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269th Commencement
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Eddy Perez | Photographer | Office of Communications & University Relations  

Former U.S. Ambassador Speaks; 748 Receive Degrees at LSU’s 269th Commencement Exercises

Delano Lewis, former U.S. ambassador and former president and CEO of National Public Radio, offered advice and encouragement to the 748 graduates at LSU’s 269th commencement exercises held Aug. 7 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Lewis delivered the commencement address, using stories from his own life and family to encourage and inspire the graduates.  “Be the best you can be,” he said in closing.  “Be kind to yourself and be respectful of others.  Opportunity awaits, go for it, class of 2009!” 

During the address, Lewis pointed out all the changes that have taken place in the world while the students were in college. “Change is evident, change is ongoing, and I say to you as graduates of LSU, get ready, because change will continue throughout your lifetime.”

He also gave the graduates some key pieces of advice: be introspective, have a game plan, continue learning, and take risks.  In addition, he encouraged the graduates to serve others, be tolerant of others, be creative and be innovative. 

Lewis, a the founding director of New Mexico State University’s International Relations Institute, is a former United States Ambassador to South Africa, as well as a former president and CEO of National Public Radio and member of the boards of directors of Apple Computer, Black Entertainment Television, Colgate-Palmolive, Halliburton and Eastman Kodak. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1960 and a law degree from Washburn University School of Law, in Topeka, Kan. in 1963.

Fourteen students graduated with honors, including Robert Paul Gillespie of Bossier City and Anna Elizabeth Lyons of Ruston, who received University Medals for graduating with the highest undergraduate grade-point average.

Gillespie, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science, is also pursuing a second degree in international studies. He is a two-time winner of the university’s Arts & Sciences Academic Award and a member of Phi Kappa Phi. 

Lyons received her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, with a concentration on fitness studies. She has received numerous academic and athletic honors during her college career, among those being a member of the 2008 NCAA National Champion and 2007 and 2008 Southeastern Conference Champion LSU women’s track and field team. Lyons recently finished her senior outdoor season ranked No. 16 in the NCAA in the javelin.

The oldest graduate was 69, who received a graduate degree. The youngest graduate was 20, who received an undergraduate degree. The August 2009 graduating class represented 43 Louisiana parishes, 33 states and 42 countries. Fifty-five percent of the graduates were women, and 45 percent were men.       

LSU Chancellor Michael V. Martin presided over the ceremony and LSU President John V. Lombardi conferred degrees. LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope served as mace bearer. 

The processional and recessional music was by the LSU Brass Quintet. Jami Rhodes Brown, musical arts Ph.D. candidate, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the LSU alma mater. The invocation and benediction was by Rev. Fred Jeff Smith, pastor of Greater Mount Carmel Baptist Church. 

Three graduating seniors -- two from the U.S. Army and one from the Navy ROTC -- recited the ceremonial oath of office during the ceremony, led by Lt. Col. John A. Wright., professor of Military Science. The cadets were officially commissioned into the armed forces at a special ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 6, in Hill Memorial Library.

A complete list of graduates and honor graduates will be available online Aug. 7 at LSU’s commencement Web site. This site can be accessed through LSU’s home page at or directly at

Billy Gomila | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
August 2009