Morgan Magazine 2018 Volume 1

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IMPACT MSU Benefits the City and the State MORGAN MAGAZINE VOLUME I 2018


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President’s Letter Stating the value of a rare gem: HBCUs

Billion-Dollar Impact A new report documents MSU’s economic benefit to Baltimore and Maryland

The ‘Bridgeology’ Era Recalling when Morgan’s social life was centered on Welcome Bridge

Repaying a Debt to Morgan Husband and wife physicians assist students at his alma mater





Jenkins Hall Ribbon-Cutting A new facility houses departments in behavioral and social sciences

University Breaks Ground on New Student Services Building Construction on Tyler Hall begins with recognition and celebration

Unveiling Legends Plaza A new memorial honors Bears athletic greats

College of Liberal Arts Named in Honor of Outstanding Alumnus James Gilliam A special ceremony marks one of Morgan’s “finest hours”

Cover Story






Commencement Highlights Maryland’s lieutenant governor addresses MSU’s largest-ever December graduating class

A World-Class Experience Morgan leads an engineering senior down a unique path to success

Morgan Biologists Develop EarthFriendly Fuels Dr. Viji Sitther’s research group grows unique microbes for alternative energy

College Discovery Academy Inspires Baltimore City Youth An MSU Office of Community Service program supports middle school and high school students

Hermes Creative Award – Platinum! Morgan State University

Morgan Magazine

Special Sesquicentennial Issue, Vol. I, 2017 Category: Print Media | Publications | Magazine


Morgan Magazine is published by the Division of Institutional Advancement of MSU for alumni, parents, faculty, students, prospective students and friends. Morgan Magazine is designed and edited by the Office of Public Relations and Strategic Communications. Opinions expressed in Morgan Magazine are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the University. Unsolicited manuscripts and photos are welcome by email, or by mail with a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Letters are also welcome. Send correspondence directly to: Morgan Magazine Office of Public Relations and Strategic Communications 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane 635 McMechen Building Baltimore, MD 21251 (443) 885-3022 office main Morgan Magazine Staff Vice President, Institutional Advancement Cheryl Y. Hitchcock Assistant Vice President, Public Relations and Strategic Communications Larry Jones Assistant Director, Web Communications Henry McEachnie Publications Manager Ferdinand Mehlinger Editor Eric Addison Art Director David E. Ricardo Senior Graphic Designer Andre Barnett Graphic Designer Kirian Villalta Photographer P. A. Greene Contributing Writers Donna M. Owens Frieda Wiley





THE WORLD Alumni and Friends, In his interview for these pages, Morgan senior Isaiah Weaver, one of our brightest future engineers, spotlighted a major strength of his university that is also a major challenge. His diverse work experiences have shown him that Morgan “normalizes” great achievement, he said. And he added that his travels abroad and interactions with members of oppressed minority groups overseas have led him to conclude that African Americans often normalize — read “take for granted” — the existence of a rare gem: HBCUs. I think those are extraordinary insights for a 24-year-old, but I have come to expect the extraordinary from our students. Indeed, I believe it is critical that we remember the existential struggle, past and present, of Historically Black Institutions and that we continually state our value to the world. The report titled “Excellence in Education, Research, and Public Service: The Economic & Social Impact of Morgan State University,” compiled at my direction and discussed in this issue of Morgan Magazine, serves the latter purpose, by documenting the vital contributions the University makes to the region: from our education of a diverse student body, to our research and innovation to address the biggest challenges of our constituents, to our service to local neighborhoods. Expanding on these topics in this issue, we take a look at the biofuels research being conducted by Morgan biologist Viji Sitther and her colleagues as well as the great things our Office of Community Service is doing through its College Discovery Academy program. Moreover, the “Excellence in Education, Research, and Public Service” report also documents Morgan’s $1-billion economic impact on Maryland, with a specific emphasis on Baltimore. As you will read, our institution’s positive economic influence can be felt in every corner of the state, from the jobs we create to the tax revenues we generate to the many graduates who remain in the region, leveraging our collective spending power. We have also taken this opportunity to bring you up to date on the University’s growth, with a package of articles we’ve named “Morgan Momentum” and a recap of our December 2017 Commencement Exercises, which featured our largest-ever December graduating class. Seeing Morgan’s growth in historical context is important, and our look back at Morgan’s “Bridgeology era,” when the Welcome Bridge was the center of social life on campus, will help you do just that. My heartfelt thanks to you, dear readers, for your continued strong support of Morgan and our mission to grow the future and lead the world. I look forward to seeing you and hope to hear your thoughts about this issue of Morgan Magazine. Sincerely,

David Wilson President



E a r n I n c o me W h i l e M a k i n g Ge n e r o u s Gi f t s

The Charitable Gift Annuity Program

Gift Annuity Rates Single Annuitant Age Rate 70 5.6% 75 6.2% 80 7.3% 85 8.3% 90 9.5% Two Annuitants Age Rate 70/72 5.1% 75/77 5.6% 80/82 5.7% 85/89 7.9% 90/95 9.3%

For illustrative purposes only. Rates are subject to change. Contact the Office of Development for exact benefit information or for a personalized gift illustration.


Morgan State University has established a Charitable Gift Annuity Program to fund scholarships for students and to ensure the future health and well-being of Morgan State University for generations to come. The Charitable Gift Annuity is a simple and convenient way to make a generous gift to Morgan and receive fixed payments for the remainder of your life, regardless of market conditions. You can even provide that payments continue for the life of another person, if desired. The amount of the annuity payment depends upon the age(s) of the individual(s) receiving the annuity and the amount of the gift. • You will be entitled to a charitable income tax deduction for the year your gift annuity is funded. • Morgan has a minimum gift of $50,000 to establish a charitable gift annuity. • Charitable gift annuities may be funded with cash or marketable securities.

We invite you to call to request a confidential personalized report prepared for you that will illustrate the payment amount and an estimate of your income tax deduction.

To how you can establish a Charitable Gift Annuity to support Morgan State University, contactMDonna M Olearn R G A N more M A G A about ZINE ORGAN.EDU VOLUME I 2018 Howard, CFRE, director of development in the Development Office, at (443) 885-4680.

Billion-Dollar Impact A New Report Measures Morgan’s Economic Benefit to the City and the State By Eric Addison


ert Hash of Morgan’s Class of 1970, an African American, has travelled far since his humble birth in Jefferson, N.C., in 1947. He used his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Morgan to gain a foothold in the predominately white male field of banking and capped off his 44 1/2-year career with a long and spectacularly successful tenure at the helm of MECU, the Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore. During his last year at MECU, Hash recalls, the company acquired Advance Bank, a firm that was founded during the Jim Crow era by one of his Morgan professors, Winfred O. Bryson Jr., Ph.D., in 1957, to serve Baltimore’s African-American community.

Bert and Joan Hash

Big Numbers, No Surprise In many ways, Bert Hash represents the contribution Morgan has made, and is making, to the economic development and growth of Baltimore and the region. And according to a recent report compiled at the request of MSU President David Wilson, that contribution has been huge. “Morgan is a major economic engine for the city and state, annually producing $1 billion in statewide economic impact, supporting 6,500 jobs and generating $47 million in state tax revenues,” states a summary of the 92-page document, which is titled “Excellence in Education, Research, and Public Service: The Economic and Social Impact of Morgan State University.” “About 60 percent of that economic and employment impact occurs in Baltimore,” the summary continues. The report was compiled by a Philadelphia, Pa.-based economics consulting firm, Econsult Solutions, Inc.

“They were looking for someone to merge with, and we were fortunate that they looked at us,” Hash says. “To bring the story full circle, John Hamilton, who was president of Advance Bank during the merger, is now the president and CEO of MECU.”

“I’m not surprised at all (by the numbers)” says Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, a Philadelphia native who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from MSU. “When you think about the growing number of students at Morgan State University, who contribute economically as well as socially to the fabric of the city, I can see a growing impact on the city and the state beyond the billion dollars.”

— Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, MSU ’73 and ’77

Continued on page 4 MORGAN MAGAZINE VOLUME I 2018


Morgan’s Economic Impact Continued from page 3

“…We’re very pleased about this report. But more importantly, it demonstrates that… we are good stewards of the State’s resources.”

Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, concurs. “As a former state legislator and as the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, I’ve followed Morgan State University’s growth for many years. The university is an important piston in the region’s economic engine,” Fry wrote. “The new economic Donald C. Fry impact report highlights the fact that Morgan is not only a vital educational asset for the region and the state, but an economic one as well.” William H. Cole IV, who leads the city’s economic development agency, is likewise unsurprised. “Overall, in the city, the anchor institutions, particularly our higher education institutions and hospitals, play a critical role (in) the city’s current development plan but also (in) our future. And Morgan is no different,” says Cole, who is president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). “They are a significant employer. More importantly, they are putting out graduates that will have a profound impact on the future of the city.”

William H. Cole IV

— Sidney H. Evans Jr., MSU Vice President for Finance and Management Sidney H. Evans Jr.


Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fields

Morgan is working with the BDC to redevelop Northwood Shopping Center using financial instruments that require the University’s involvement, he adds. “I do think it’s important to stress the fact that the neighborhood redevelopment would not be possible without Morgan’s direct involvement.”

The report also documents the manifold societal and community impacts the University makes: expanding the state’s talent pool and increasing its competitiveness — particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields — by making higher education more accessible and affordable to more people; engaging with the community in mutually beneficial programs and other activities in public health, public safety, education, economic development, entrepreneurship and arts education, through the Morgan Community Mile; creating and implementing the programs of Morgan’s Office of Community Service; conducting research that addresses the biggest challenges of Baltimore and Maryland; and in other ways. We will examine these community impacts in future issues of Morgan Magazine, but first let’s take a closer look at the dollar figures presented in the impact report.






Impact from Operations The report separates Morgan’s annual economic impact into four categories: Operations, Capital Investments, Student and Visitor Spending and Wage Premium.

Impact from Capital Investments Morgan has spent nearly $400 million building new facilities over the past six years, says Evans. Those expenditures form the lion’s share of the University’s recent “capital investments,” which make a $75-million annual impact on the state — $62 million on Baltimore City — generating about $2 million in state tax “I’m excited that revenues, creating demand for goods and services and Morgan is doing supporting 400 jobs.

“Operations” represents the University’s spending on its core functions of education, research and public service, which results in a $334-million annual benefit to Maryland and $302 million in annual benefits to Baltimore City, explains Sidney H. Evans Jr., Morgan’s vice president for Finance and Management. “We have a $260-million operating budget, including a $116-million salary, wages and benefit budget. We employ approximately 2,100 people, and our operations support about 2,600 jobs in the state,” says Evans. “This economic juggernaut that we represent is generating the economic benefits presented in this report.” As a chief financial strategist for the institution, Evans says, he is well aware of how the operational expenditures and the impact report fit into the plans for Morgan’s advancement in the increasingly competitive world of higher education. “…We’re very pleased about this report,” he adds. “But more importantly, it demonstrates that through the support of the State of Maryland, the prudent financial management at the University, because of our governance structure, with our Board of Regents, President Wilson, the senior management team and all the Morgan employees, we are good stewards of the State’s resources. “We also believe this as a statement about where Morgan is going in terms of providing a high-quality education for our students, being Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University,” says Evans. “This economic impact study documents what we’re doing.”

Among those job holders is Morgan graduate Antoine Wright. Growing up in the Pigtown neighborhood of Baltimore City, Wright didn’t have family members or role models who had attained higher education, but MSU still had “a place in my heart and my head,” he says. “I figured in some way, form or fashion, I would like to be in the Morgan community. When I got here, I felt comfortable.” “Getting here” was a long route for Wright. After graduating from high school, he spent years working in the construction industry, living paycheck to paycheck, before deciding he could do better with a bachelor’s degree. He applied to Morgan’s construction management program, was accepted and came to the University when he was in his early 30s, a very focused, determined nontraditional student. “I paid for school out of my own pocket….,” he says. “And after I invested that much money and time, I wanted to make sure I gave myself the best chance to be successful.”

things that are changing the landscape of the world.”

— Benjamin P. Morgan, Vice President, Barton Malow Company

Barton Malow Company and JLN employees, at the Tyler Hall construction site on Morgan’s campus

Wright received his baccalaureate in 2015 and landed a job at Barton Malow Company, a construction firm. He now works for the company as a project engineer on the construction of Morgan’s new student services building, Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall, which is scheduled to open in 2020. He’s also in Barton Malow’s Future Leaders Program, the company’s management training initiative. His long-term goal, Wright says, is to own a construction company, give back to his community and “provide opportunities for those who are maybe a little less fortunate than I am, and give them some of the tools and traits that Morgan State offered me.” Continued on page 6 MORGAN MAGAZINE VOLUME I 2018


Morgan’s Economic Impact Continued from page 5 Wright is one of three Morgan alumni hired by Barton Malow’s Baltimore office, reports Benjamin P. Morgan, a vice president with the firm, which was also the prime contractor for the construction of MSU’s Center for the Built Environment and Infrastructure Studies (CBEIS) building, which opened in 2012, and Jenkins Hall, which opened in 2017. He adds that the University is “a major contributor to Barton Malow’s annual sales,” which total approximately $2.4 million company-wide and $90 million in Baltimore. Born and raised in Baltimore City, Ben Morgan is not an MSU alumnus, but like many Baltimoreans, he has many ties to the University. His three sisters all graduated from MSU, and he teaches in the University’s construction management program and chairs the department’s advisory board. “Thinking about the rich history, a University that’s been around 150 years, and being a part of that history, you can’t help but get excited about that,” Ben Morgan says. “I’m excited that Morgan is doing things that are changing the landscape of the world.” Namdi Iwuoha, managing member of JLN Construction Services, LLC, likewise expresses gratitude and pride in doing work for an Historically Black Institution. His company’s work as a joint venture partner with Barton Malow on the Jenkins Hall and Tyler Hall projects has constituted about 25 percent of JLN’s annual sales. “I am very pleased with all of the opportunities (Morgan State University) has given to me to improve myself and JLN Construction Services, LLC,” Iwuoha says. “To be a part of Morgan and having Morgan State graduates be part of JLN makes me very proud.”

Ancillary Spending

Impact from Student and Visitor Spending Spending by Morgan’s nearly 8,000 students also represents a large financial benefit to the city and state. And as the “Excellence in Education, Research, and Public Service” report notes, “Since many of these students are not Maryland residents, their spending is a net gain to the city, the (metropolitan statistical area) and the state of Maryland.” An analysis by Econsult Solutions reveals $88.2 million in annual spending by Morgan students on things such as housing, meals, retail purchases and transportation. Visitors to the University — including prospective students, attendees of alumni and athletic events, Commencement attendees and others — do a lesser but still significant amount of spending. The total impact of this “ancillary spending” by students and visitors is $97 million annually in the state and $47 million per year in Baltimore City. Cherise Bromley is sales manager for the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel, a frequent vendor for MSU and a beneficiary of the University’s ancillary spending. She reports that business for the hotel from Morgan entities such as the Office of Alumni Relations, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and MSU academic departments, as well as from individuals doing Morgan-related travel, total “annually probably a few hundred room-nights, which is a lot from one source.” Bromley, an alumnus of Coppin State University and the University of Maryland, says she also has a strong affinity for MSU. Morgan “has a huge impact” on the region and is “one of the anchors as far as universities in the city,” she says. Her employer supports the University financially through advertisements and sponsorships, she reports, and she has advised students in Morgan’s hospitality management programs during career fairs and other events.

Cherise Bromley

JLN Construction Services employees, with the company’s managing member, Namdi Iwuoha (center), at JLN’s headquarters in southwest Baltimore

JLN, a black-owned and black-operated small minority company, has hired eight Morgan graduates since the company was founded in 1997, and recently hired four new MSU graduates. Iwuoha is a member of Morgan’s Industrial Advisory Board. 6



Wage Premium

Impact from Wage Premium Morgan State University’s core mission, as stated succinctly in its impact report, is “to educate, credential and prepare students for a lifetime of success. This primary function, in addition to helping foster a more enlightened society, has meaningful and immediate gains for Morgan graduates and for the regional economies they participate in after graduation by increasing their productivity and earning power.” The “Wage Premium” category of the University’s economic impact report seeks to measure the higher household earnings and spending power that come with Morgan graduates’ academic degrees, degrees they might not have obtained without access to the education provided by Morgan.

Think of Bert Hash: an infant when his parents moved with their son to Gary, W.V., where his father found a job in a coal mine, he was 11 when the growing family moved again to Aberdeen, in Harford County, Md. Hash’s parents had little education — neither finished high school — but they provided their kids with a wealth of self-esteem and encouragement to aspire for college. Bert attended the racially segregated schools in Aberdeen and came to Morgan as a freshman in 1965, led there by the college’s reputation among its graduates who taught or had studied at his high school. He was determined, he says, to have a life beyond Aberdeen and the socioeconomic circumstances of his youth. Five years later, he left Morgan with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, having also met his soon-to-be wife, fellow Morgan student Joan Smith Hash, during his freshman year. And he began a career in banking, where, over time, he worked his way up the corporate ladder and enjoyed phenomenal success. Beginning as a management trainee at Equitable Bank, Hash eventually became a vice president in the mortgage lending department. Next came 12 years as an executive at Provident Bank then nearly 18 years at MECU. Joan Hash, meanwhile,

had a very successful career of her own, working at the National Bureau of Standards (later renamed the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and at the Social Security Administration. Bert Hash previously served as vice chair of Morgan State University Foundation, Inc. and is now serving his second term on the organization’s board. He has also served as an advisor to MSU’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management as well as its Honors Program, and as a mentor to students at the school. The Graves School Honors Program’s annual mentoring award is named in his honor. Bert and Joan, now retired and living comfortably in Ellicott City, Md., are major donors to MSU. They meet at least once a year with a dozen or more close friends who were their classmates at Morgan. All, Bert says, have enjoyed career success. “I recognize that Morgan really gave me the base to be successful in my career,” Hash says, “and my wife will attest to this as well…. Now, I could have had the same experience someplace else and may have been great at it,” he adds. “But coming from my background, I think Morgan was the right place at the right time, and it certainly gave me the support to be successful.”

“I recognize that Morgan really gave me the base to be successful in my career, and my wife will attest to this as well.” — Bert Hash, MSU ’70

Continued on page 8 MORGAN MAGAZINE VOLUME I 2018


Morgan’s Economic Impact Continued from page 7

Wage Premium

Bert Hash

Antoine Wright

Ben Morgan

Bert Hash provides a prime example of Morgan’s wage premium, but so does Antoine Wright of Barton Malow, who had Morgan and the city’s sole construction management degree program as a vehicle for his career ambition and determination to better himself. And so, too, do the three sisters of Ben Morgan of Barton Malow, who grew up in a strong family with a strong work ethic in a home near Druid Hill Park in Baltimore City and had Morgan State as a path to career success. There are literally thousands of other success stories such as theirs. As impressive as its statistics are, the real significance of Morgan State University’s impact report is the benefit to the lives of millions of real people it reveals, people who have been touched, directly or indirectly, by the work of Maryland’s largest historically black academic and research institution. n

THE MSU PEARL Supporting a Vital Maryland Industry Although their expenditures make up only a small portion of Morgan State University’s operating budget, MSU’s operations outside of Baltimore City provide vital services to research and industry in Maryland. Morgan spends more than $5 million annually to support its work in the Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research (GESTAR) Program, which is based at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Prince George’s County, Md. And the Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (MSU PEARL) in Calvert County, Md., is a Morgan operation with a $600,000 annual budget. The mission of the MSU PEARL is to provide society with the knowledge to solve its environmental challenges through research, education and economic development. The laboratory’s recent economic development activities include genetics research and exploration of innovative aquaponics technologies and hatchery innovations to support the continued growth of Maryland’s oyster aquaculture industry. n

Research Industry 8



Morgan State University

Economic Benefit to the City and the State

Annual Economic Impact

Total Annual Impact Maryland Annual $990 million Jobs Baltimore Supported $574 million

Maryland 6,530 Baltimore 3,990

Annual Economic Impact by Category


Maryland $334 million


Maryland $75 million

Ancillary Spending

Wage Premium

Baltimore $302 million

Baltimore $62 million

Baltimore $47 million

Baltimore $163 million

Maryland $97 million

Annual Fiscal Impact Maryland Baltimore Tax Revenue $47 million $9 million

Maryland $484 million



The ‘Bridgeology’ Era When Welcome Bridge Was the Center of Social Life on Morgan’s Campus By Donna M. Owens

“There was a lot of acting on that bridge. In hindsight, it was a tool that helped me become an entertainer and communicator.” — WPGC-FM Radio Host Joe Clair, Class of ’92

Joe Clair is a comedian, radio and TV personality — one who’s appeared on HBO, BET and Comedy Central, and graced the airwaves in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and beyond. The host of “The Joe Clair Morning Show” on WPGC-FM 95.5 in Washington, D.C., jokes that he’s always had plenty of personality. Still, Clair believes his gifts were honed at Morgan as he participated in an unofficial program offering known to many as “Bridgeology.” What precisely is “Bridgeology”? Alas, you won’t find the definition in Webster’s 10


dictionary or Wikipedia. Nor does the “course” offer any academic credit. Yet to alumni of a certain age and era, particularly those who matriculated during the 1970s to 1990s, the “Welcome Bridge” played an integral role in student life. Indeed, many Morganites have fond memories of that golden period when the bridge was a bustling epicenter of campus news and social engagement. “Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you I majored in Bridgeology,” chuckles Clair, who arrived with a partial art scholarship and

earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1992. “There were so many different people, so much (foot) traffic, and everything was visible.” He met up with classmates, friends and his brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity on the bridge. And although he didn’t realize it at the time, that period foreshadowed his future entertainment career. “There was a lot of acting on that bridge,” says Clair. “In hindsight, it was a tool that helped me become an entertainer and communicator.”


Bridgeology Good Vibrations Erected in 1964, the bridge is 14 feet wide and 20 feet high. Spanning E. Cold Spring Lane, and a stone’s throw from the architectural curves of the McKeldin Center, the structure connects the University’s Academic Quad and Morgan Commons. Despite the common belief that the bridge’s moniker serves as a warm greeting to campus visitors, the name actually honors the late Verda Freeman Welcome, a 1939 graduate of what was then Morgan State College who became an educator, civil rights activist and pioneering lawmaker. Elected to the Maryland General Assembly representing Baltimore City, she served initially as a state delegate and later became the first African-American woman state senator in the nation. The history and name of the bridge are fitting, alumni say, because students were indeed “welcome.” “You had to cross the bridge to get to class. We met people from all over the country and the world,” says Clair, who hails from Seat Pleasant, Md. “Besides those of us from the DMV, we had classmates from Iowa, Texas, Alaska. There were African and Jamaican students. It was global.” Every aspect of black identity could be found on the bridge of the Historically Black Institution. Sorority and fraternity members wore colorful paraphernalia. Athletes mingled with marching band members who mixed with student government leaders. No matter your major or background, camaraderie and kinship could be found on the bridge.

“It was just a central part of our culture. The bridge was at the heart of it.” — Dr. Tiffany Beth Mfume, MSU Assistant Vice President for Student Success and Retention, Class of ’93, ’99 and ’03

“It was just a central part of our culture,” recalls Tiffany Beth Mfume, Dr.P.H., who earned her bachelor’s and graduate degrees at MSU and now serves as Morgan’s assistant vice president for Student Success and Retention. “The bridge was at the heart of it. It was where we congregated. Every day, it was packed. Noon was peak time. It’s where you met people, got noticed, ran for (student government) and where courtships were made. You would actually plot and plan with your friends when to walk across the bridge.”

time campaigning on the bridge for the title of Miss Morgan. She won the election and served from 1992–1993.

In her junior year, Dr. Mfume also spent

“We incorporated it into our rituals,”

“There were 11 girls running. In those days, you had the poster board, front and back with your campaign slogan,” she recalls. “The bridge was my best friend.”

says Dr. Mfume, a Baltimorean whose two sisters are also Morgan alums. “At Homecoming, we were literally standing shoulder to shoulder. There’d be so many people, the bridge would actually shake and vibrate.”

Venerable campus traditions with honor societies, Greek letter organizations, the candlelit Promethean Procession for freshmen, as well as convocations and commencement, involved the bridge, too.



“I think it’s hard for kids of this generation who text to understand the way it was in college back then…. The bridge was a central fixture.” — Dr. Edwin T. Johnson, MSU Assistant University Archivist, Class of ’92, ’96, ’03 and ’09

Crossing Over Edwin T. Johnson left his home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., to matriculate at Morgan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, he holds a Ph.D. from MSU and serves as assistant university archivist. “I think it’s hard for kids of this generation who text to understand the way it was in college back then,” he says. “We stood in line to use the pay phone in the dorm hallway. And a lot of folks did not have cars, so both your academic and social life took place on campus. The bridge was a central fixture. If you couldn’t find someone, you would eventually run into them on the bridge.” That said, Dr. Johnson — a former 12


MSU honors student and a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity — remembers the bridge distracted some from their studies. “They called it majoring in ‘Bridgeology’ 101, which meant you hung out and socialized and didn’t go to class,” he says. “You might have good intentions. I remember talking to a young lady who had on a nice spring dress. A five-minute conversation turned into an hour. I never made it to class.” Alumnus Derrick Chase understands: “The bridge was the premier place to connect. I met my (then) girlfriend there.” Romance wasn’t the only thing percolating on the bridge.

“The bridge really was a runway,” reflects Chase, a member of the Class of ’95. “There was a long stroll, and everyone could see whatever you were doing — right or wrong. And there was this energy: the fashion, the passion, the hairdos, the consciousness. There was a shift towards Afrocentricity, and people were organizing.” Indeed, Joe Clair remembers a sit-in on campus in the early 1990s. “I was an R.A. and helped lead a protest about the bad conditions in the dorms,” says Clair. “We wound up taking 12 busloads of students to Annapolis, so a delegation could meet with the governor. The administration later met our demands. I was on the news.” MORGAN.EDU

Bridgeology Where Do Students Socialize Today?

“…There was this energy: the fashion, the passion, the hairdos, the consciousness. There was a shift towards Afrocentricity, and people were organizing.” — Derrick Chase, Class of ’95, CEO and Founder, Stand Up Baltimore

Chase says students were eager to hear information about a variety of pertinent topics, so he began doing announcements on the bridge using a loudspeaker. He even launched a business that sold snacks.

Chase now hosts an annual Bridgeology party during Homecoming weekend that draws alumni and visitors from far and wide. Seeing multiple generations gather on the bridge reminds him of the good old days.

“I hired about 16 students,” he recalls.

“Thousands of young men and women have crossed the bridge,” he says. “We created a pathway.” n

That foundation would inform what’s been a multifaceted career: Chase is an entrepreneur, educator, poet, author, music producer and community advocate who leads Stand Up Baltimore, a movement that works to improve the quality of life in the city. “The bridge brought out my hustler spirit,” Chase says. “I kinda built my brand and went from there.”

Although Welcome Bridge has a firm place in Morgan’s history, today’s students have ample options to fellowship and connect. They do so year-round and during special occasions such as Homecoming and “I Love Morgan” Week. “People mostly hang out in the student center,” says Taylor Moore, a graduating senior studying communications who is vice president for the Campus Activities Board. “It’s central on campus and has what everybody needs. The game room and the canteen are favorite spots.” The University Student Center, which opened in July 2006, is a sweeping, multilevel structure with a recreation center, a cyber café, student lounges, a theater, a ballroom, the University bookstore and a food court. The latter boasts eateries that range from a Chick-fil-A to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. “It looks a lot like a mall,” says Center Director Floyd E. Taliaferro III. “Everyone comes through here when coming from the residence halls or athletics. It really is the hub of the entire campus. Some students — architecture and engineering majors, for example — also congregate inside the buildings that house their degree programs, Taliaferro adds. Moore says when the weather warms, students often gather outside in the Academic Quad or anywhere else there’s open space and benches. And those with cars or access to ride-booking services may venture to neighboring colleges. “There are cookouts and parties at Towson, Coppin and Bowie,” says Moore. Taliaferro notes that although the “vibe is different,” Morgan students today aren’t very different from past generations. “They still manage to have fun.”



Repaying a Debt to Morgan The Pinder Endowed Scholarship Fund Lends a Hand to Students in Need


By Eric Addison

Thomas and Esther Pinder




Capital Projects

“When people ask me about Morgan, I have no doubt: those were four of the best years of my life…. I think everyone should have an experience like that.” — Dr. Thomas Pinder Jr., Morgan Class of 1965

Thomas Pinder, M.D., has had a full life, full to overflowing, and he gives much of the credit for that to his parents and Morgan State University.

The seeds of his medical career were planted by tragedy during his sophomore year, when his mother succumbed to sickle cell disease.

Dr. Pinder grew up on a sharecropper farm in a little town named Vienna in Dorchester County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Dorchester County is below the Mason-Dixon Line, he reminds, and its culture was decidedly Southern and segregationist during the Jim Crow years of the 1940s, when he was born. Neither of his parents was educated beyond elementary school, but Dr. Pinder says they instilled in their eight children the desire for higher education.

“I kind of got the idea that I wanted to go into medicine and start taking care of people,” he says, “so their suffering could be eliminated.”

“They were determined to see that all of their children received an education, so that was the thing that they pushed,” Dr. Pinder recalls. “And I was determined, as were my brothers and sisters, that (being oppressed in Vienna) was not a life that we wanted to lead forever.” Pinder became valedictorian of his class at Mace’s Lane High School in Cambridge, Md., in 1961, and arrived on Morgan’s campus later that summer with a full academic scholarship, two years before racial violence in Cambridge rocked the nation. His time at Morgan, he says, was “a beautiful experience.” “When people ask me about Morgan, I have no doubt: those were four of the best years of my life. I have very, very fond memories of Morgan,” Dr. Pinder says, and he adds that he has kept good friendships from that time. “I think everyone should have an experience like that.... I was fortunate enough to have all four years on campus.” His first days on campus augured well for his undergraduate years. Sitting in an auditorium with the other freshmen, and knowing only three other students in the room, Pinder decided to run for freshman class president. His address to the group was so compelling that he won the election. He went on to serve as sophomore and junior class president as well, as he earned his Bachelor of Science in biology.

Like many other Morgan students of his time, Pinder was also active in the civil rights movement. He joined the hundreds of Morgan student activists who went to jail to integrate Northwood Theatre, in 1963. Pinder met Esther Garner during his first day of medical school at Howard University. Their relationship had a rocky start: he unintentionally insulted her when he expressed his surprise about the number of women in the program. But they went on to marry, in 1968, and have enjoyed much success in their profession, she as a pediatrician and he as a cardiologist. Thomas’ current practice is in Washington, D.C. The Pinders have a long history of giving back to Morgan, but their first major gift came in 2003 in response to a request from longtime friend Earl Richardson, Ed.D. Dr. Richardson was then president of MSU and, like Thomas Pinder, from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Dr. Pinder says that gift was his first opportunity to repay a “debt” owed to his freshman English professor at Morgan, Robert Smith. “I took humanities with him in my freshman year, and…I got an ‘A’ on my first paper. He said, ‘You know I don’t give these out very often,’ ” Dr. Pinder recalls. “So we sort of got to know one another.” Smith became Pinder’s “father away from home,” he says. “For all practical purposes, he adopted me. He gave me a room at his house…. I saw my first play with him. I saw my first real baseball game. This man even changed the insurance on his car, so I could drive occasionally.”

of his generosity was required. But Pinder was persistent. Finally, Smith named his terms. “He looked me straight in the eye and grabbed me by both shoulders. And this English professor said to me, ‘You don’t owe me nothing,’ ” Smith says with a chuckle, recalling the deliberate double negative. “ ‘You’re going to grow up, you’re going to make something of yourself, and what I want you to do is help somebody else out. When you do that, then I will be repaid.’ “And then he said something else that keeps me going,” Dr. Pinder adds. “He said, ‘I expect to be repaid.’ ” In 2016, the Pinders made a significant gift establishing the Dr. Thomas Pinder Jr. and Dr. Esther Anita Pinder Endowed Scholarship Fund in Memory of Professor Robert Smith. The fund is for select students with financial need at Morgan. His wife encourages him to give to Morgan, Dr. Pinder says. “She shares my belief that Historically Black Institutions need to be supported.” “I just hope that Mr. Smith approves of my paying back and smiles upon it,” Dr. Pinder adds. “If he does that, that’s success enough for me.” n

Morgan State University Foundation offers many opportunities for establishing and naming endowed funds. The principal of an endowment is held intact in perpetuity, providing a steady income stream for the purposes designated by the donor. Endowments may be named for the donor or, if the donor chooses, in memory or in honor of someone, such as a relative, friend or faculty member. To learn more about creating a named endowed fund at Morgan, contact Donna J. Howard, MSU director of development, at (443) 885-4680, Morgan State University Office of Development, 204 Alumni House, Baltimore, MD 21251.

Professor Smith told his protégé on numerous occasions that no repayment MORGAN MAGAZINE VOLUME I 2018



Jenkins Hall Ribbon-Cutting Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Future

The official opening of Martin D. Jenkins Hall, a new, $79-million, 148,000-squarefoot facility, marked another great step forward for Morgan State University in its 150th year. The ribbon-cutting ceremony drew a large audience to Morgan’s West Campus on Sept. 14, 2017. Jenkins Hall houses five academic departments in be-

Martin D. Jenkins, Ph.D., LL.D. Sixth President, 1948–1970



havioral and social sciences and stands beside the Morgan Business Center, which opened in 2015. “We must never, ever forget what it really means to the legacy of our great university to be in this space,” said Morgan President David Wilson during his remarks at the ceremony. “…I want to make sure that our students, in particular, don’t forget the history,” he added, referring to Morgan students’ pioneering protests for integration of Northwood Shopping Center during the U.S. civil rights movement, in the 1950s. “This spot is not just a (venue for) two great buildings. This is Freedom Plaza.” The new facility is aptly named. Martin D. Jenkins, Ph.D., LL.D., an African American, led Morgan as its sixth president from 1948 to 1970. The direction and standards he set for Morgan’s scholarship and research made his tenure an era of great progress for the institution and contributed greatly to the advancement of civil rights, human rights and equal opportunities in Baltimore and beyond.

Jenkins Hall is the new home of Morgan’s Departments of Economics; History and Geography; Psychology; Sociology and Anthropology; and Political Science. It replaces Morgan’s former Jenkins building, which opened on the university’s Academic Quad in 1974. Among its many amenities, Jenkins Hall features flexible classrooms for traditional lectures or group learning, collaborative open spaces for faculty and students, room placements that promote interdisciplinary learning, an instructional design development suite to support the continuing education of faculty, and a 170-seat auditorium. The building also has a technology-rich environment, including a “maker space” with 3-D, virtual reality computers; and a next-generation network providing high-speed, wireless Internet connectivity for mobile devices and interaction with students and researchers around the globe. Jenkins Hall employs green technologies to reduce energy costs and water usage, and to support healthy interactions between the facility’s occupants and their environment. MORGAN.EDU

Jenkins Hall houses five academic departments in behavioral and social sciences and stands beside the Morgan Business Center, which opened in 2015.

Jenkins Hall

Morgan’s associate vice president for Facilities, Design and Construction Management, Kim I. McCalla, and her team received praise from the podium for their role in realizing Jenkins Hall. Architects for the project were HOK and Quinn Evans Architects, based in Kim I. McCalla Washington, D.C. Barton Malow Company, Commercial Interiors, Inc. and JLN Construction Services were the construction managers.

McFadden promised continued collaboration between the University and the State to enhance the campus and benefit the broader community.

Maryland State Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden, a two-time graduate of Morgan, addressed the gathering and maintained the theme of progress. “When I came (to Morgan’s campus) and got off the bus in 1964, I wasn’t welcome in this community,” McFadden said. “Dr. Wilson was right. We (black students) just had to keep walking…. It wasn’t a pleasant time.”

Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, ’68 and ’72

“We’re on the way to Loch Raven (Boulevard),” he said. “We’re going to have specialty shops and bookstores, nice places. God’s going to bless us. And we’re going to have the next generation of leaders for this community, for this city, for this state and this nation, right here at our beloved Morgan State University.” The other speakers for the occasion included Gloria J. Gibson, Ph.D., Morgan provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs; Kweisi Mfume, chair of Morgan’s Board of Regents; M’bare N’gom, Ph.D., dean of Morgan’s James H. Gilliam Jr. College of Liberal Arts (CLA); and Pamela Scott-Johnson, Ph.D., former CLA dean, now dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles. Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey was among the government and community leaders who attended the ceremony. n




University Breaks Ground on New Student Services Building

Construction of Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall, an $88-million, state-of-the-art facility, began this past spring, and its opening is slated for 2020.

Exactly two weeks after the grand opening of the University’s new behavioral and social sciences facility, Martin D. Jenkins Hall, an enthusiastic crowd attended the ground breaking ceremony for Morgan’s future student services building, on Sept. 28, 2017. Construction of Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall, an $88-million, state-of-the-art facility, began this past spring, and its opening is slated for 2020. The event also celebrated the building’s namesakes, Calvin E. Tyler Jr. and his wife, Tina, who were honored as special guests. The Tylers, both natives of Baltimore City, are among Morgan’s most



prominent benefactors. Their $5-mllion gift to the University has provided funds for full, need-based scholarships for more than 200 Morgan students from their hometown and is the largest individual donation in the University’s history. Calvin Tyler is a retired senior executive for UPS and an alumnus of Morgan. “Growth is essential to the vibrancy and the relevancy of a modern university, and Morgan must never, ever cease to grow,” said MSU President David Wilson during the ground breaking. “We must renew and upgrade our facilities. We must continue to embrace the best academic practices

in the classroom…. We must continue to embrace the best administrative and managerial service excellence practices throughout our campus community. We are simply determined here at Morgan to be one of the most innovative and one of the most relevant universities in this country in the coming 150 years, as we have been during our first 150 years.” Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, a two-time Morgan graduate, spoke to the gathering about the beneficial impact the University and the Tylers have made on their community.


Tyler Hall “I am…very grateful to the university, because we continue to raise up great students and to put them out into the communities as leaders,” Pugh said. “Mr. Tyler, I want you and Tina to know what you have instilled in these young people, giving them the opportunity to attend this university…. Thank you on behalf of all of the students who will walk through these doors.” Other elected officials who gave remarks during the ceremony were Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, Maryland State Sen. Joan Carter Conway, Maryland State Delegate Curt Anderson and Maryland State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, who is also a graduate of Morgan. Cheryl Y. Hitchcock, MSU’s vice president for Institutional Advancement; Kweisi Mfume, chair of Morgan’s Board of Regents; Kara M. Turner, Ph.D., Morgan’s vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success; and Calvin Tyler also addressed the audience. Located on the University’s main campus, Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall will house nearly 20 student support departments, many of which are now located in the University’s historic Montebello Building. Tyler Hall is designed with 21st-century technology and will use best practices to enhance the student services experience at Morgan. Among the many amenities of the 139,000-square-foot building will be a large welcoming area to assist with the multitude of student services, a 250-seat recruitment room, an atrium that will enable staff to collaborate with other offices quickly, and large gathering spaces for community service events. The building will be a technology-rich environment with video walls in large areas

and dynamic signage. It will also have a robust, high-speed, next-generation network to keep faculty, staff, students and visitors connected with the world. Tyler Hall is planned to be a LEED Silver Certified building and will use energy-efficient practices to reduce water and electricity usage and maintain a healthy environment for the users. Calvin Tyler’s personal story touches on the financial struggles he had while attending Morgan. He was the first person in his family to attend college when he entered Morgan to study business administration in 1961. But he had to interrupt his higher education because of lack of funds, in 1963. He took a job as one of the first 10 drivers at UPS in Baltimore in 1964, during the company’s early days. Two years later, he became a UPS manager and climbed the corporate ladder, joining the company’s board of directors and becoming senior vice president of operations, the position from which he retired in 1998. Tyler encouraged the audience to act out of concern for others. “Every person can do something, and supporting the Tyler scholars is our something,” he said. “When we read the letters of appreciation from the scholarship recipients, and when we come here in May and watch our scholars walk across that stage with their degrees, there is no better feeling in the world.…” “There is no greater satisfaction in life than reaching back and helping others,” he continued. “…Young people who receive an education here at Morgan State are the future leaders of this city, of this state and of this country.” n

Commitment on Canvas Philanthropists Calvin and Tina Tyler hosted a special ceremony at their Henderson, Nev., home this past April to commemorate the unveiling of a commissioned portrait that will be featured in the new student services building bearing their name on Morgan’s campus. The Tylers commissioned world-renowned artist Simmie Knox to capture them on canvas with his signature style of specialized oil painting. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Morgan President David Wilson; Cheryl Y. Hitchcock, Morgan’s vice president for Institutional Advancement; Jacqueline L. Lawson, vice chair of Morgan State University Foundation, Inc.; Joyce Brown, director of Alumni Relations for MSU; and the artist, Knox.



Unveiling Legends Plaza, a Tribute to Athletic Greats

Legends Plaza, a nearly 2,000-square-foot enclosure on Morgan Commons, features six-foot bronze statues of Coach Edward P. (“Eddie”) Hurt and Coach Earl C. (“Papa Bear”) Banks.

Morgan carried its momentum into October 2017, with the unveiling of its campus memorial to the institution’s athletic greats. Legends Plaza, designed and created by the artistic vision of Morgan alumnus George Nock, honors two head coaches who, for more than 40 years, led Morgan scholar-athletes to stellar achievements on and off the field of play. The unveiling ceremony was attended by MSU students, faculty, administrators and guests; members of Morgan’s Board of Regents; and MSU alumni, including several hall of fame athletes. “This is really another great day in the history of this great institution,” said Morgan President David Wilson from the podium. “…I’m really honored this morning to be here to dedicate this plaza (to) the outstanding athletic history of Morgan State University. There are so few institutions on the landscape that can boast of having both an impressive academic and leadership legacy and, without really missing a beat, an equally impressive athletic history.” Legends Plaza, a nearly 2,000-square-foot enclosure on Morgan Commons between the front entrance of Hughes Stadium and the University Student Center, features six-foot bronze statues of Coach Edward P. (“Eddie”) Hurt and Coach Earl C. (“Papa Bear”) Banks. The memorial will also include bronze plaques honoring other Morgan sports legends placed on a 30-foot fence between the two anchoring statues. Beginning in 1929, Hurt compiled an incredible record of success as Morgan’s football, basketball and track and field



coach, leading his teams to 33 CIAA championships and a 54-game winning streak on the gridiron. Two Pro Football Hall of Famers and an Olympic gold medal winner rose from his ranks. Banks succeeded Hurt as Morgan’s head football coach in 1960 and added his own chapters to the program’s great history. Under Banks, the Bears won five CIAA Championships, went to four bowl games, were unbeaten in three regular seasons and had a 31-game winning streak. They also sent two more NFL players to the Hall of Fame. Both Banks and Hurt placed the highest value on good citizenship and high moral character and demanded that their players meet that standard on and off the field.

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, a two-time graduate of Morgan and a cheerleader for the Bears during Coach Banks’ tenure, told the audience about her close relationship with the Banks family and what she gained from attending MSU. “What cheerleading taught us was leadership skills, camaraderie and how to work together,” Pugh said. “Sports does that for all of us. That’s why we’re so proud of the individuals who will be unveiled here and what they…gave to each and every one of us, as cheerleaders, as sports figures and as those who have gone on to represent Morgan in such a great way.”

One member of the audience well acquainted with Coach Banks’ standards was his son, the Rev. Dr. Raymond E. Banks Sr., one of several members of the Banks family who attended the ceremony. Dr. Banks recounted many good memories of his father during the event, but other memories were bittersweet, including his recollection of the football game he played against Morgan in October 1968 as a member of the Maryland State College squad. Morgan won the game 19-18 during the Bears’ 31-game winning streak. After the defeat, his father gave him the game ball. “He said, ‘Raymond, you’re the enemy. But I want to give you this game ball,’ ” Dr. Banks recalled. “I don’t know why he did. And who would have thought (when) he gave this ball to a young, 22-year-old kid that, 49 years later, a statue would (be) erected in his honor.”

The Rev. Dr. Raymond E. Banks Sr., son of the late Morgan Head Coach Earl C. Banks MORGAN.EDU




George Nock, the sculptor and designer for Legends Plaza, was a starting player on Coach Banks’ Bears from 1965 to 1968 and played four years as a running back in the National Football League. A self-taught and celebrated artist, he is best known for his striking bronze statues of ballplayers, ballerinas, jockeys and jazz musicians. His ability to the capture the versatility and realism of the human form has distinguished his work. Nock said he took on the Legends Plaza project as a way to add to his own artistic legacy as well as inspire current Morgan students to excellence and give a gift to “everyone that has gone to Morgan (and) everyone who has known about Morgan or has heard about Coach Banks, Coach Hurt or the legacy of the Morgan Bears. All of these things are what was on my mind to have these people enshrined in bronze.” Nock’s work will live on at his alma mater.

George Nock, the sculptor and designer for Legends Plaza

Other speakers at the ceremony included MSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Edward Scott and five accomplished Morgan graduates: Maryland State Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Willie E. Lanier Sr., former NFL player and High School Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Robert P. Wade, Olympian Samuel A. LaBeach, and writer and educator Cherri Cunningham Cragway, who is a great niece of Coach Hurt. n




College of Liberal Arts Named in Honor of Outstanding Alumnus James Gilliam

Morgan State University’s liberal arts programs have long been centers of excellence for the institution, having produced many outstanding alumni. During a special ceremony held at Morgan’s Holmes Hall in May 2017, the University’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) began another chapter in its distinguished history, when it was named in honor of yet another accomplished graduate, the late James H. Gilliam Jr., Class of 1967, a prominent lawyer, financier and humanitarian.

Gilliam Foundation after James’ departure from Beneficial, to channel resources from their family into the community. The foundation created a $1.5-million fine arts endowment at Morgan in 2000, in honor of Gilliam’s mother and his father, who was also a Morgan graduate, Class of 1948. The largest auditorium of the University’s Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center — the James H. Gilliam Sr. and Louise Hayley Gilliam Concert Hall — bears their names.

Morgan President David Wilson lavished praise on Gilliam during his remarks.

James H. Gilliam Jr. passed away in 2003, at the young age of 58.

“This is a day when we gather to pay special recognition to an alumnus who came through the doors of this institution, who took advantage of everything that Morgan had to offer him. And then he took that, and it propelled him forward onto the world stage,” said Dr. Wilson.

Morgan’s College of Liberal Arts supports the educational ambitions of more than 1,200 students pursuing bachelor’s

degrees in 13 majors. The college provides a gateway of opportunity for a multiracial, culturally diverse student population and is strongly committed to basic and applied research and creative activities in all areas, consistent with Morgan’s Carnegie classification as a doctoral research institution. M’bare N’gom, Ph.D., dean of the CLA, sees Gilliam as a symbol of the college’s success. “It is truly an honor to name the University’s largest school the James H. Gilliam, Jr., College of Liberal Arts,” he said. “Today will be remembered in history as one of our finest hours.” n

Gilliam earned his Bachelor of Arts in English at Morgan and went on to receive a law degree from Columbia University in 1970. His illustrious career included law practice in New York and in Wilmington, Dela., and service as secretary of Community Affairs and Economic Development in the administration of Delaware Gov. Pierre S. du Pont IV. He was the first African American to serve as a cabinet secretary in the state. Gilliam joined Beneficial Finance Corporation in 1979 and served there as executive vice president and general counsel until 1998. Gilliam and his wife, Linda G.J. Gilliam, D.M.D., now a Morgan regent, formed the 22


James H. Gilliam Jr. family members (left to right): Morgan Franklin (daughter); Dr. Linda Gilliam, member of the MSU Board of Regents (widow); Patrice Gilliam-Johnson (sister); Alexis Learner (daughter) MORGAN.EDU

Commencement Highlights


Morgan Awarded Degrees to Largest-Ever December Class

A capacity crowd filled Talmadge Hill Field House for Morgan State University’s December 2017 Commencement exercises. Attendees celebrated 490 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees conferred, the largest number of fall graduates in Morgan’s 150-year history. Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford gave the keynote address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service during the ceremony, and other honorary doctorates were awarded to six former Morgan presidents. Maryland’s U.S. senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, presented a U.S. Senate resolution honoring MSU. Rutherford’s message was well-received by the degree candidates, who deferred their jubilation to hear from a fellow HBCU attendee. Before finding success as a technology salesperson, a lawyer and a high-level administrator in state government, Rutherford earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Howard University and then floundered in his first career as a banker, he told the audience.


gil Cheek, J.D. (1971–1974), and eighth president, Andrew Billingsley, Ph.D. (1975–1984), were awarded honorary Doctor of Laws in person, and MSU’s first president, John Emory Round, D.D. (1872–1882), second president, William Maslin Frysinger, D.D. (1882–1888), third president, Francis J. Wagner, D.D. (1888– 1901), and fourth president, John Oakley Spencer, Ph.D., LL.D. (1902–1937), were honored posthumously. The remaining three former Morgan presidents — the late Dwight O.W. Holmes, Ph.D., LL.D. (1937–1948), the late Martin D. Jenkins, Ph.D., LL.D. (1948–1970), and Earl S. Richardson, Ed.D. (1984–2010) — are prior recipients of honorary degrees from Morgan. Dr. Richardson joined the platform guests at the Commencement.

But the day belonged to the new graduates, among them Candice Marshall, an international student from St. Lucia, who became Morgan’s first doctoral graduate in mathematics when she received her degree in industrial and computational mathematics. n

Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford gave the keynote address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service during the ceremony, and other honorary doctorates were awarded to six former Morgan presidents.

Boyd K. Rutherford

“…I was preparing for those opportunities I could not have imagined when I was in your shoes,” he said. “…I am incredibly thankful that in those times of uncertainty, I chose to follow my instincts. Instead of taking the easy route or the obvious path, I made my own. If you believe in something, and if you work hard and stay disciplined, you will succeed.” Morgan spotlighted the contributions its past leaders have made to the institution’s legacy, as the University’s sesquicentennial year neared its close. Morgan’s seventh president, King Vir-




A World-Class Experience Engineering Senior Isaiah Weaver Is Mapping a Unique Path to Success By Eric Addison

Recently returned from study abroad in Berlin, Weaver is aiming for a career in venture capital. 24



The circuitous path Isaiah Weaver took to his anticipated graduation from Morgan State University this December, with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, has given him more life experience at age 24 than most people twice his age. Consider the list of organizations for which he’s worked as an intern — JPMorgan Chase & Co., ampyou, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Intel Corporation, among others — and the countries where he’s studied outside of the United States, which include India, Brazil and Germany.

use that opportunity to switch his major to electrical engineering.

Not bad for a young man who lacked the drive, high school math background and financial resources to succeed in engineering, before he came to Morgan.

‘Pivotal Point’

Weaver was born in southeast Washington, D.C., and raised in Upper Marlboro, in Prince George’s County, Md. He decided on a career in engineering during his senior year of high school, when he was inspired by one of his teachers, a Filipino engineer. Accepted into the engineering program at West Virginia Wesleyan after graduation, he stayed there one semester then had to leave because of lack of funds. “Picking up the pieces,” he attended Prince George’s Community College for a year and a half without a solid career goal. Back on Track Morgan’s first major influence on his career came via his younger sister, Kareema Weaver. Now an undergraduate at Morgan, she was then participating in MSU’s Summer Academy of Mathematics and Science, a program for high school students that exposes them to actuarial science career options. She suggested that Isaiah look into actuarial science. Her brother took her advice, completed a number of math courses and transferred to Morgan in 2013, without a scholarship, to pursue an actuarial science degree. Weaver earned a 4.0 GPA during his first semester at Morgan, but he still struggled financially. The following winter, he was accepted for study abroad, his first trip to India, to do economic research on the healthcare system and engage in community volunteer work. While in India, he was notified that he’d been accepted for an Honors Schoarship at Morgan, and he decided to

“Engineering was harder than I expected,” he admits, and adds that his GPA “took a nosedive.” He was accepted into a business course in São Paulo, Brazil, during the next winter break — the first of two trips to Brazil — and returned to Morgan undaunted and wiser after the semester abroad. His grades improved significantly as he learned to seek out mentors and focus on his academic goals. While in Brazil, he learned he’d been accepted into the Critical Language Scholarship Program, a U.S. State Department program that gave him a second experience in India, which he calls his “most pivotal point.” He was the only African-American student and the only HBCU student in the program. It was one of the few times, he says, that he was immersed with white Americans, and he found many of their assumptions about black Americans to be negative and wrong. “It was intense for me, in addition to the discrimination I was facing being black in India…. They were lynching Africans in India,” Weaver says. However, he adds, the challenges led to a positive experience with the program that he wishes more African Americans would pursue. He developed a close relationship with his host family; learned much about Urdu language, Indian culture and feminism (He already spoke Hindi.); and created a tech tool to increase diversity in STEM in the country by opening educational and career opportunities to Muslims, a group he says is discriminated against in India. “I connected to them not only because I’m Muslim but because a lot of their experience mirrors the black experience in the U.S.,” Weaver says. Now, he’s working with his friend Jasmine Edwards, a Morgan computer science major, to develop a similar platform, named Morgan X , which is being designed to give African Americans more opportunities to work in Silicon Valley.

Success Normalized Last year, Weaver was selected to participate in an investment internship program with Intel Capital in Silicon Valley, learning about venture capital. He’s also building a company named BoltWallet, which is developing a decentralized software tool that enables its users to privately store money on their smartphones without involving a bank. Regarding his long-term career plans, Weaver says, “To be honest, the VC (venture capital) experience threw off everything I originally had planned. Before, I wanted to be a software engineer and work on the tech side. At my current standpoint, I see myself as starting my own venture fund or starting my own company or joining a startup and trying to scale it up. “Black folk should be in VC. The problem is we’re only 1 percent of those in the field,” he adds. “The powers that be wouldn’t particularly like African Americans to be in charge of money, because that’s pretty much what fuels and runs the world.” Weaver recently returned from study abroad in Berlin through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). He has received a job offer from one Fortune 500 company and is still considering his options for his career post-graduation. Morgan, he says, has shaped his values powerfully: “Initially, when I was just surrounded by black Americans, I didn’t think Morgan really changed my views at all…. Upon getting more internships, experiences and exploring life, (I see that) what I consider normal is viewed as radical. The mere fact that I have black teachers everywhere or that I think it’s normal for black people to launch startups, Morgan normalized that.” Weaver expresses gratitude for HBCUs, saying there aren’t many oppressed groups on the planet that have the equivalent of these institutions. “Morgan,” he says, “made it seem like you can do anything in the world.” n




Morgan Biologists Develop Earth-Friendly Fuels By Frieda Wiley

Dr. Sitther hopes to bring her product to the oil and gas industries as a fuel source alternative to conventional gasoline and biofuels from food crops.

Dr. Viji Sitther (front) with fellow Morgan biologists (rear, left to right) Dr. Behnam Tabatabai, Dy’mon Walker and Somayeh Gharaie Fathabad, members of the Sitther Biofuel Research Group 26



Fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas account for 85 percent of all energy used, but relying heavily on these natural resources comes with some hefty consequences: these materials are nonrenewable resources that, when gone, can never be replaced. Also, the byproducts of these substances have caused climate change, pollution, natural disasters and corrupted ecosystems, among other environmental disturbances. To help combat these effects, researchers at Morgan State University (MSU) have turned to some rather unlikely resources to generate biofuels: salt water and an algae-like microorganism called cyanobacteria. “Biofuels are going to be an alternative to fossil fuels, but they will not totally replace fossil fuels. So even if the fuel at the gas station is 10 or 20 percent biofuel, then we can help reduce the effects of climate change,” says Viji Sitther, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at MSU. Microbes for Energy Joined by her research team, Behnam Tabatabai, Ph.D., and Somayeh Gharaie Fathabad at the Sitther Biofuel Research Group, Dr. Sitther focuses on growing a strain of cyanobacteria called Fremyella diplosiphon, in salt water. Normally, this cyanobacterium lives in fresh water, but Dr. Sitther has genetically modified it to thrive in the extreme environment of marine water and is able to grow the organism and produce energy with limited exposure to light. The cyanobacteria produce lipid, or oil, through photosynthesis, and the lipid serves as the basis of the biofuel. Current production and use of biofuels generate two billion tons of the greenhouse gas CO2 annually, contributing to climate change, Dr. Sitther says. Cyanobacteria, which consume CO2, she adds, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68 percent. And unlike solar panels, which require direct sunlight to create energy, cyanobacteria can grow on cloudy days and in deep water that receives little sunlight. Using salt water as the microorganism’s growth medium offers several advantages: unlike fresh water, salt water is an abundant resource, and it contains nutrients and minerals that support the

healthy growth and development of the cyanobacteria. The salt also acts as a natural preservative and antimicrobial agent. This proves cost-effective, because the water can be recycled three to four times, reducing required input for a cultivation system and making the process more sustainable. Overcoming Challenges This particular cyanobacterial species completes its life cycle in seven to 10 days and produces lipids, but Dr. Sitther says that its quick growth does not come risk-free.

of Chennai. It was there Dr. Sitther first began studying microorganisms using DNA-based fingerprinting to study a fungal disease called “blast” of finger millet, a severe disease that reduces crop yield. This research would become the focus of her postdoctoral studies at Pennsylvania State University, where she used DNA tools to control blast disease of golf course turfgrass. Since that time, Dr. Sitther has conducted research at several institutions in the United States, including another Historically Black Institution, Fort Valley State University, before her appointment to Morgan five years ago.

“Contamination can be a challenge, because when we grow these bacteria, other bacteria can grow,” she says. “We try to control the problem by increasing certain growth factors.”

A fastidious scientist, Dr. Sitther believes the fast growth cycle of cyanobacteria enables researchers to achieve faster results than with plants, which can take months to grow and develop.

Among those growth factors are nanoparticles — particles too tiny to be seen by the naked human eye but large enough to scatter light and help accelerate photosynthesis. Shorter growing time reduces the chance that other bacteria will grow and enables the cyanobacteria to grow uniformly, leading to higher cultivation.

“Before this, I was in Georgia working on plants such as guava and peach, which take forever to grow even with tissue culture, so you can’t get results fast enough for publishing. Bacteria have a short life cycle, and you can manipulate them easily. Those were major selling points,” explains Dr. Sitther, who still engages in some plant-based research to create biofuel from a mustard family, Camelina sativa.

Dr. Sitther hopes to bring her product to the oil and gas industries as a fuel source alternative to both conventional gasoline and biofuel from food crops, such as ethanol. Ethanol and diesel-based biofuels have gained major traction over the last decade as an alternative fuel source, but Dr. Sitther warns that they also have some bad consequences. “These biofuels are produced by agricultural crops such as corn and soybean. And we don’t want that, because they compete with food supplies, and people are dying of hunger,” she says. “So by using the bacteria and salt water, you’re not losing anything, because the salt water is freely available.” In addition, corn and other secondgeneration fuel sources that come from plants are often limited by the amount of farmland available to grow the crops. Environmental Focus Dr. Sitther’s interest in bacteria stems from her formative years in her native India, where she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in biology with an emphasis on botany, in her home city

And she is already enjoying greater progress with bacteria-based research: her HaloCyTech Biofuel Project was featured during the annual Morgan Innovation Day, in Annapolis, Md., in March. Now in its sixth year, the program highlights some of Morgan’s high-community-impact research for viewing by state policy makers and others. Dr. Sitther has also recently had two nonprovisional patents filed and had three articles in peer-reviewed publications this year. “We have to do something to protect our planet so that generations who come after us can still enjoy it,” Dr. Sitther says. Outside the lab, the self-proclaimed environmentalist practices what she preaches. “I put a note in my office door that says, ‘Turn out the light before you leave and save electricity.’ “ What started out as a small ripple in a saltwater pond is becoming a wave. n



College Discovery Academy Inspires Baltimore City Youth

Morgan State University’s College Discovery Academy, a year-round college preparatory program created by MSU’s Office of Community Service, has been awarded a $200,000 Next Generation Scholars of Maryland grant by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). The academy was established to offer academic assistance, life skills, college preparation and career readiness to Baltimore City youth in grades seven through nine and to promote the success and achievement of youth scholars in their future endeavors. The initiative was launched this past November with 36 student participants from four Baltimore City public schools: Forest Park High, Guilford Elementary/Middle, Vanguard Collegiate Middle and Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle. “An important goal of Morgan’s Strategic Plan is engaging with the community. The Next Generation Scholars grant from MSDE will provide much-needed financial support to the Office of



Community Service in helping to connect successful Morgan students with Baltimore City youth to serve as nearpeer mentors,” says Maurice C. Taylor, Ph.D., J.D., Morgan’s vice president for Academic Outreach and Engagement. “Through this effort and with the support of the grant, Morgan students will spend time with seventh through ninth (graders), sharing life skills, encouragement and tips on preparing for college.” Youth scholars in the College Discovery Academy engaged in a variety of learning activities during weekly, seven-hour sessions on Saturdays, on Morgan’s campus, through the third week of June. Morgan students guided the youth through early morning language arts and math instruction based on Common Core State Standards, in small-group, nonjudgmental settings. The mentors exposed their younger protégés to different college majors and professional career options in the early afternoon and led “Scholar

Hour” sessions from 3 to 4 p.m., in which the youth worked on projects in their stated career areas of interest. During the summer, the students participated in the academy’s “Summer Internship” program for 10 hours a week, completing their projects with Morgan faculty members or other professionals. The program concluded with a graduation ceremony in August. Phenomenal Children The students’ progress is being welldocumented, reports Deanna Ikhinmwin, director of the Office of Community Service. “In order to highlight the benefits of the College Discovery program to AfricanAmerican youth who live in low-income neighborhoods, an inspirational College Discovery documentary film is being developed, with the goal of capturing the perseverance and struggles (of) the youth as they tackle the daily Saturday tutoring and educational enrichment activities,”



“An important goal of Morgan’s Strategic Plan is engaging with the community. The Next Generation Scholars grant from MSDE will provide much-needed financial support to the Office of Community Service in helping to connect successful Morgan students with Baltimore City youth….” — Maurice C. Taylor, Ph.D., J.D., MSU Vice President for Academic Outreach and Engagement

Ikhinmwin says. “This film will also show the commitment of each youth as they engage in the various program components, which are all designed to promote self-pride, leadership, the importance of higher education, and future career choices.” The College Discovery Academy curriculum integrates many of the tutoring, college preparation and mentoring programs that the Office of Community Services has developed and implemented successfully since its creation in 1993. The office facilitates bold action to address the educational, social, cultural and recreational needs of underrepre-

sented and educationally “at-risk” youth in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Its programs, most of them free of charge to participants, involve university students, faculty, staff, community organizations, youth and more. The programs, more than 15 in number, include activities and events for elementary school, middle school and high school students and their families. “The children (of the College Discovery Academy) are phenomenal,” says Brittany Laws, academic enrichment coordinator for the Office of Community Service. “They have goals in IT. They have goals in engineering. They want to do photog-

raphy. They want careers in health and science. One of our young men is actually working on a cellphone app with Morgan State students. Some of our students are into fashion. Others are into broadcast media…. At College Discovery Academy, we put the children on the right path.” Morgan was one of seven nonprofit organizations that received Next Generation Scholars of Maryland grants in 2017. The $4.7-million program makes funding available to nonprofit organizations to develop programs that provide guidance and services to strengthen college access and success. n



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