Nearly 500 current students and one very special member of the Clayton State University Foundation took part in the Saturday, May 7 Commencement ceremonies in the Athletics and Fitness Center at Clayton State University.
A total of 487 individuals received their graduate and undergraduate diplomas in front of two full houses at the 9.a.m. and noon ceremonies. However, the highlight of the day was when the lone remaining founding (from 1974) member of the Clayton State University Foundation’s Board of Trustees, James M. Wood Jr., was presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters by Clayton State President Dr. Thomas J. “Tim” Hynes, in recognition of his long career in public service and journalism.
Wood grew up in Lanett, Al., graduating from high school at the age of 16. He saved enough money working after school in Lanett Cotton Mill to pay for two years at the University of Alabama. Halfway through college, he was drafted into the army and served in the U.S. occupation of Germany after World War II. Under the GI Bill of Rights, he was able to return to college and finish his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1948.
Wood’s career in journalism includes experience as a reporter, feature writer, medical science writer, trade industry editor, political speech writer, and as editor and publisher of weekly and daily newspapers. Hearing of a weekly newspaper in Fayetteville for sale, he bought it and became its publisher in 1963.That eventually led to another weekly in Clayton County. Growth of these two weeklies and purchase of a printing plant evolved into the start of the Clayton News Daily in 1971.
A civic-minded and community-oriented publisher, Wood became involved with Clayton State very early in the University’s history, not in the least because his wife Martha Wood was one of the original faculty members.
In the fall of 1981, Wood sold his interest in the News Daily and began work in public relations as Jim Wood & Associates, now owned by his youngest son, Chris Wood. He also founded and still owns ATL, an Atlanta airport trade newspaper. He owns a similar newspaper, DFW People, at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. He has been honored with a medallion for 50 years of service in Georgia journalism by the Georgia Press Association, of which he is still a member and past president.
Over the years, Wood has also been active in government and public service. He served three terms in the Georgia House of Representatives, and was the 1982 Sixth District Democratic nominee for the U.S. Congress.
Jim and Martha Wood, professor emerita of Mathematics at Clayton State, have resided in Forest Park for 42 years. They have four sons and six grandchildren. Their sons recently set up special funds in the Clayton State University Foundation honoring both parents individually, monies which are designed to benefit and promote faculty and staff improvement at the University.
Ron Shipman, Georgia Power Company vice president, environmental affairs, and Ann Cramer, director for IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs for the Americas, were the commencement speakers, Shipman speaking at the 9 a.m. ceremony to 248 graduates from the College of Health, the College of Information and Mathematical Sciences, and the School of Business and Cramer speaking to 239 graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences at the noon ceremony.
Shipman, while noting that the graduates’ educational journeys were both about to end and begin, also urged the graduates to be leaders, saying that all of the graduates present were already leaders, since so many of their peers had fallen by the wayside over the years.
“Continue to be responsible for your actions and have the ability to lead,” he said. “Have the character to continue to be a leader.
“Each of you have exhibited leadership capabilities by graduating from this great university.”
Cramer spoke on, “the power of you,” stated that the noon graduates are part of a smart world, and tasked them to know how to be a collaborative player in what she referred to as, “the decade of smart.”
Cramer also recognized the common mindset of wondering what “they” were doing, or not doing, when things don’t go right, and gave the graduates the word on “they.”
“The `they’ is you,” she said. “The `they” we look to for leadership, thinking and innovation.
“You are to whom we look to be smart. The future of our community is in your hands.”