Cover Photo Image
Keynote Speaker

Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin

A professor of English at James Madison University, Joanne V. Gabbin was the director of the JMU Honors Program when she hosted the premier Furious Flower Poetry Conference in 1994, which was the first academic conference on Black poetry. She continued to invite Black poets and other scholars to the JMU campus under the auspices of the Honors Program (calling these guest lectures and readings Furious Flower events), and in 2005, after the grand success of another major Furious Flower Poetry Conference in 2004, JMU formally established the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the first and at the time only academic center devoted to Black poetry. Dr. Gabbin left her beloved position with the Honors Program to become executive director of the new center. Since then, Gabbin has served as a visionary leader, building key relationships with scholars, poets, and corporate partners, as well as conceiving, overseeing, and fundraising for special projects and events. The Furious Flower Archive is now a permanent and valued part of the JMU Libraries.

She is the author of Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, editor of Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present and The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry, and executive producer of the Furious Flower video and DVD series. She is also founder and organizer of the Wintergreen Women Writers’ Collective, and as editor of Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers collected their stories. Among other book projects, she authored the children’s book, I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum.

A dedicated teacher and scholar, Dr. Gabbin has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Among them are the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for her book Sterling A. Brown (1986), the James Madison University Faculty Women’s Caucus and Women’s Resource Network for Scholarship (1988), and the Outstanding Faculty Award, Virginia State Council of Higher Education in 1993.  Dr. Gabbin was the recipient of the George Kent Award from the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University in 1994, the JMU Provost’s Award for Distinguished Service and the JMU Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2005, Dr. Gabbin was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.  In the fall of 2016, the JMU Office of Sponsored Programs recognized her success with external funders with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Gabbin’s career has afforded her an opportunity to support, encourage, and promote the work of poets, artists, and her students. In her 50 years of teaching at colleges and universities around the country, Dr. Gabbin has built an award-winning honors program at JMU, curated a fine arts gallery in Harrisonburg, and established the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the first academic center devoted to Black poetry in the United States. Her growing legacy includes the honor of the first named professorship in the Honors College—Dr. Joanne Gabbin Professorship—endowed by Sean (’92) and Michele Tobin; and the naming of an historic building on the Quad—Joanne V. and Alexander Gabbin Hall--in recognition of her and her husband’s longtime dedication as members of the JMU faculty.

University Ceremony
The University Ceremony will be live-streamed to view on Thursday, May 6th at 6:00 p.m.
The live-stream can be viewed on the commencement website or on
JMU's official Facebook page. 




National Anthem

Welcome from President Alger

Greetings from the Student Speaker, Mr. Carter Bowman

Alumni Greetings from Mr. Dave Urso, president of the Alumni Association

Commencement Address by JMU professor, Dr. Joanne Gabbin

Candidate Endorsement by Faculty

Presentation of Graduates

Conferring of Degrees

JMU Alma Mater




Student Speaker

Carter Bowman



Carter Bowman majored in Political Science with a minor in Chinese foreign language. Carter was a member of the speech and debate team and served as a political science research assistant. In the fall of 2019, Carter participated in JMU's Washington Semester Program as a full-time intern with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy while remaining a full-time student. In the spring of 2020, he studied as a foreign exchange student at the University of Oxford, where he had a paper published comparing AI proliferation to nuclear arms proliferation.

Carter’s Honors College Thesis, which identifies predictors of national cyber power advancement, won the Best Political Science Thesis award. Carter was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and named the Outstanding Student for the Department of Political Science and the College of Arts and Letters.

Starting this fall, Carter will begin a J.D. program at the Georgetown University Law Center.


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