Graduating LEAD Scholars Honored

Students walked the blue carpet and received their stoles during the Steve and Carol Grafton LEAD Senior Celebration.
By Jeremy Carroll


Read time: 2 minutes
Graduating LEAD Scholars pose for a photo in front of the fountain in Ingalls Mall.
Graduating LEAD Scholars pose for a photo in front of the fountain in Ingalls Mall. Photo by Jeremy Carroll

The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan celebrated the 2023 graduating class of LEAD Scholars on April 27.

The students walked the blue carpet to cheers, received their LEAD Scholars stole to wear during commencement, and enjoyed their community one last time before becoming alums.

Ayanna McConnell, the Alumni Association’s acting president and CEO, praised the graduating seniors, saying this class, which arrived on campus in the fall of 2019, taught us all how to pivot with grace.

“We all had really big plans for 2020, but life had other plans,” she said. “But this group taught us how to evolve some of our programming so that we can still maintain our community. They taught us what resilience looks like and how to hold on to joy. And this group has also taught us how to be advocates for ourselves and expect change, and to respect human beings. So thank you for those lessons. And I know that we have more lessons coming.”

The Steve and Carol Grafton LEAD Senior Celebration was named in honor of the Association’s former CEO and his spouse who helped to launch LEAD in 2008. The couple remains champions of the program today.

“It’s been a passion for Steve and me since its inception. And over the years, the LEAD students, stories, and their accomplishments have had such a profound impact on the way I see the world,” Carol Grafton said. “LEAD students make the University of Michigan a better place, and you all are going to make the world a better place.”

About 40 LEAD Scholars are earning their degree this spring.

“This is your forever Go Blue family,” Phyllis Taylor, the LEAD Scholars and student recruitment manager, said to the students and their families. “We will have a LEAD community of support for you wherever you go. And you will always have a home here at the Alumni Center.”

The LEAD Scholars program offers merit-based scholarships and empowering community support to admitted Black, Latino, and Native American students, affording them the opportunity to expand their knowledge and showcase their talent at U-M without financial burden.

For more information on the program and how to contribute, visit

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