Centenary Confers Degrees on Centennial Class

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SHREVEPORT, La.—It was a morning filled with emotion when Centenary College honored its 100th graduating class at the Shreveport-Bossier campus and awarded bachelor’s and master degrees to 236 students May 10 at the Gold Dome.

Degree candidates included 195 students earning bachelor's degrees and 39 receiving master's degrees in education or business. Twenty-four students graduated summa cum laude, having earned grade point averages of 3.9 or higher. Thirty-four students earned the magna cum laude designation, with 3.7 to 3.89 GPAs, and 30 achieved cum laude status, having 3.5 to 3.69 GPAs.

"As the centennial graduates of Centenary College from our Shreveport campus, you are a special group," said Centenary College President Dr. Kenneth L. Schwab. "Life as a liberally educated human being is deeper than just monetary success or mere social participation; alumni of Centenary College make meaningful contributions to our world and engage in real civic activity…so we send you out."

Each student, according to Dr. Schwab, could not have accomplished the feat of graduating alone, stating that they were surrounded by a community that helped, encouraged and supported them during their academic career at the College. Citing three specific groups, Dr. Schwab acknowledged the Board of Trustees of the College; the faculty and staff; and friends and family.

Asking them to stand, Dr. Schwab thanked the Trustees for their leadership over the years. "These men and women provide wise counsel and generous support that establish our strong foundation," he said while applauding. "Thank you."

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The faculty and staff were also recognized by the President, saying that the educators continue to keep the highest academic standards to create true scholarly excellence, while the staff works throughout the year, often behind the scenes, to keep the College running every day. "To all of you, thank you for your scholarship and service," he continued.

But the group drawing the largest amount of applause was for the recognition of family and friends. "These are the family members that paid the student fees and drove the moving trucks," he said. "They are the friends who took the late-night calls, and those who have supported and encouraged you. I think they need to stand and be recognized by all." It was at this time that more than half of those in attendance at the ceremony and applauded each other.

Two others in attendance were conferred with the College’s highest degree—the honorary degree. The first was awarded to Dr. Ira Lee Morgan, Emeritus Professor of English and historian of Centenary College.

Since arriving at the College in 1954, Dr. Morgan has served in almost every academic capacity, from novice instructor to acting dean. It was, according to the proclamation, because of Dr. Morgan that the College became the foremost beneficiary of the Woodrow Wilson, German Marshall and Lila Wallace-Reader Digest fellowship programs. It also noted his involvement as a leader in the civil-rights activist and author. After reading the proclamation. Dr. Morgan received the honorary doctorate of LL.D., or Doctor of Laws.

For his exemplary contributions to ensuring the security of the nation, the economic and intellectual health of the Shreveport-Bossier community, and the involvement of Centenary College in studies related to the Cyber Command, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science was awarded to Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, Jr., Commander of 8th Air Force and the keynote speaker.

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After receiving his honorary degree, Elder, in his commencement address, stated that it seemed like only yesterday that he attended his own commencement more than 30 years before. "Of course the one thing I remember about my commencement speaker 35 years ago was how long he was going to talk," he said, receiving a robust round of applause and laughter.

Turning more serious, Elder continued that those receiving degrees were the people that represented the future of the nation…the best and brightest treasure we have. "We are here to witness the conferring of degrees upon those gathered here today who have earned the right to be called, graduate," he said. "Today’s event marks a great milestone in these graduates’ lives."

He went on to explain the importance of cyberspace to the graduates and how it touches the everyday lives of not only those graduating, but everyone around them. Many of the graduates, he said, will forge new paths in the state and across the country and the globe as they exploit the opportunities presented by development of the cyber domain.

"Many people see an obvious connection between technology and cyberspace, but it is equally important to those of you who will enter careers grounded in the liberal arts curriculum you experienced here," said Elder. "Whether you are a graphic designer using modern computerized systems and networks to design and publish your ideas, or a musician using state of the art recording studios and software to digitally create music and share it by streaming over internet radio, or a pre-law student using electronic libraries and inter-school networks for research, you will increasingly rely on cyberspace to succeed. It is changing the way we conduct business."

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In agreement with President Schwab, Lt. Gen Elder also thanked family members and friends during his address, because without their support, he continued, many of the graduates would not have had this opportunity to pursue and achieve a degree. "Graduates, you can see by the number of attendees at this ceremony that you have many people who care about you and are cheering you on as you transition from student to graduate."

The general also thanked the faculty and staff for the long hours and their commitment to education. The country, he said, depends on the highest quality of educators. "Some of the country’s best can be found right here."

Before the conferring of degrees, Dr. Schwab and Dr. Darrel Colson, Provost and Dean of the College, recognized two special individuals. Ginger Folmer, Professor of Theater, Speech and Dance, retired after more than 30 years at Centenary and was honored as Emeritus Professor in dance. "Thank you, Ginger, for making our campus a more elegant place," said Dr. Schwab. Hugging a smiling Folmer, he continued, "From the first time you came here as a high school student, you have taught countless students with grace and poise." In response, Folmer smiled, bowed gracefully and departed the stage.

Also receiving special recognition was the Very Reverend William W. Hutchinson, Bishop of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. Reverend Hutchinson retired after serving eight years as Bishop and was honored with lifetime membership on the Board of Trustees. "This is only a feather in the cap of a fine leader, a fine Methodist, a fine man," praised Dr. Schwab.

After the degrees were conferred and before the celebrations began, Dr. Schwab had one final parting of wisdom for the graduates. "Welcome to our alumni community," he said. "Remember what you have learned here; all the unique opportunities, your experiences, the vibrant intellectual atmosphere and the community of service. Thank you for what you have done and thank you for what you will do as active Centenary alumni. Congratulations, Class of 2008!"

See Also:

The Class of 2008 web page houses many photographs from the various festivities of Senior Week 2008.

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