In the fall of 1992, the former Director of Affirmative Action, Dr. Franklin Simpson and Jerome "Skip" Hudson, Director of Minority Affairs met to discuss the development of a program to honor and celebrate the achievements of African American students who would be graduating from West Chester University in May, 1993. Out of this, and other meetings with Dr. Christian Awuyah and Dr. C. James Trotman, the idea of a Kente Commencement Ceremony was born.
The original goals of the program remain true today. It was designed to recognize the academic and personal achievements of the graduates, and to encourage them to accept the challenge and responsibility to continue to strive for excellence in their personal, academic, and professional careers. It was also hoped that the ceremony would be a recruitment, retention and motivation tool; one that they too, can look forward to being recognized and honored in a similar fashion upon their graduation. A third goal was to develop a new tradition that strengthens the bond to the institution for the graduates even long after their departure.
Although there are similar programs at many other colleges and universities, the West Chester ceremony remains unique in at least one very important aspect. Prior to the program, each participating graduate is asked to identify a family member, friend or other significant individual to take part in the celebration. During the ceremony, a kente stole is presented to this person by a member of the University community, the kente is then bestowed upon the graduate with all the appropriate sentiments for this special occasion. Its purpose is to recognize and promote the significance of family, friends, and the "university family" in the accomplishments of the graduate.
To date, over 500 graduating seniors have participated in the previous ceremonies. As planned, it has become a program that is eagerly anticipated by the University, families, friends, and, in particular, the graduating students.
The Royal Ashanti Stole, an important part of Akan culture in West Africa, is the supreme insignia of the Ashanti chiefs of Ghana. The original Royal Stool is made of solid gold and belonged to King Osei Tutu, the founder of the Ashanti kingdom. It is said to have descended from heaven, and no mortal may sit upon it.