Regan Challenges N.C. A&T Graduates to ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’ as Change Agents

12/11/2021 Students

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Dec. 11, 2021) – The nation’s top environmental protection official challenged more than 1,300 North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University graduates and their family members Saturday to find pursuits that fuel their passion and fight for what they believe in – a practice that not only can make them relevant, but “powerful beyond measure.” 

View Fall 2021 Commencement 

Speaking to the fall 2021 graduates of the nation’s largest historically Black college or university (HBCU), Michael S. Regan ‘98 drew parallels between the opportunities graduates have to become change agents today and the opportunities North Carolina A&T students took advantage of during the Civil Rights Movement, changing the nation in the process.

“More than 60 years ago, on Feb. 1, 1960, four A&T freshmen refused to be bound by the racist injustice of segregation,” said Regan. “... They sat down at the whites-only lunch counter, risking their freedom, and potentially risking their lives. And when they were denied service, they stayed planted, like mighty oak trees, until the store closed. 

“Their bravery not only led to the desegregation of Woolworth’s lunch counter, it helped inspire other protest movements throughout Greensboro and the nation. ... They had the courage, conviction and understanding that their value was God-given, and no one could take that away. That is what it means to stand up and be counted – and that is my challenge to all of you.”

Regan recently concluded a similar stand in his “Journey to Justice” tour through Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, to draw attention to longstanding instances of environmental injustice in those states and focus efforts on critically needed mediation. Regan joined roundtable discussions with residents and stakeholders, toured neighborhoods severely affected by pollution, met with environmental justice activists and community leaders to discuss solutions, as well as the commitment to action by the EPA and the Biden-Harris Administration.

He also recently released the EPA’s new national strategy on recycling, which for the first time takes into account climate change considerations. The strategy is aimed at creating a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective municipal solid waste recycling system, increasing markets for recycled materials and more.

Regan, who graduated from A&T’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) with a B.S. in environmental sciences, credited many people in his life for teaching him to stand up and be counted in order to succeed, including his wife, Melvina T. Regan, whom he met at A&T as she earned her B.A. in psychology.

Regan also acknowledged the influence of Godfrey Uzochukwu, Ph.D., senior professor of natural resources and environmental design in CAES and founding director of the university’s Interdisciplinary Waste Management Institute. Regan chose Uzochukwu to be a charter member of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, where he holds a dual appointment to the Agricultural Sciences Committee.

“His pushing and prodding were about excellence and making me more powerful, which is exactly what A&T, one of the premiere universities in this country, is all about – excellence,” said Regan.

Today’s graduates represent CAES, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics, College of Education, College of Engineering, John R. and Kathy R. Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences, College of Science and Technology, Joint School of Nanotechnology and Nanoengineering and The Graduate College.

Regan said it is possible for each graduate to identify equally ambitious goals and make achieving them a reality.

“To stand up and be counted means you have something you believe in – yourself, number one – but also something that is much bigger than you … something that’s worth fighting for,” said Regan. “Only you can decide what that is – maybe it’s voting rights or women’s rights or maybe it’s a lifelong dream to push the boundaries of science or the arts.

“Whatever it is, when you find it – and it’s OK if you haven’t found it yet – grab it. Don’t let it go.”

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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