May 7, 2016 – Members of the graduating class of Spring 2016 were reminded to not place limitations upon themselves when facing life’s challenges at Fort Valley State University’s 75th Annual Commencement.
During the ceremony held in the Health and Physical Education Complex on May 7, keynote speaker the Hon. Willie Earl Lockette, advised students to not fear the challenges ahead. The Fort Valley State alum and Chief Superior Court Judge of Dougherty County in Albany, Ga., reminded young people that prior FVSU graduates had faced segregation, discrimination and other challenges and managed to succeed in life.
“For the past 120 years, Fort Valley State has produce great scientists, researchers, scholars and leaders in every field,” Lockette told graduates. “So remember graduates, you’re standing on the shoulders of giants that succeeded against the odds, and turned those odds into windows of opportunity. This is a premiere HBCU, it was then, now and ever shall be.”
Before Lockette’s speech, the ceremony started off traditionally with graduates marching into the Health and Physical Education Complex to the cheers of family, friends and other well wishers.
This year’s commencement exercises included 310 graduates. Of those, 43 were from the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology; 205 were within the College of Arts and Sciences; four were in the College of Education and 58 were from the College of Graduate Studies and Extended Education.
FVSU also awarded its first degrees in new majors of organizational leadership, family and consumer science and visual and performing arts. Of the graduating class, 83 students completed their studies with honors, including 57 cum laude, 20 magna cum laude and six summa cum laude. FVSU administrators also highlighted the College of Education for having a 100 percent pass rate on the new rigorous assessment for teachers called edTPA Assessment and for all the new teachers having jobs waiting for them in August at various schools.
After graduates took their seats, Dr. Paul A. Jones, the 10th president of FVSU, welcomed attendees to the Spring 2016 Commencement Ceremony.
“Today is a day of celebration, but before we begin, I am inviting you to join me in a moment of silence of the four FVSU students and faculty members we lost over the past year,” Jones said.
The university honored the lives of the four FVSU students lost during the 2015-2016 school year: Donnell M. Phelps, Chrishea Cummings, Taylor Moore, Dwayne Adams and faculty member Dr. Georgette Mauzerall.
The president congratulated graduates for overcoming all obstacles and challenges in order to graduate from the university. He also recognized the oldest member of the graduating class, 62-year-old Walter L. Lester who received his bachelor of arts in criminal justice and the youngest graduate, 20-year-old Terrance A. Delisser, a chemistry major.
“We appreciate the support of your family, friends and classmates that have gathered here to celebrate your commencement and extraordinary achievements,” he said. “As president of the university, I’m happy to join with you on this day with this celebration.”
Jasmine Cheeves, valedictorian of the Spring 2016 class, delivered an address to her fellow students that reminded them to stay persistent against the challenges they would face in life.. Cheeves, who received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry during commencement, earned a 3.97 GPA.
“Your life has purpose,” the Mount Vernon, Ga. scholar said. “Your story is important. Your dreams count, and you were born to make a difference. Show your future colleagues in the world that your degree from FVSU not only prepared you for a job, but to soar. For now, we know the greatest principles of success. It does not matter how long we persist, we will succeed. We experiment; we fail. We learn and we repeat. So graduates, never let anyone conquer or dismantle everything you have worked for in life. Our lives have just begun, and we should go for the very best for ourselves.”
She told the audience that she will forever be indebted to her professors in the chemistry department that included Dr. Tiffany Holmes, Dr. Dwayne Daniels, Dr. Robin Bright and biology professor Dr. Frederick McLaughlin.
Following Cheeves’s speech, Dr. Jones introduced Willie E. Lockette, the Spring 2016 commencement speaker. Lockette graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from FVSU in 1971. In college, he was affiliated with the journalism club and the Political Science Association, where he served as president. He was also a member of the Peachite College Newspaper. He earned his juris doctorate from the University of Illinois, College of Law in 1974.
Lokette told students all four of his children graduated from HBCUs, including two that attended FVSU. He said his granddaughter, Erin Lockette, was among this year’s graduating class.
Lockette told students his message was simple: to live the legacy. He gave students a history lesson about the 18 men who helped launch FVSU. He also told students about the first graduate of Fort Valley High and Industrial School, Austin T. Walden, who went on to become one of the most prominent Civil Rights attorneys in the nation, the first African-American judge in Georgia since the Reconstruction period.
“In order to live a legacy, you have know the past,” Lockette said. “Graduates, you have to embrace your future. Whether you are a student or within your chosen profession, you’ll face a world that is challenging as well as complicated. We’re living in a time that political turmoil has reached a zenith. Now it’s your time to move forward, and lift the bar of society to the next level and be a catalyst for positive change. “
After Lockette’s speech, Dr. Jones awarded Lockette a trophy to honor his commencement address. Jones also told the graduates they were now expected to be problem solvers for today’s challenges. “The world is constantly evolving and the challenges we face as a society are becoming more complex,” he said. “But as newly indoctrinated members of the educated masses and as graduates of Fort Valley State University, we will look to you to be the innovative problems solves and blazers of new pathways for those who come behind you.”
FVSU’s Male Ensemble sang a selection, “God is” for the audience. Following the performance, graduates lined up for the conferring of degrees.
Rayton Sianjina, interim provost and dean of the College of Graduate Studies and extended Education; Dr. Govind Kannan, College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology dean; Dr. Uppinder Mehan, College of Arts and Sciences dean; and Dr. Edward Hill Jr., College of Education dean; gave graduates their diplomas as they marched across the stage.
Melvin D. Morris, FVSU National Alumni Association President, inducted the class into the National Alumni Association.
Wildcat Battalion Commander Oliver T. Walton commissioned graduating students Kailip M. Allen, Kevyn D. Cooper, Ashley C. Codling, Christopher T. Gavins, Dwayne K. Johnson II as Second Lieutenants Active Duty, and Ja’Taurus M. Hughley as Second Lieutenant Reserve duty.
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