• Each commencement ceremony features the conferral of degrees, greetings from university and state officials, the awarding of an Honorary Degree,  remarks from an undergraduate student (Student Commentary application), and the Commencement Speaker.  

    University Commencement Speaker


    Dr. John B. King Jr., a grandson of one of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's earliest graduates, will deliver the 2019 spring commencement address to graduates Friday, May 24. 

    King was scheduled to speak at UMES' 2018 Founders' Day Convocation and summer commencement, but inclement weather forced the Sept. 13 ceremony to be postponed and subsequently created a schedule conflict for King. 

    King is president and chief executive of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps for students from preschool through college. 

    He previously served in President Barack Obama's cabinet as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education.

    The May 24 ceremony will be held in the William P. Hytche Athletic Center starting at 10 a.m. 

    King's paternal grandmother, Estelle Stansberry, graduated in 1894 from Princess Anne Academy, when it was a secondary school under the jurisdiction of Baltimore's Morgan College that provided a late 19th-century path for blacks to earn a higher education degree. 

    According to King's family, Stansberry became a nurse at a Philadelphia hospital that one of her sons eventually led as an administrator. 

    Before being confirmed as education secretary in March 2016, King was deputy Secretary of Education responsible for policies and programs affecting pre-school through grade 12 education, English learners, special education and innovation. 

    Prior to joining the federal agency, King was New York State Commissioner of Education from 2011 until 2014. He was the first African American to hold that post. King began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and Boston, and as a middle school principal. 

    His parents were career New York City public school educators, both of whom died by the time he was 12 years old.  King credits his parents' peers - particularly educators at Public School 276 in Brooklyn's Canarsie neighborhood and at Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island - for saving his life by providing “rich and engaging educational experiences and by giving him hope for the future,” according to his online biography. 

    King earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Harvard University, a law degree from Yale Law School as well as a Master of Arts in teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.  He serves as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland's College of Education and is a member of several boards, including those for The Century Foundation, The Robin Hood Foundation and Teach Plus

    Student Commentary Speaker  

    Vernajh E. Pinder

    Vernajh E. Pinder will deliver the student commentary on behalf of the Class of 2019 during the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's spring graduation ceremony May 24. 

    A hospitality and tourism management major from Nassau, Bahamas, Pinder is a member of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program and a broad spectrum of campus organizations, including the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.  His long-term goal is to be a hands-on owner of a hotel and restaurant, where he says he would ensure his recipe ideas like curry dishes get executed. 

    Pinder was among nine seniors who auditioned before a four-judge panel for the honor of representing classmates on stage during commencement, a tradition at UMES that dates at least to the early 20th century.  The fourth of six siblings, he will be the first in his immediate family to receive a college degree. 

    “I'm not sure it's sunk in yet,” Pinder said 30 minutes after being notified he will give a speech he said he was motivated to write “to end on a positive note.” 

    “We made it through,” he said. “It wasn't an easy road.”   Dr. Ernest P. Boger, chairman of UMES' Hospitality and Tourism Management Department, met Pinder five years ago when Boger was judging an international high school hospitality competition in Florida. 

    “I immediately recognized a raw talent for leadership and scholarship that would be able to flourish at UMES,” Boger said.   Pinder's team won that competition, earning him a full-ride scholarship that led him to UMES as his college choice.

    The Leaning Tower of Pinder?

    “My journey in hospitality started as a kid,” Pinder said.  “I used to go into the kitchen with my grandmother and mother and help them prepare meals. It was then, I think, that I knew … I wanted to be a world renowned chef.” 

    Pinder has accepted a job offer at the Hyatt Regency (Chesapeake Bay) in Cambridge, Md., where he will be a banquet events supervisor. 

    Since coming to America in 2016 to enroll at UMES, he's only had one opportunity to visit home, although he does spend some free time with an aunt who lives in Florida. 

    Pinder was among 21 UMES students who visited Italy this past March for a work-study and cultural exchange experience during spring break. 

    “My goal on every trip is to evaluate the hospitality experience.  I want to taste the foods, see the sights and experience the quality of service at various lodging accommodations,” Pinder said. 

    The Italy trip “opened up my eyes to how culturally diverse different parts of the world are and how everything isn't really the same,” he said.  “It pushed me on a path towards increased self-growth and professional development as a global leader in the hospitality and tourism industry.” 

    Henson Honors Program graduates must complete and present a senior-year capstone project.  Pinder is using his Italy experience as motivation to create what he calls a recipe book focused on Italian foods, herbs and spices. 

    As for his time at UMES, Pinder said he initially experienced “culture shock” relocating from the Caribbean to the Delmarva Peninsula. 

    “I got over it pretty quickly, though, by just getting involved in campus life,” he said.  “I've enjoyed every moment.” 

    Other UMES seniors who auditioned to deliver the student commentary were: Alexa Brady, Morgan Branch, Marcus Burrell, Joshua Dacres, Keith Garner, Jr.,