fmu_web.pngMIAMI GARDENS — More than 150 students tossed their tassels and in an instant became college graduates during the 2013 Spring Commencement ceremony, Saturday morning May 11 at Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only historically black university.

It was a picture-perfect South Florida morning, a day that saw students, faculty, staff, family and friends pack the university’s chapel for an early Baccalaureate Service preceding the 10:30 a.m. graduation ceremony at the A. Chester Robinson Athletic Complex.

After the chapel emptied, the orange-and-blue crowd wound its way over to the gymnasium, with the sun shining brightly on the Class of 2013.


As Acting President Mary A. O’Banner took a backward glance at the robed line of candidates, she said: “It seems as if they just got here, but, now, some four years later, they are about to leave us to make their mark in the world, and take the spirit of Florida Memorial University with them. It was a most memorable and wonderful time.”

In his commencement speech, the Hon. Oliver G. Gilbert III, mayor of the city of Miami Gardens, challenged the students to “obliterate the box.” Gilbert asked the students to remember three names: Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr., the first black appointed judge on the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida; H.T. Smith, Miami-Dade County’s first African-American assistant public defender, and later Miami-Dade County’s first African-American assistant county attorney; and Garth Reeves Sr., publisher emeritus of the Miami Times newspaper.

“Don’t be confined to what you were told to do,” Gilbert said. “These three men conquered the impossible.” He challenged the graduates to create their own accomplishments.


Gilbert is a lifelong resident of Miami Gardens, which was incorporated in 2003 and has been the home of Florida Memorial University for 45 years since it relocated from St. Augustine. A graduate of Miami Norland Senior High School, Florida A&M University and the University of Miami School of Law (with honors), he also is an attorney with the law firm of Greenspoon Marder.

“I’m not going to ask you to think outside of the box. I’m going to ask you to blow up the box, annihilate the box … The box is a figment of our imagination,” Gilbert instructed the new graduates. “Every great endeavor, every great expansion of mankind … has come on the other side of what was thought unimaginable.”

Shortly after Gilbert’s words, it was done – Spring Commencement was now history, and new dreams seemed to rise to the rafters as the Class of 2013 celebrated their new status.