Clayton State University celebrated the official conclusion of its 40th Anniversary year on Saturday, May 8, 2010, with the Spring 2010 Commencement. The dual ceremonies, the first for Dr. Thomas J. “Tim” Hynes, Jr., as the University’s fourth president, featured a record 509 graduates taking part, and two singular honors.
Clayton State, which first opened its doors to students on Sept. 30, 1969, marked the occasion of its 40th Anniversary Commencement to bestow a special honor on Dr. Harry S. Downs, the University’s first and founding president, who received an honorary Doctorate of Arts and Letters.
“His dedication has made it possible for these graduates of Clayton State to be here today,” commented Hynes in introducing Downs during the noon ceremony.
Clearly the individual most identified with Clayton State over the University’s first 40 years (Clayton State’s second president, Dr. Richard A. Skinner, referred to Downs as, “the father of Clayton State.”) Downs also had the opportunity to address the graduates, and did so in a fashion that indicated his feelings for Clayton State, more than 16 years after his retirement.
“I praise you for your wisdom in choosing this great institution of higher education,” he said. “I will be honestly celebrating every name that is read today.”
In addition to Downs’ honorary doctorate, the University also presented a posthumous Bachelor of Arts degree to Sergeant First Class (SFC) John C. Beale. A Clayton State history major and an employee of the Clayton County Water Authority, SFC Beale was one of three Georgia Army National Guardsmen killed in action in Kapisa Province in northeast Afghanistan on Thursday, June 4, 2009. Accepting his degree was his wife, Crystal Beale.
The two ceremonies, held before capacity crowds in the University’s Athletics & Fitness Center, featured C. D. Moody, Jr., founder and owner of C.D. Moody Construction Co., and Dr. Jamil Zainaldin, president of the Georgia Humanities Council, as the Commencement speakers.
“I’m here to inspire, motivate, and give you hope for a bright future, because you have an unbelievably bright future,” said Moody. “If there is one thing I can leave with you, it’s to believe you can do whatever it is you want to do.
“Give to your school. You’re going to help somebody else sit where you are today. You’ll be blessed beyond your wildest dreams. Every successful person started with a dream and a vision. Why not you?”
Zainaldin told the graduates that they were entering a world where personal values will be more important than ever, and that three personal values in particular would help determine success… integrity, empathy, and positive social values.