Established in 1840 as the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry is known as the first dental college in the world. This past week, the school again made history when it graduated the first black valedictorian in its 176-year existence.
As graduation approached, Tera Poole knew she was among the top five students in her class, but she didn’t know where exactly she ranked. When she opened up the graduation program, Poole saw her name at the top as the class valedictorian. She didn’t have much time to celebrate, however: The young dental student from Ohio gave the commencement speech shortly thereafter.
“Everything, even being valedictorian was a surprise to me,” Poole said in an interview
It wasn’t until two days after graduation that Poole found out she had made history.
“The tears just keep coming! Officially the FIRST black valedictorian of the world’s FIRST dental school,” she wrote in a post that has been shared on Instagram, where it received over 50,000 likes. It has since been shared on Facebook and other social media sites. “University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry was chartered in 1840, 25 years before slavery was abolished in the U.S., and 176 years later I have been able to make black history by graduating Summa Cum Laude at a place, when it was founded, I would not have even been able to attend.”