Nearly 600 graduates walked across the stage Friday in the F.G. Clark Activity Center to receive their degrees at Southern University.

"Today, metaphorically, is your finish line,” said actor Omar J. Dorsey, who gave the commencement address. “When you walk across this stage today, this is your platform and that degree is your gold medal."

Dorsey plays “Hollywood” on critically acclaimed “Queen Sugar,” a drama created by award-winning director Ava DuVernay that airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network. His career included roles in the movies “Django Unchained” and “Selma”.

Dorsey, who graduated from Georgia State University in Atlanta, told the graduates to not rush through the phases of their journey.

“Consider the people you started with. Some are not here today. Some gave up. Some needed more time. Others had their reasons. But, in a marathon, it’s about going at your own pace and finishing at your time,” Dorsey said. “Don’t waste energy in your 20s trying to discern someone else’s timing. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get that job, you don’t get into that graduate school or law school. Don’t feel bad that relationship didn’t work out, or you didn’t get that audition. It doesn’t matter nor will it matter in the end of the marathon of life."

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Dozens of alumni celebrated their 50th, or “golden,” graduation anniversary. Donning gold caps and gowns, the class of 1969 sat in golden chairs as special guests near the 2019 graduates.

Lionel L. Joseph was awarded an honorary doctorate degree.

Joseph graduated from Southern University in 1972 with a B.S. degree and from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1974 with his master's degree. He served on the Independence Board of Aldermen for 24 years and currently serves on the Tangipahoa Parish Council representing District 3. He is a lifetime member of Southern University alumni associations.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.