Morehouse School of Medicine's President Dr. John Maupin challenged Claflin University's graduating class of 2011 to have faith, develop discipline and act with integrity of purpose.
The university's commencement was held Saturday at the Seventh-day Adventist Worship and Convention Center in Orangeburg.
In his address to Claflin's largest graduating class in its 141-year history, Maupin drew from personal failures and successes to inspire the 347 graduates as they embark on a new chapter in life.
Noting that students are just at the beginning of a very long journey, he encouraged them to never lose faith.
"This is the beginning of a path you will follow that is winding and sometimes has curves," he said. "Sometimes you will stumble, but it's not about stumbling, it's whether you can get up, and what you do after you stumble."
He added that graduates may not always make the right choices, and personal and professional hardships are likely to occur. Despite this, he urged them to look past the pain and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Drawing from his personal journey, Maupin shared that, while he had the intellect, he had to make a conscious decision to be more disciplined. This decision came on the day he realized that not only would he be unable to graduate on time, he also would be denied an offer to attend Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tenn. All because he did not complete one of his labs.
He encouraged graduates not to make the same mistakes.
"Some of you graduating today can look in the mirror and know you don't have the discipline," he said. "Get the discipline! If I had the discipline, I would have had more chances."
With a renewed sense of discipline, Maupin not only graduated from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry with his D.D.S. degree, he also served as president of the college for 12 years.
Maupin's final words of advice to students were to do what is right, for the right reasons.
He called this philosophy "integrity of purpose." He said too many people do the right things in order to be seen, rather than for the good of their fellowman.
"Don't worry about getting a promotion," he said, quoting one of his mentors. "Do your work with the highest level of professionalism, and that will take you where you need to be."
Prior to his address, Claflin President Dr. Henry Tisdale conferred the Doctor of Science degree on Maupin.
The Rev. Dr. Soloman Jackson Jr. received with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Maupin took the time to congratulate the graduates for their achievement, saying they present a positive example to counter the negative images of young African-Americans in the media.
Tisdale was also in high praise of his graduates and called them a special collection of visionary scholars.
The graduating class of 2011 included students from five nations and 16 states. There are 12 veterans among them.
Business management major Vaughan Dilworth from Richmond, Va., was the class valedictorian. He urged his fellow graduates to take with them the power of teamwork and to never forget those who helped them along their journey.