Graduates celebrate milestone 200th commencement at Savannah State

Savannah State is the oldest public HBCU in Georgia

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The oldest historically Black college in Georgia’s public university system is celebrating a milestone.

Savannah State University held its 200th commencement ceremony on Friday, with approximately 360 graduates receiving their degrees at the campus football stadium.

Graduates celebrate at the 200th commencement held at Savannah State University, the oldest public HBCU in Georgia. (photo credit: Savannah State University Facebook)

Savannah State was founded in 1890 under the second Morrill Land Grant Act, a federal law mandating that Southern states establish land-grant colleges for Black students. It became the first college to open in Savannah.

The 132-year-old campus typically holds two graduation ceremonies each year, in the fall and spring.

The commencement speaker Friday was retired Navy Capt. Donnie Cochran, who was the first Black aviator to fly with the famed Blue Angels aerobatic squadron. Cochran graduated from Savannah State in 1976 with a degree in civil engineering technology.

The university was first established in 1890 as Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youths in Athens before relocating to the coastal city of Savannah in 1891. Richard R. Wright Jr., the son of the founding president, was awarded the first degree from the school in 1898 and later became the president of Wilberforce University in Ohio, according to Savannah State’s website.

Women were not admitted to the institution until 1921. It later became a four-year college in 1928 when the administration axed its high school and normal school curricula. The school was renamed Georgia State College in 1932, followed by another name change in 1950 to Savannah State College. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited the college in 1955, according to the school’s history.

Savannah State College became Savannah State University in 1996.

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