Valedictorian Lorin Crawford (left) of Chino Hills, California, mathematics major with a 4.0 GPA, and Salutatorian Tam Quach, of Morrow GA, criminal justice major with a 3.92 GPA, led the graduates into the stadium. The men were freshman roommates and are best friends. Photos from Clark Atlanta University's 24th Annual Commencement Convocation Monday, May 20, 2013 at Panther Stadium. KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Two friends from opposite sides of the world have been named salutatorian and valedictorian of Clark Atlanta University.
Monday, valedictorian Lorin Crawford and salutatorian Tam Quach received their degrees along with 700 of their peers. Both Crawford and Quach, who call themselves “honors brothers,” will be going on to graduate school programs. They attribute their success to peer networking, small class sizes and a little bit of ingenuity.
“The national trends are that women are achieving at higher rates than men,” said Carlton Brown, the president of Clark Atlanta, a private school located just to the west of downtown Atlanta. “In recent years, we’ve been focusing on our men. These two gentlemen have risen up and run to the top of their class.”
Crawford is the son of an orthodontist and grew up in Orange County, California where he played on his high school basketball team and managed to maintain a 3.9 GPA.
He said he decided to go to Clark after going on a tour of several colleges through the south. He was attracted to Clark’s tight-knit community, small class sizes and its distance from his home.
“I wanted to reinvent myself,” he said. At Clark, he focused solely on his academics and left his basketball hopes in California.
It didn’t hurt that Clark gave him a full scholarship.
After enrolling at Clark, Crawford, now 22, got involved in the school’s honors program.
The program, he said, is set up like a family. Students refer to each other as brothers and sisters and they regularly hold outings and retreats to get to know each other.
“The honors program gave us a family to step into,” Crawford said. “If we had problems we could turn to one another. It helped us find out who we are and what we want to be. If we were lost, we had people we could trust that could steer us in the right direction.”
It’s at one of these retreats where Crawford and Quach met.
“It’s that thirst for knowledge that really is the foundation of our friendship,” Crawford said. “I knew how hard he worked.”
Quach, 21, emigrated to Morrow from Vietnam with his parents at the age of 10. A teacher at Forest Park High School encouraged him to apply to Clark Atlanta.
“I feel comfortable at Clark Atlanta,” Quach, said. “If I had the chance, if I could go back in time, I’d do it all over again.”
He attributes his success to the help he got from his friends and professors, and his mother, employed at a local warehouse, who gave him constant encouragement.
“At one point, I was so stressed out, it was making my head hurt,” Quach said. “My mom encouraged me and told me, ‘You can do it. You don’t want to be like me, working from 3 p.m. until 2 in the morning. If you think your job is hard, my job is harder. To go to college is a privilege.’ After she told me that, I couldn’t quit.”
He said he was accepted like family at the historically black college.
Crawford, who majored in math, will attend Duke University, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in statistical science on a full scholarship. He hopes to one day predict the behavior of the stock market.
Quach will attend Georgia State University this fall to pursue his master’s degree in criminal justice. He said he’s unsure of what he wants to do with his career but has always been fascinated by solving problems.
Quach and Crawford said they will be lifelong friends.
“We’re like brothers,” Crawford said. “We fight like brothers. We give each other high fives like brothers.”
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