More than 1,400 receive degrees from Fayetteville State University


More than 1,400 Fayetteville State University students who walked through the Crown Coliseum stage on Saturday say they are now proud Bronco Alumni.

Over the past four years, the class has experienced hurricane seasons, a pandemic and three different chancellors, said Student Government Association president Sydney Harris.

The Class of 2022 awaits to graduate from Fayetteville State University on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum.

“Understand that because we have triumphed over these things, we can prevail over anything,” Harris told fellow graduates of the historically black university. “This moment is a time to reflect on the past four years – to reflect on your accomplishments, your development over the years and even your failures.”

Moments before graduating, Goldsboro native Tayron Smith reflected on what brought him to Fayetteville State University.

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Smith said he attended college from 2013 to 2016, but quit after three years because he became a father.

A crowd gathers Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum for Fayetteville State University's 155th Spring Start.  Some 1,478 graduated, including bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

He said his daughter, now 5, helped him refocus and return to college in 2019.

“And now here I am,” he said. “I’m done. It’s one of my biggest accomplishments for real. A lot of people where I come from have never seen themselves today.

Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management and plans to become a physical education teacher and basketball coach in Cumberland County.

Like Smith, Boston native Christopher Lawrence started college several years ago but didn’t finish at first.

Lawrence attended the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2010 but decided in 2019 to go to FSU, which is also part of the UNC system.

“I focused on the future looking for different opportunities in my major,” he said.

Lawrence earned a degree in business management and said he was interested in marketing and management for retail companies like Walmart or Target.

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At Saturday’s ceremony, Lawrence and other graduates received advice from fellow FSU alumni. Nicholas Perkinsdirector of his own company, Perkins Management Co. in addition to Black Titan Franchise Systems, LLC.

Fayetteville State University Chancellor Darrell T. Allison, right, with keynote speaker Nicholas M. Perkins, chairman, president and CEO of Perkins Management and Fuddruckers.  Perkins is a native of Fayetteville and graduated in 2003 from Fayetteville State University.

Perkins also owns national and international burger chain Fuddruckers, having recently acquired 14 franchises.

He told graduates he was sitting where they sat 19 years ago while waiting for his bachelor’s degree in business from FSU.

Perkins went on to earn his master’s degree at Howard University and received an honorary doctorate from FSU on Saturday.

Fayetteville State University 2003 graduate Nicholas Perkins addresses the class of 2022 Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum.

He asked the graduates to repeat the phrase “I am called, I am able and I am covered”, which he described as the theme of his talk.

Originally from Fayetteville, Perkins was raised by a single mother with the help of his grandmother in a housing complex called Elliot Circle near Murchison Road.

“My mother insisted that we take our education seriously and as I got older I realized that education really is the key that can unlock any door,” Perkins said.

Perkins said he learned relationships were also powerful when he became best friends with Marcus Shaw in the fourth grade.

Fayetteville State University 2003 graduate Nicholas Perkins addresses the class of 2022 Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum.

Shaw came from a two-parent family and both of Shaw’s parents were entrepreneurs, Perkins said. “It showed me a different way of life through hard work, dedication and sacrifice,” he said. “The opportunity to create a better life existed even for black people, and I saw it in the Shaws.”

Perkins credited high school football coaches at EE Smith High School for mentoring him to play football at Fayetteville State University.

While in college, Perkins worked in the cafeteria on the service line, as a grill cook, dishwasher, and caterer.

“I learned absolutely every aspect of the operation to gain the experience I would need,” he said.

He also worked as a breakfast cook at a mental hospital on Roxie Avenue.

His classmates joked that he was like the chef from the cartoon “South Park.”

After college, Perkins said, he started his own business with $2,000 and an American Express card.

It has since grown into a multimillion-dollar contract food service management company, he said.

Perkins said it took him two years to get his first federal contract because he reported to the Pentagon a day after getting no response from Fort Bragg officials.

He met with the director of Army Small Business Programs who made a few calls and directed Perkins to a contract command in Norfolk, Virginia.

“The Broncos aren’t giving up,” Perkins said. “We don’t take no for an answer. We will move forward no matter what. »

Perkins said he maintained that spirit during his calls for two years to receive his first contract with an HBCU.

He told graduates not to forget “the bridges that brought them together” and thanked his team at Perkins Management for helping him acquire Fuddruckers when he was 41.

Fayetteville State University graduates of the class of 2022 line up during commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum.

Perkins said the acquisition came at an intimidating time amid the COVID-19 pandemic when he was uncertain about the future of his own business.

“Every experience I’ve had and am going through has prepared me for this moment,” Perkins said.

Perkins said the same opportunities are available to graduates who are willing to dedicate themselves, make sacrifices and put in the effort.

“Make your ancestors proud. You are the wildest dreams of your ancestors. Make sure the people who died and didn’t know your name so you could wear that bonnet and robe didn’t sacrifice themselves in vain…” Perkins said. “You are called, you are able and you are covered.”


On Saturday, FSU Chancellor Darrell Allison also encouraged the graduates.

“Always remember the Broncos always deliver deeds, not just words,” Allison told graduates.

Jasmine Underwood, who comes from a military family, heeds the advice.

Underwood is a professor of earth sciences in Hoke County and earned his master’s degree on Saturday for “better opportunities” in education.

“I want to be a role model for my students,” she said.

Underwood said she would like to stay in the area to teach students she already has contact with, while pursuing the opportunity to work at a community college.

Stacey Palmiter, from Massachusetts, said she also worked to earn her degree in fire and emergency services administration in hopes of furthering her career.

From front to back, Adam M. Beasley, Stacey A. Palmiter, Brandon A. Chapman and Clint T. Henson.  The four were among several who received their bachelor's degree in fire and emergency services administration in the spring intake from Fayetteville State University on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum.

Palmiter is already a civilian firefighter at Fort Bragg.

“It feels really good, I’m the first in my family to get a bachelor’s degree, so I feel accomplished, and it will help us more as firefighters for our future,” she said.

Ashley Phelps, originally from Charlotte, earned her bachelor’s degree in social work.

She said the degree is a representation of her determination, as adjusting to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult at first, but it was something she went through.

Phelps hopes to use her degree to work with homeless communities or veterans.

Graduates of the class of 2022 wait to receive their diplomas during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 7, 2022 at the Crown Coliseum.

Mechelle Downs, originally from Philadelphia, also earned her degree in social work and wants to focus on palliative care.

Downs, 46, previously worked in the corporate sector before attending FSU.

“I’m definitely passionate about advocating for community members and those who are underserved,” she said.

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Other graduates recognized at Saturday’s launch included 449 honor graduates, two Air Force ROTC cadets who were commissioned and seven Army ROTC cadets who were commissioned.

Shakira and Nadiyah Wilson accepted an MBA on behalf of their late mother, Christine S. Wilson, who died Sept. 12.

Writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.


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