Clark Atlanta University Mother and Daughter Graduate in Same Day Commencement Ceremonies


ATLANTA, (May 28, 2021) — Clark Atlanta University doctoral student Dr. Lorri Saddler and her daughter Jaelyn Rice graduated on the same day at the university’s 2020-21 dual commencement ceremony on May 15. Dr. Saddler earned her doctoral degree in education and had the privilege of watching her daughter Jaelyn Rice, a 2020 cum laude graduate, receive her bachelor’s degree in sociology.

After postponing the 2020 commencement ceremony due to COVID-19, Clark Atlanta University kept its promise to the CAU Class of 2020 and held its commencement ceremony on the same day as the Class of 2021.  This was the first time that two commencement ceremonies were held on the same day in the university’s history.  Dr. Saddler, who also works as the university’s Vice President of Undergraduate Admissions and in the university president’s cabinet, served as an administrator during the morning ceremony when her daughter graduated. She then walked across the stage as a student herself during the afternoon ceremony.

“We couldn’t have planned an occasion as brilliant as Commencement 2020,” said Dr. Saddler. “I was a mom at 8 a.m. and a student and cabinet member at 3 p.m. To see [my daughter] Jaelyn in the same booklet as the president’s cabinet was an unbelievable, humbling and amazing experience.”

For Jaelyn, who served as a student ambassador, football team manager and student assistant while at Clark Atlanta University, celebrating her academic achievements with her mother allowed her to reflect on her mother’s accomplishments as a student and a parent.

“For her to be there and to know my mom is in the same space with me, as a role model -- there is nothing better,” said Rice. “We pressed through and overcame obstacles to get there on the same day -- an example of our resilience and our ability to move forward.”


For both students, the commencement ceremony was an emotional reminder of the importance of family. Dr. Saddler spoke about the impact her father, who passed away in March 2020, had on her life.

“My father was the one who nudged me to pursue my higher education degree,” said Dr. Saddler. “The rendition of ‘God Is’ at the ceremony resonated with me so powerfully. My empty places were filled with those who have been supporting me at Clark Atlanta University. Beyond colleagues, these folks have become my family too.”

Following graduation, Jaelyn plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in athletic training, while Dr. Saddler will utilize her doctorate to further her career in higher education.

About Clark Atlanta University  

Established in 1988 by the historic consolidation of Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869). Clark Atlanta University continues a 150-year legacy rooted in African-American tradition and focused on the future. Through global innovation, transformative educational experiences, and high-value engagement. CAU cultivates lifted lives that transform the world. Notable alumni include: James Weldon

Johnson; American civil rights activist, poet, and songwriter (Lift Every Voice and Sing "The Black National Anthem"; Ralph David Abernathy Sr., American civil rights activist; Congressman Hank Johnson, Georgia District 4; Kenya Barris, American award-winning television and movie producer; Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway Director; Jacque Reid, Emmy Award-winning Television Personality and Journalist; Brandon Thompson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for NASCAR; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Recording Academy. To learn more about Clark Atlanta University, visit