University Commencement ceremonies are typically about honoring students who have just completed their degrees, along with a few exhortations to those students.
That’s what happened at Clayton State University on Saturday, Dec. 10. However, the day also brought special recognition to one of the Southern Crescent’s outstanding public servants. In addition to awarding some 475 undergraduate and graduate degrees, Clayton State also presented just the seventh honorary doctorate in the University’s 42-year history.
In recognition of his years of service to the metro Atlanta community and the State of Georgia, M. Allan Vigil, president and owner of Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury in Morrow and Allan Vigil Ford in Fayetteville, received an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Clayton State President Dr. Thomas J. Hynes” at the second of the two ceremonies held in the Clayton State Athletics & Fitness Center on Dec. 10.
The exhortation part of graduation came from the keynote speakers, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham in the first ceremony, and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin in the second ceremony.
Benham based his address on poetry; specifically, “A Bag of Tools,” by R.L. Sharpe, a poem about contributions to society by all levels of society. Benham noted that the tools that Clayton State graduates were bringing to society, in addition to their education, should include sharing, caring and sacrifice.
“Clayton State University has prepared you well, you will have the tools for success,” he said, after noting that he personally knows something about that path, since he started out shining shoes in an Atlanta barber shop, and ended up, “shining in the halls of justice.”
Franklin showed that, although she may be the former mayor of Atlanta, she still knows how to work a crowd, charging the graduates in a dynamic address to seize both opportunities and challenges.
“The world needs you seizing the opportunities of the day,” she exhorted. “You, the graduates of Clayton State University are the ones to take on the challenges and seize them.
“Never doubt the impact you will have. What you decide, counts. What you will do will make a difference in the world. Create that future outside of the academy.”
Franklin also spoke on the value of education, noting that, as young girl, she was shy and sat in the back of the class, keeping her opinions to herself.
“My…” she commented with a sense of timing honed from eight years in the mayor’s office. “What an education can do!”
Vigil has been affiliated with the Ford Motor Company since 1971, when he took a job with the company as a field manager. He is a past chairman of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, the Metro Atlanta Automobile Dealers Association and the Ford National Dealer Council.
Vigil currently serves on the board of directors of the Southern Regional Hospital and the Clayton State University Foundation Board of Trustees. He was named Hispanic Businessman of the Year by the Atlanta Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 1996. A member of the Southlake Kiwanis, he was also named Businessman of the Year for 2001 by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and won the Hispanic Business, Inc. 2002 EOY Award in the Retail & Finance category. A member of Ford's "One Hundred Club," he also repeatedly has earned Ford's highest honor, the President's Award. He has served as a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and as a past chairman of the Board.
His community service to the Southern Crescent dates back to 1983, when he first was named to the Board of Trustees of the then-Clayton Junior College Foundation. Indeed, along with his wife, Bonnie P. Vigil, he has been one of the region’s most devoted civic leaders for more almost three decades, also serving as a board member of the State of Georgia’s Board of Motor Vehicle Safety, and the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, where he served as president in 1990. He is also a member of the Fayette County Chamber.
A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.