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Sixteen of the school-record 21 Presidential Academic Award recipients pose for a photo during the Commencement Ceremony.
In this photo: Sixteen of the school-record 21 Presidential Academic Award recipients pose for a photo during the Commencement Ceremony.
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2023 Undergraduate Commencement – article & photos

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Delaware State University’s 2023 Commencement was not its first graduation year to have multiple Presidential Academic Award (4.0 GPA) recipients.

However, it is the first Commencement to recognize a school-record 21 Presidential Academic Awardees.

Those awardees – so numerous that the presentations were done on the ground instead of on the stage – were among a number of highlights during the University’s 131st  Commencement Undergraduate Ceremony held outside at Alumni Stadium on May 12.

For images from the undergraduate ceremony, click on the below links:

Undergraduate Commencement


Undergraduate creative Commencement caps


During the 8 a.m. undergraduate ceremony, University President Tony Allen expressed his feelings about the Class of 2023.

“The world is complex and daunting, but you are the vanguard now. The freshest, fastest and fiercest among us,” said University President Tony Allen. “Today is your moment. Whether you are a first-generation graduate or a legacy of Delaware State University alumni, you were made to fulfill this purpose. You are fortified, fabulous and ready to serve.”

After a late cancellation by the scheduled keynote speaker, on less than one day’s notice, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester came and gave a powerful address to the graduates.Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester gave one of the most powerful Commencement addresses in recent University history

“Our foundation is shaky on this earth right now. Everything from the planet to our democracy, to criminal justice reform to people having clean water to drink and air to breathe. Basics are on the line,” U.S. Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “But what gives me hope, what gives me joy is looking out at all of you, because you were born for such a time as this.”

Showing the graduates and crowd a pair of her childhood ballet shoes, she shared some relevant lessons she learned from her dance pursuit.

  • The dances that have many people are so much more impactful and so much more fun and bring joy. “In this life, the work you will be doing is a team sport. Nobody does everything by themselves.”
  • Creativity is necessary. “You might get that left brain, but you need that right brain, too. We are whole people. We are artists as well as engineers. All of it matters. The only way we are going to solve climate change, alleviate poverty, building housing is by being creative.”
  • Just like a ballerina maintains a disciplined focus pirouetting, so did she urge the graduates to “keep your eye on the prize.”
  • Just as there is pain from the physical demands of ballet, there will be pain associated with the demands of life.

U.S. Rep. Blunt Rochester told the gathering of a profound period of pain in her life – the unexpected death of her husband. After a season of grief, she overcame her sadness by realizing she had something to contribute. She ran for Congress and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Congresswoman ended her keynote address with a poem she wrote some time ago entitled “Don’t Look.”


Don’t look at where I came from. Look at where I am going.

So I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and my people came from way down south.

Don’t Look at where I came from. Look at where I am going.

I’m a Black woman trying to get equal pay, 62 cents on the dollar, lifting sick bodies and flipping burgers, waiting tables makes me want to holler.

Don’t Look at where I came from. Look at where I am going.

Nourishing my growing babies putting food on the table, I’m do what I have to, cause by God knows I’m able.

Filling my mind is a big part. But filling my spirit in particular.

Reaching out to positive people and getting rid of sick people who are constantly tripping.

Don’t Look at where I came from. Look at where I am going.

Like the song they sang in the 70s, I’m singing real loud.

Yeah, Don’t get in my way cause “Ain’t no stopping us now”

So for the last time now, I’m telling, I don’t mean to be prissy.

But don’t look where I came from, because you might miss me.


U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said the Class of 2023 is graduating at the right time.”There have been 10 million new jobs created in the past two years,” he said. “The unemployment rate is 3.4%, the lowest unemployment rate that we have had in 69 years.”

The school-record 21 Presidential Academic Awards 4.0 GPA recipients included:

  • Olukemi Titiloa Ajibawo of Hanover, Md., Criminal Justice
  • Danielle Allen of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, Liberal Studies
  • Malgorzata Andersohn of Jonesboro, Ark., Kinesiology
  • Felicia L. Banks of Middletown, Del., Liberal Studies
  • Maceon Melanie Battle of Middletown, Del., Criminal Justice
  • Samara Benjamin of Sacramento, Calif., Psychology
  • Gabriela Cabrera of Elkridge, Md., Biological Sciences
  • Miranda Cantu of Aberdeen, Md., Agriculture
  • Esther Hadassah Daniel of Dover, Del., Biological Sciences
  • Gabriyella Daniel of Dover, Del., Accounting
  • Abigail Edwards of Felton, Del., Agriculture
  • Najay A. Jackson of Bronx, N.Y., Political Science
  • Jayla Johnson of Cocoa, Fla., Liberal Studies
  • Ciara Jones of Hampton, Va., Chemistry/Pre-professionalJonte Simmons (l) and Rita Williams (r) receive the Presidential Leadership Award from Dr. Tony Allen.
  • Genaveve Oliveri of Salem, N.J., Criminal Justice
  • Molly Quinn of Dover, Del., Social Work
  • Zymir A. Lee Robinson of Dover, Del., Biological Sciences
  • Zaha Shahdad of Middletown, Del., Engineering Physics
  • Maya Simone Shuler of Crowley, Tex., Liberal Studies
  • Shanon Hope Vella of Millsboro, Del., Social Work
  • Shamaya L. Young of Seaford, Del., Social Work.

Presidential Leadership Awards were presented to Jonte Simmons (the outgoing Mr. DSU) of Laureldale, Pa., Accounting, and Rita Williams, Social Work.