Rodgers at Morehouse College Commencement
This issue in our series of “65 Stories” is a reprint from Rodgers’ website published June 11, 2013.
Amid the soaring sound of voices and organ, and a stirring call to service from the President of the United States, the 2013 graduating class had an unforgettable day at Atlanta's Morehouse College.
“On behalf of Morehouse College and the Department of Music, please accept our sincere gratitude for your donation of an excellent Rodgers Three-Manual Organ for the 2013 129th commencement exercise of Morehouse College at which our guest speaker and honorary degree recipient was the 44th President of the United States, President Barak Obama,” Music Department Chair Uzee Brown, Jr. wrote in a letter to Arthur Schlueter, president of A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company and Chapel Music. Chapel Music temporarily installed the organ outdoors on the platform near the president's podium. Chapel Music represents Rodgers Instruments in portions of Georgia and South Carolina.
More than 10,000 people endured a rainy morning to attend the May 19th ceremony. The President made a few jokes about needing to stay under the covered platform due to Secret Service security concerns before turning to more somber comments about social injustice and the duty to serve.
He reminded the graduates that Morehouse alumni include Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and that they follow in the footsteps of such prominent black men as abolitionist Frederick Douglass, educator Booker T. Washington, diplomat Ralph Bunche, poet Langston Hughes, scientist George Washington Carver, civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
“Members of the Class of 2013, you are heirs to a great legacy,” the president concluded. “You have within you that same courage and that same strength, the same resolve as the men who came before you. That’s what being a Morehouse Man is all about. That’s what being an American is all about.”
The attendees rose to sing “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing,” enjoyed choir and brass ensemble performances, and applauded the graduates as college organist Dr. David Francis Oliver performed Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” as the recessional on the Rodgers organ.
Morehouse College is an all-male historically black college that began as a theological institute in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, just two years after the Civil War ended. Today it is a liberal arts institution with an enrollment of about 2,500 that occupies a 61-acre campus near downtown Atlanta.