Dr. Stacey Davis Stewart, the first black woman to serve as President of United Way Worldwide, challenged the more than 350 undergraduates and 150 graduates at Lincoln University’s 155th Commencement to protect their personal brands, maintain pride and commitment as well as be grateful for what they have been given and subsequently give back to help others achieve their dreams.

Dr. Stewart, who along with Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist – the largest African American church in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – were also awarded honorary doctorate degrees during the Commencement ceremonies in the university’s stadium.

“Why is it so important for Coca Cola to spend a $100 million to promote its brand?” she asked, explaining that the company had been in business for about 127 years. “They should be able to coast, right? Coke knows that the moment you stop defining your brand the world starts defining your brand for you.”

Dr. Stewart, who works to protect and enhance the United Way Worldwide’s brand and reputation, emphasized that graduates must protect their brands by understanding their own core values and core skills as well as recognizing how important their brands are to employers and as graduates of The Lincoln University.

She explained that they must maintain a certain pride and commitment to protect their brands and to achieve their goals.

“Sadly, today there are too many people who would love to see our community fail, but nothing gives those same people greater pause than by seeing us sharp and committed,” Dr. Stewart said.

She referenced the pride and commitment it took for alums, Lillian Fishburne, who became the first African American female U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and lastly Fritz Pollard, while not an alum, but the former head coach of Lincoln’s football team during the 1918-20 seasons, who became the NFL’s first African American head coach.

“This is the most competitive world today,” Dr. Stewart said. “You are going to need every drop of pride and commitment you can muster. Nobody is going to give you anything you have not earned.”

She encouraged graduates to thank those who sacrificed, cried and prayed to get them to graduation and that it was that same gratitude that will be demonstrated in how they live the rest of their lives.

“I’ve committed myself to a career where I give back to millions of people across the country,” Dr. Stewart said regarding her position with the United Way, where she drives the strategic direction for.