serving president


President Mason speaking at Commencement 2023.

President Mason addressing the graduates.


UDC’s 46th Commencement ceremony celebrated 796 graduates, including the first Ph.D. graduates in the University’s history. The festive atmosphere inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday, May 13, included graduates ranging in age from 19 to 73, from the David A. Clarke Law School to the UDC Community College. The event also paid tribute to the University’s longest-serving president, President Ronald Mason Jr.

The first five graduates with a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering and Computer Science and Urban Leadership and Entrepreneurship led the way for doctoral achievement and next-level research rankings at UDC as they made history.

“I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation and admiration for the graduates of the University’s first-ever doctoral programs,” said Dr. Dwane Jones, dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES). “It fills my heart with immense pride to witness such a remarkable cohort of individuals who have worked hard to earn their doctorate and have become pioneers in their respective fields.”

Sixty-four students graduated summa cum laude at this year’s Commencement, 52 magna cum laude and 91 cum laude from the baccalaureate degree programs. One hundred and sixty-five students graduated with honors from the associate degree programs. Thirteen undergraduate students graduated with a perfect 4.00 GPA, and 12 associate degree students grated with a perfect 4.00 GPA. Six students graduated with double majors.

President Ronald Mason Jr. started the event by encouraging the students, “Today is about the fruits of your labor. Today we celebrate you.”

It was also a special occasion for President Mason. He is culminating his highly impactful eight-year tenure as president next month.

Mason told the audience, “The overarching vision of the University of the District of Columbia is for our students to reach their highest levels of human potential—from professional certification to doctoral and professional degrees. We provide our students with multiple pathways to success. This is your moment. Today we validate your aspirations and recognize all you have accomplished.”

The Presentation of Colors was led by the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Honor Guard. The UDC Chorale, directed by Professor Johnny Butler and Professor Evelyn Simpson-Curenton on piano, offered musical selections, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The keynote speaker, U.S. Congressman Maxwell A. Frost (FL-10) was introduced by President Mason as a “representative of his generation” at a time when our nation was at a tipping point.

“It is with great intentionality that we sought out today’s speaker,” President Mason said. “We did so because he speaks truth to power. He does not seem to do so for gain or glory, rather simply because the truth must be said and heard in the halls of power.”

“He was born in 1997, and we expect his voice to grow stronger and stronger over time. If he represents his generation, then there really is hope for the future.”

Congressman Frost rallied students in his speech, encouraging them to step into power.

Graduates were also encouraged by the 2023 Student Commencement Speaker Eugene Thornton, who earned a B.S. in Architecture. He acknowledged the challenges of adapting to different online learning tools during the COVID-19 pandemic but never lost the Firebird spirit.

“No Firebird stands alone,” Thornton said. “This is the time that we rise and become leaders. This is the time that we commit to serving our nation and communities. It is our turn to step up and take on the responsibilities of navigating society toward an inclusive future for all—

one that provides equal and equitable access to resources and opportunities.

“Now is our time to inspire greatness, empower innovation and serve the community. Congratulations to the Class of 2022 and 2023.”

To watch the 2023 Commencement, please click here.