Students weren’t the only ones who received graduation accolades last weekend. The day after presiding over UofL’s commencement activities, UofL President James Ramsey was awarded an honorary doctorate and delivered the commencement address Sunday for Simmons College of Kentucky.
“I am greatly honored to be part of this historic day and to receive this recognition,” said President Ramsey, who also called the honor “without question the highlight of my professional career.”
He and the Rev. Kevin Cosby both spoke of their meeting in 2005, the year Cosby became Simmons’ 13th president, about the historically black institution’s long tradition and the desire to forge a partnership to ensure educational opportunities for all. President Ramsey was one of the first people to reach out to him, Cosby recalled, and their conversation began not only a personal friendship between the two presidents but also a partnership between the two Louisville schools that has grown.
The two schools have an agreement to work to align the schools’ general education requirements and ultimately allow credit-hour exchanges and dual degrees. UofL also offers technology support to Simmons.
“Simmons College of Kentucky has had no greater friend than James Ramsey,” Cosby told the audience.
When conferring the honorary Simmons doctorate in humanities, Cosby said, “We’re remembering Jim Ramsey because Jim Ramsey remembered us.”
In his commencement speech, President Ramsey congratulated the 23 Simmons graduates on achieving the milestone of attaining their degrees as they venture out into a rapidly changing global economy filled with technological advances.
Despite the advances, “we still live in a world of unfinished business,” including growing income disparities and gaps in health quality and economic and educational opportunities, he said. “We see an increasing lack of civility in our social and political discourse, a lack of respect for diversity.”
President Ramsey challenged the audience to be strengthened and work together to ensure people have improved access to opportunities.
He told the graduates that not only are they part of the Simmons family but also considered part of the University of Louisville family. “So let us all walk arm in arm to finish the unfinished.”
Sunday’s commencement was held at St. Stephen Baptist Church, where Cosby also is pastor. Four other honorary degrees went to Betty Winston Baye, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame; Attorney David Tandy, past president of the Louisville Metro Council; the Rev. Gregory Franz Smith, pastor of the historic Hill Street Baptist Church in Louisville; and Ronnie von Pierre Norfleet, professor of Communication at Jefferson Community and Technical College and musician.