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B-CU Hosts Civil Rights Activist Rev. Al Sharpton

Daytona Beach, Fla. -- Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) is pleased to welcome one of the nation’s most-renowned civil rights activists, the Rev. Al Sharpton, to the University's 2011 commencement ceremony. Sharpton will speak to graduating students and receive an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree.

“It is our great honor to welcome Rev. Sharpton back to B-CU as our commencement speaker.  He has demonstrated excellence in leadership, education and service in his career that makes him a tremendous role model for our students,” notes B-CU President Trudie Kibbe Reed. “We look forward to hearing him provide words of wisdom and encouragement to our graduates.”

This year’s commencement marks the end of a remarkably successful academic year for B-CU. The University opened the brand new, state-of-the-art Lee Rhyant Residence Life Center, launched construction on the new Larry R. Handfield Athletic Training Center, received reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and received SACS approval for a new master’s degree program in environmental science.

Rev. Al Sharpton

Rev. Al Sharpton is the founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), a not-for-profit civil rights organization based in Harlem, N.Y. A former Democratic presidential candidate, Sharpton is a leader on issues related to education and the fight to ensure equity in the U.S. education system. Born on Oct. 3, 1954, Sharpton began his ministry at the tender age of four, preaching his first sermon in Brooklyn. At just 13, he was appointed by Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Jones as youth director of the NY SCLC Operation Breadbasket, an organization founded in 1971 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now, Sharpton stands at the forefront of issues promoting equal standards, human rights and decency. He and the NAN recently led 30,000 people in a “Reclaim the Dream” march in Washington, D.C., to honor Dr. King. He currently hosts the nationally syndicated radio talk show, Keepin' It Real with Al Sharpton.

Additional Honorary Degree Recipients

Two other important University figures will receive honorary degrees at the commencement ceremony:

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (posthmously), B-CU founder. The Board of Trustees and administration will honor the B-CU founder with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree for the legacy she has left behind to the University and for serving as University president for 20 years. Her son, Mr. Albert Bethune, will accept the degree on her behalf.

Dr. Jacob F. Bryan, business leader and B-CU trustee. Dr. Bryan will receive the Honorary Doctorate of Finance degree and be recognized for his 24 years of service to the B-CU Board of Trustees. A Jacksonville native, he was involved in the insurance industry for 30 years and spent 13 years as president of the Independent Insurance Group before the company was sold in 1996.  He now serves as a community trustee working with a variety of civic and charitable organizations including LISC Jacksonville, the Reinhold Foundation, Bok Tower Gardens, the Schultz Center for Teaching & Leadership, the James Madison Institute, Episcopal Children Services Foundation, Jacksonville Symphony Association, Ronald McDonald House Advisory Board, the Jacksonville Zoo and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

B-CU commencement ceremonies will be held at 10 am on Thursday, May 5 at the Ocean Center, 101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, Fla. This year, the Ocean Center has created new entrance policies for B-CU commencement. In order to avoid exceeding occupancy requirements set by the Center’s Fire Safety Policy, each guest that enters the Ocean Center must have a ticket for a seat.  
For more ticket information, visit

Office of Public Relations

Meredith Rodriguez
Associate Director, Communications & Marketing
PH: 386-481-2991
FX: 386-481-2973

About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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