Global links and utilities:

Virginia State University Home

< Back

VSU student with cerebral palsy plans to walk across the stage

Published date: May 17, 2017

Keith GrandersonKnown around the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) as “The Mayor” or “KJ,” VSU senior Keith Granderson is a young man who has not let life challenges define him.

Granderson was born three months prematurely and with cerebral palsy.

“I was born with a disability but through the grace of God I am still here.” Granderson shared with a feeling of gratitude. “I have been through the fire and the storm.” 

Granderson earned the name “The Mayor” from VSU’s President Makola M. Abdullah, Ph.D.

“Shortly after I was named the President of Virginia State University in December 2015, Keith was one of the first persons to reach out to me via social media,” Abdullah said. “After meeting him, the name ‘Mayor” just seem to fit him.”  

Now 25, Granderson will join the nearly 600 prospective Trojan graduates during the University’s Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 13. The University will hold two ceremonies – 9 a.m. and at 2 p.m. in the VSU Multipurpose Center. Mr. Jeff Johnson, award-winning journalist and motivational speaker, will deliver the commencement address for both ceremonies.

Granderson will earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice during the 9 a.m. ceremony.

“Everything feels so surreal,” Granderson said with the biggest smile. “I am so blessed. I have had many challenges in my life but I would not let those challenges stop me. My family is amazing and have always kept me motivated, especially my mother.”

His mother, Lisa Gill, who is a student at VSU, will graduate this December. They both wished they could have graduated together but Gill shared, “It is perfectly fine. I want KJ to have the spotlight. I always wanted to make sure KJ and his brother, Draykar, who graduated from Norfolk State University in 2013, received their college diplomas before me anyway.”

As any proud mother would do, Gill continued by expressing her excitement

“Oh, I just know I am going to be an emotional wreck and full of emotions,” said Gill with such pride and excitement. “This is one of KJ’s greatest accomplishments and his graduation will be one of the greatest days of my life. I normally don’t pat myself on the back but I think I may do just that after Saturday.”

Granderson and his mother even had a class [development psychology] together this spring semester.

“It was alright having a class with my mother,” said Granderson, who was looking side eyed at his mother when commenting. “We sat beside each other, shared notes and you know my mom made sure I did the work.”

They both earned an “A” in the class.

Granderson, who has his own special video tribute produced by the University, has already secured a job. Following graduation, Granderson will work as a dispatcher for the Virginia State University’s Police Department.

“I love Virginia State University,” said Granderson, who almost shouted with so much pride. “I recruit for this University 24 hours, seven days a week. I am so proud to become an alumnus. God has given me so much to be thankful.” 

To view the video of Granderson, visit

Share this page: