Modified, in-person commencement set for May 14 | University of Maryland Eastern Shore Marketing Retarget Pixel

Modified, in-person commencement set for May 14

  • Two prominent Maryland civic leaders will help honor the class of 2021

    Tuesday, May 4, 2021

    The Maryland legislature's speaker pro tem and an Obama administration cabinet member will be the headline guests Friday, May 14, at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's spring 2021 graduation exercises. 

    The commencement will be a modified, in-person event guided by precautions that adhere to COVID-19 prevention protocols.  A limited number of ticketed guests will be allowed to witness some 284 candidates receive their degrees at the William P. Hytche Athletic Center.

    "It's a true joy to be able to move our university back toward the time-honored tradition of an in-person commencement after a particularly challenging year," President Heidi M. Anderson said. "Our students have done a remarkable job helping keep our campus safe, and holding graduation is one way for us to acknowledge that contribution." 

    The graduates will hear from state Del. Sheree L. Sample-Hughes as commencement speaker and witness the grandson of one of the institution's earliest known graduates receive an honorary degree. 

    Dr. John B. King Jr. returns to the alma mater of Estelle Livingston Stansberry, class of 1894, to accept a Doctorate in Public Service degree after serving as UMES' commencement speaker in the spring 2019.

    Gabrielle Christian

    Inspired by a 2016 invitation to visit the institution his late paternal grandmother attended in the late 19th century, King has gone on to explore his family's ancestral roots and discovered he is descended from enslaved people who worked on a plantation not far from his Montgomery County, Md. home.  King is president and CEO of The Education Trust, “a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps, from preschool through college.” 

    As was the case with most of the nation's higher education institutions, UMES' in-person commencements in 2020 were cancelled by the worldwide pandemic.  Virtual events with recorded messages from President Heidi M. Anderson, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as well as greetings from graduates themselves and faculty members substituted for the traditional rite of passage in May and December. 

    In a return to a long-standing tradition suspended because of the pandemic, senior Gabrielle Christian of Elkridge, Md., a dean's list student majoring in hospitality and tourism management, will delivery the student commentary on behalf of the Class of 2021.

    Sample-Hughes took her seat in Annapolis representing Wicomico and Dorchester counties in January 2015.  Her peers elected the Democrat in 2019 to serve as the House of Delegates' deputy speaker, which will make her the highest ranking officer in that chamber ever to be speak at a spring commencement in Princess Anne in the post-World War II era. 

    She played a key role in the recent debate that resulted in the state of Maryland agreeing to settle an education funding equity lawsuit that will distribute $577 million in supplemental funding to Maryland's four HBCUs over 10 years beginning in the latter half of 2022. 

    King, a lifelong educator whose late father was deputy superintendent of the New York City public schools, served as the nation's 10th U.S Secretary of Education under former President Barack Obama.  He remained in the Washington, D.C. region after the president left office. 


    This article has been updated since it was initially posted to include the name of the degree candidate named by a panel of judges to deliver the student commentary.