"Be ready" and "there's a dream out there with your name on it" were the commencement charges delivered by Broadway star Jennifer Holliday to more than 350 Lincoln University graduates Saturday in Jefferson City.
Holliday, known for her performance of "And I am Telling You" from "Dreamgirls," followed the commencement speaker and entrepreneur Valerie Daniels-Carter.
"The world makes room for a man or woman who knows where they're going," Daniels-Carter said. "I believe everyone was born with passion, desire and influence."
A 1978 alumna, she advanced from the college basketball courts to an offer to play professional women's basketball for the Milwaukee Does. Today, the entrepreneur is a co-owner of the National Basketball Association Bucks.
"I don't have to bounce the ball because I own the ball," she said.
Earning a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Lincoln and a master's in science degree in management from Cardinal Stritch University, Daniels-Carter is the cofounder and chief executive officer of V&J Holding Companies, operating more than 135 Burger King and Auntie Anne's Famous Pretzel outlets.
Her accolades include being named as Essence Magazine's Top 10 Black Female Entrepreneurs and among its 50 Most Admired African-Americans in the United States.
"I wasn't designed, necessarily, for greatness; I had to create greatness for myself," Daniels-Carter said.
Daniels-Carter called the new graduates future history-makers and said, for many, the diploma is a testament of stick-to-itiveness, overcoming obstacles and defying odds.
"Say thank you to your Creator, who allowed this day to become reality," Daniels-Carter said. "Secondly (say it) to your parents, grandparents and guardians, who prayed for you in the midnight hours and made unbelievable sacrifices."
She encouraged the new alumni to listen to wise counsel and not to become discouraged.
"Don't stop dreaming," Daniels-Carter closed.
As part of the commencement, Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, deputy chief in the Army Reserve office of the chief, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. And retired Judge Jon Gray, who served as circuit court judge in the 16th judicial court of Missouri from 1987-2007, received an honorary doctorate of law.
A unique part of this year's commencement was to celebrate posthumously the lives of four students who were part of the class of 2016. The families of Gabriel Soto, Daryl Blackmon, Vaughn King and Joe Jackson-Parks — all Blue Tiger football team players — accepted degrees on their behalf.
Soto was killed in a shooting in May 2013 in his hometown of East Lost Angeles, California. The team wore the number 33 in his memory.
Jackson-Parks died from injuries sustained in a car accident in November 2013 in Warrensburg.
Blackmon also died in a car accident November 2014 in Oakland, California.
And King was shot and killed in August 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.
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