President Henry N. Tisdale spoke passionately to the Class of 2022 about Claflin University’s hallmark values of academic excellence and visionary leadership and then ushered the students through the famed “Arch of Confidence,” concluding the Parting Ceremony ritual for the freshman class on Sunday in the Whittaker V. Middleton Fine Arts Center.
President Tisdale welcomed more than 500 freshmen during the weekend as Claflin prepares for the 2018-19 fall academic semester. The students, family members, and Claflin faculty and staff filled the auditorium and several other campus sites that provided live streaming of the ceremony.
Claflin will celebrate its 150th Anniversary of providing academic excellence and visionary leadership as the oldest HBCU (historically black college/university) in South Carolina. Claflin, which was founded in 1869, was chartered to provide educational opportunities to all students regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnic origin. The Class of 2022 will be the last for President Tisdale, who announced he will retire in Spring 2019.
“The Class of 2022 is one of the largest and most talented classes in the university’s history,” Tisdale said. “This class is far beyond 500 strong and you were selected from one of the largest application pools in Claflin’s history. We have students from 45 of 46 counties in South Carolina with the highest total coming from Richland, Orangeburg, Florence, Charleston and Berkeley counties. This class includes students from every region of the United States and a number of international countries from throughout the world.”
The top three majors for the Class of 2022 are biology, business and psychology and 30 percent are majoring in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Many of the students are entering Claflin with college credit after participating in dual enrollment programs in high school.
Tisdale was especially proud of the significant number of scholarship recipients in the freshman class.
“The impressive list of scholarships awarded to students in this class include South Carolina Palmetto Scholars, Merit Scholars, South Carolina Life and Hope Scholars, Presidential Scholars, and James E. Clyburn-Rudolph Canzater Scholars,” said Tisdale. “Last week, Congressman Clyburn awarded 127 Canzater scholarships to outstanding high school seniors. These students could have gone anywhere and taken their scholarships out-of-state. We are extremely pleased that 47 of those students chose Claflin.”
Tisdale spoke both as the visionary leader who has led Claflin for more than two decades and as a parent, admonishing the students before sending them off on their journey to college and adulthood. He told the students to develop an awareness of what makes them uniquely Claflin.
“Keep God your creator first. Be mindful of the choices you make,” Tisdale said. “Be mindful of the spiritual life in all that you do. Do the things that will keep you safe and out of trouble. We expect you to embody and practice social and moral responsibility in your daily lives. Carry yourself at all times with dignity befitting a Claflin scholar. Be mindful that you too can lead. The world needs visionaries.”
Tisdale drew a chorus of cheers when he reported on the progress of Claflin’s new Health and Wellness Center scheduled to open in October and the University’s national rankings by prestigious media organizations such as the Washington Monthly, Forbes.com and U.S. News and World Report. He also announced that the 2018 freshman class was the second to matriculate through the UNCF/Lilly Foundation’s Career Pathway Initiative (CPI), a $6 million grant designed to prepare students for high paying jobs and graduate and professional schools.
“You are part of a special university and part of the Claflin family,” Tisdale added. “You are entering the university at one of the most exciting times in the history of the university. Be mindful of the ‘Claflin Confidence.’ That is something you can get here that you cannot get at any other place. We know it’s real and we have seen it work in generation after generation of Claflin students and graduates. The ‘Claflin Confidence’ is a way of approaching the world. It’s about knowing who you are, that you are your own person, and knowing what’s right for you.”
Bibet Itani, a freshman from Nepal, is one of Claflin’s newest visionary scholars. Itani said he researched several colleges and universities before deciding that Claflin would be the best fit.
“Claflin has an outstanding computer science and internships programs,” said Itani who was accepted into the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. “I was able to visit the campus several times and information on the website was very helpful. Everyone here is so friendly.”
Itani also credits another Nepal student, Saroj Bhatta with helping him choose Claflin. “We met last summer and he told me he was thinking about attending Claflin, I told him it was a great school and he would be making an excellent choice.” Bhatta is a sophomore majoring in computer science.
Malachi Wright did not travel half as far as Itani to arrive at Claflin. However, the Columbia, S.C. native also found Claflin’s friendly atmosphere and high-quality academic programs hard to resist.
“I plan to major in graphic design and pursue a career in animation after I graduate,” said Wright. “This is a beautiful campus and everyone has made me feel at home.”
Janelle Johnson from North Charleston, S.C. is eager to start classes that will lead to her to earning a degree in criminal justice. After that, she wants to attend law school.
“Claflin was always my top choice, said Johnson. “I like the size of this campus and my high school counselor spoke very highly of the criminal justice program.”
Janelle’s mother, Rochelle Johnson said her daughter is not the first member of the family to enroll at Claflin.
“Janelle has an aunt in Philadelphia, Ruby Roper ’58, who attended Claflin,” she said.
“She was very excited to hear Janelle chose Claflin to continue her education. Her aunt knows it has been a long time since her days in Orangeburg, but she had nothing but good things to say about her Claflin experience.”