Unexpected snow flurries didn’t dampen the mood for seniors graduating during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies.
“I knew we’d do it,” University President Dr. Tim Hynes humorously told guests. “Welcome to winter wonderland and the fall 2017 Clayton State University commencement. This indeed is a day to celebrate.”
A winter storm rolled through Atlanta on Friday that shifted undergraduate ceremonies to Saturday afternoon. Still, graduating seniors and their families gathered inside the Athletic Center on the Morrow campus to accept their diplomas, completing their education at Clayton State.
Graduates from the College of Health, College of Business, College of Information and Mathematical Sciences and Bachelor Applied Science majors, heard from Charlotte W. Dupré, president and chief executive officer of Southern Regional Medical Center.
Reflecting on her life as a child in Abbeville, Louisiana where she said, “everyone is at least a third cousin from everyone else,” Dupré shared what it takes for graduates to continue to achieve accomplishments in their professional careers and personal lives.
She advised graduates to exude qualities like hard work and tenacity, and she encouraged them to be bold, be a lifelong learning, become a self-started and go the extra mile in being dedicated to one’s work.
Above all, Dupré said, enjoy your life.
“Have the confidence to step out of your comfort zone, make bold moves…Be true to yourself,” she said. “Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll!”
Students were also challenged to give back to Clayton State University long after they leave.
Reminding graduates of how they may have given back in school, through student organizations, or through service, commencement student speaker Alison Higgins
“I’ve learned that we all have a role to play when we give back. You don’t have to be famous or wealthy, to have a lasting impact on someone’s life, said Higgins, a computer science graduating senior. “Clayton State University needs you, our communities need you and the world definitely needs you.”
College of Arts and Sciences graduates heard inspiring words from Gerald McDowell, executive director of Aerotropolis Atlanta CIDS.
McDowell focused on three tools that would help students continue to achieve their dreams– practice prayer, develop a plan, and persevere. Sharing his personal story, as a young boy who struggled speaking in elementary school and overcame shyness, he encouraged students to face difficulties head on.
“When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you the carrot, the egg, or the coffee bean?” McDowell asked. “If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst you get better and change the situation around you for the better. When the hours are the darkest and trials are greatest, do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?”
Commencement student speaker Velinsie Burden, a graduating senior in sociology, shared how as a nontraditional student she succeeded in spite of the challenges she faced pursuing her dream of higher education. Burden encouraged students to seize every moment to be make a difference.
“Now is not the item to run from change, but rather it is time to full embrace it,” Burden said. “Let us take our rightful place in this world, utilizing every skill, tool and gift that lies within to ensure that absolute success continues.”
Two posthumous degrees were presented to the families of Wakeen Boone Harrell, a computer science major, and Anthony Carl Johnson, a U.S. Navy veteran and a healthcare management major.
In parting words, Hynes explained to the new graduates the lifetime significance of their academic degree.
“When you receive your degree, there will be two important names on that degree: one of them is yours and the other one is Clayton State University,” Hynes said. “So that over time, as your accomplishments begin to add up, you increase significantly the value of Clayton State University.”
View the Photo Gallery