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LSU Recognizes 1,672 Graduates at December Commencement

Be fearless, take risks, work hard, lead, give back but most importantly, congratulations. These are just a few of the messages that 1,672 graduates heard during LSU's 279th commencement exercises on Friday, Dec. 14.

LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement Jim Zietz/Eddy Perez/Ernie Ballard/University Relations

With each college holding its own ceremony for fall commencement, a number of keynote speakers imparted words of wisdom to the graduates.

William Jenkins, interim president of the LSU System and interim chancellor of LSU, spoke to the 138 graduates of the College of Agriculture. Jenkins outlined virtues of leadership and life during his talk. These included courage; perseverance; power of passion; adjust to change; categorical imperatives – honesty, integrity, responsibility and accountability; civility, respect and kindness to one another; and community service.

In discussing these virtues, Jenkins quoted successful leaders such as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, Lee Iacocca and Albert Einstein. Jenkins also left the graduates with his own advice from his leadership experience over a storied career in higher education.

"Do not fear failure and do not fear criticism; it's a part of life," Jenkins said. "You are more than capable of dealing with it."

Jenkins reminded the graduates that they are in a world of change and quoted Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who in 500 B.C. said, "Nothing endures but change."

"The swiftness of change has certainly increased. The one thing you can't do in a changing world is to take a position to not adapt to change," said Jenkins, who noted the importance in being a leader who is flexible and nimble.

Ending with a discussion of the importance of community service and serving others, Jenkins told the graduates that they now had the mantle of leadership and need to be engaged in service in their future communities.

During the College of Human Sciences & Education's first commencement ceremony since being realigned this past summer, LSU alumnus and founder of Hollywood Trucks LLC Andre J. Champagne addressed the 242 graduates of the college. Champagne focused on the importance of taking risks, being fearless and the value of education.

The risk mitigation device that allowed Champagne to make difficult decisions in business was his education.

"That was the single greatest asset of anything I've ever had or I ever owned or ever factored into any business plan or company strategy," he said. "I'm not going to stand up here and tell just because you get a diploma and education that success is going to happen. You have to work hard."

Champagne asked a favor from the graduates near the conclusion of his speech. Give back to your school and "give back the gift of education that you now have."

"Congratulations, the world's waiting for you," he said. "Work hard, love hard, pray harder, stay persistent, keep your shoes polished, keep your nose clean, thank your parents profusely, donate to your alma mater and be very proud of yourself for what you've accomplished.

"I'd also like to tell you, risk everything; go after your dream because you have an education, the greatest asset in the world no one can take away from you."

LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement Jim Zietz/Eddy Perez/Ernie Ballard/University Relations

Champagne left the Tiger graduates with one last note to keep in mind.

"As I flip through channels and watch the Animal Planet," he said. "I've never once seen a Tiger run away from anything. Be fearless."

Other speakers during the college ceremonies included Maj. Gen. Jasper A. Welch, distinguished alumnus, at the College of Science; Dan Borné, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, alumnus, adjunct faculty member and public address announcer at Tiger Stadium and at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, at the Manship School of Mass Communication; and Alkis Tsolakis, dean designate, at the College of Art & Design.

The 1,672 total graduates included 1,333 bachelor's degrees, 259 master's and professional degrees and 80 doctoral degrees. The graduates represented 53 Louisiana parishes, 33 states and 42 foreign countries. The percentage of total graduates was split almost evenly with 51.14 percent men and 48.86 percent women. Among the undergraduates, 49.14 percent of the graduates were men and 50.86 percent were women, and they ranged in age from 20 to 62. Among the graduate students, 59 percent of the graduates were men and 41 percent were women, and they ranged in age from 22 to 74.

During the College of Engineering ceremony, a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree was awarded to Ed Steimel.

Steimel, a native of Baton Rouge, was the founding executive director of the Public Affairs Research Council, or PAR, a private, nonprofit research organization that studies governmental policy issues and publicizes findings and recommendations. Steimel and PAR were motivating forces for a constitutional convention that led to the adoption of a new Louisiana constitution in 1973. He later served as the executive director of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, or LABI, which has helped to enact more than 50 pieces of education reform legislation.

Additionally, Steimel has been a tireless fundraiser for LSU, serving as development director for the College of Engineering. During his tenure, the college secured more than 50 scholarship funds, 106 professorships and 15 chairs.

Each year, thanks to his generosity, the college awards the Ed Steimel Staff Excellence Award to an outstanding employee.

The LSU Honors College graduated 16 students. Two of these students graduated with Upper Division Honors Distinction and two with College Honors Distinction, which also includes Upper Division Honors, for participating in a specific honors program and successfully completing and defending an undergraduate thesis.

There were 103 honor graduates recognized during the ceremonies for having high GPAs and received magna cum laude, summa cum laude and cum laude honors. Also included among the honor graduates were 13 University Medal recipients who graduated with the highest grade point average in the class. These 13 students were also recognized at a special ceremony in the Recital Hall of the School of Music Building on Thursday, Dec. 13.

LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement LSU's 279th Commencement Jim Zietz/Eddy Perez/Ernie Ballard/University Relations

This semester, four graduates were awarded the LSU Distinguished Communicator Award. These students earned this honor by meeting high standards set by faculty in various colleges and by the LSU Communication across the Curriculum program. The students earned high grade-point averages in communication-intensive courses – based on written, spoken, visual and technological communication – and have built digital portfolios, displayed as public websites, that include their communication projects from courses, internships, leadership roles and public service.

Degree candidates who took part in ROTC programs were recognized for being commissioned into the U.S. military during a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Dalton J. Woods Auditorium in the Energy, Coast & Environment Building. Five LSU students were commissioned as second lieutenants from the LSU Army ROTC program, and three LSU students were commissioned from Southern University's Navy ROTC program.

Some noteworthy students who graduated this December include the following:

  • Ryan Orgera, who earned a Ph.D. in environmental geography, was the recipient of the National Sea Grant College Program's Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship;
  • Erica Livi, who earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, is fluent in four languages and is learning two others. She has accepted a position in Switzerland after graduation as an assistant/interpreter at a financial company;
  • Brothers Russell Collins, who earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies, and Garrett Collins, who earned a degree in kinesiology;
  • Natalie Denby, daughter of Regents Associate Commissioner for Academic Affairs Karen Denby, earned dual degrees in microbiology and philosophy; and
  • Former LSU and professional basketball player Stanley Roberts earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Human Sciences & Education.

In addition to Roberts, some other notable student athletes who graduated include:

  • Football: Kevin Minter, Russell Shepard, Josh Dworaczyk, Chancy Aghayere, Eric Alexander and Patrick Lonergan;
  • Track: Ade Alleyne-Forte, 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist (4x400 Relay for Trinidad), five-time All-American, SEC Champion; Rebecca Alexander, two-time NCAA Champion, five-time All-American, four-time SEC Champion (400M);
  • Men's Tennis: Neal Skupski, four-time All-American; and
  • Softball: Ashley Langoni and Heidi Pizer, who both helped lead LSU to 2012 Women's College World Series.

For more information on LSU commencement, visit www.lsu.edu/commencement.