JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Edward Waters University -- Florida’s first historically Black college -- made history again Saturday as the school’s latest class became the first to graduate from the school under its new status of “university.”
Edward Waters College became Edward Waters University in June 2021.
It was a day of celebration and joy for the 130 graduates who were part of the historic and momentous day in the school’s more than 150-year history.
The new graduates were the first to get their degrees from the school under the distinction of “University.”
Co-Valedictorians Shaneaka Anderson and Na’im Brown were honored to be a part of history.
“We all did our part in ensuring that we achieved this milestone and it is overwhelming just representing Jamaica,” Anderson said.
“I am lost for words. I am just excited to be here,” Brown said. “I am happy to have the distinction of valedictorian and share that with Shaneaka. We both worked so hard. We both came in together.”
EWU, Florida’s first Historically Black College or University, made the transition almost a year ago when it launched its first master’s program last fall -- a Master’s of Business Administration.
Edward Waters University President Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr. believes this change goes a long way.
“It is a complete transformation of our institution as we really move the academic needle in terms of the breadth and depth of our academic degree programs, the quality of our programs,” Faison said.
It’s been quite the academic year for EWU as students and staff worked untraditionally through the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the university was one of 57 HBCUs and houses of worship to receive a bomb threat between Jan. 4 and Feb. 16 -- threats that are still being investigated by the FBI.
The threat came to EWU on Feb. 1 -- the first day of Black History Month.
“These young people have stayed persistent and diligent and persevered to this very important day,” Faison said.
Faison said there are plans for another Master’s program -- one in Education and Policy -- possibly as soon as the fall, in addition to more bachelor degree options.
But for these new graduates, now Edward Waters University alumni, Saturday’s historic day was one of jubilation.
“I am just super elated,” Anderson said.
“It’s just a major blessing. A major blessing,” Brown said.