Another Record-Breaking Class of Graduates at LSU’s 295th Commencement
BATON ROUGE – LSU alumnus Rep. Steve Scalise, U.S. House Majority Whip and the third ranking House Republican leader, delivered the keynote address, and LSU graduated one of its largest and most diverse classes at the university’s 295th commencement exercises on Friday, May 11.
At the spring commencement ceremony, a total of 3,967 degrees were awarded – the third largest amount of degrees awarded in the spring. The overall class of 2017-18 – students receiving degrees in previous summer and fall commencements combined with the current spring commencement – saw 6,497 degrees awarded, the second most ever awarded in an academic year.
“We know that with an LSU education behind you, your potential is endless. We have witnessed our graduates land rovers on Mars, write Academy Award winning scores and New York Times best sellers, be awarded Pulitzer Prizes and lead Fortune 500 companies. That is the community to which you now forever belong,” said LSU President F. King Alexander, who presided over the main commencement ceremony.
This spring saw the most degrees ever awarded to African-American students, Hispanic students, Asian students and veterans. Records were also set for these student groups for the overall 2017-18 academic year as well.
For spring, a new record of 402 degrees were awarded to African-American students, with a total of 755 degrees being awarded for the academic year. Among Hispanic students, a new record of 232 degrees were awarded this spring, with a total of 371 degrees being awarded for the academic year. For spring, a new record of 161 degrees were awarded to Asian students, with a total of 248 degrees being awarded for the academic year. Seventy-eight degrees were awarded to veterans this spring, setting a new high, and a total of 160 degrees were awarded to veterans for the academic year.
LSU’s May 2018 graduating class represents 57 Louisiana parishes, 45 U.S. states and 58 foreign countries. Women made up 54.37 percent of the class, and men made up 45.63 percent. The oldest graduate is 67, and the youngest is 19.
The 3,967 total graduates are made up of 3,193 students who received bachelor’s degrees; 554 who received master’s degrees; 31 who received education specialist or graduate certificates; 96 who received a Ph.D.; eight who received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree; and 85 who received Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Also, 22 LSU employees were among those who received degrees this spring.
Scalise congratulated the class of 2018 and recognized them for joining alumni around the world as part of the great tradition of being an LSU graduate.
Scalise highlighted some of LSU’s recent academic achievements, including being part of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics; Landscape Architecture being the top ranked program in the nation; and the university’s status as a Land-, Sea-, and Space-Grant Institution.“I still keep that LSU pride with me everywhere that I go,” he said. “I think more than any school in the country, LSU teaches us how to blend both that renowned school spirit with its proven academic excellence.”
Scalise talked about the injuries he sustained during a shooting during practice for last year’s congressional softball game. He spoke about the support he received from his family, friends and the LSU community that got him through that difficult time.
“You are not going to be defined by the times that you are knocked down, but you are going to be defined by how you get back up,” he said. “We all are going to have some kind of setback in our life, but ultimately, what will define us is how you get back up from those setbacks.”
Scalise challenged the graduating class to make a difference in the world and encouraged them in a number of areas: stay in Louisiana if at all possible to help make it a better state; be a champion for LSU and always come back; maintain the friendships made during college; stay engaged in government; and “most importantly, I would challenge you to find something you love and go do it.”
LSU Board of Supervisors member Scott Ballard conferred degrees, and LSU Faculty Senate President Ken McMillin served as mace bearer. The processional and recessional music was provided by the Brass Quintet. Kevin Thomas Harvey, candidate for Master of Music, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the LSU alma mater.
During the main ceremony, an honorary degree was presented to Rainer Weiss, 2017 Nobel Laureate in Physics, MIT Physics Professor Emeritus and LSU adjunct professor in physics and astronomy. LSU College of Science Dean Cynthia Peterson presented the honorary degree to Weiss, who also served as keynote speaker at the College of Science’s diploma ceremony.
“Of all the universities in the United States, LSU was one of the very first to take a gamble on the idea that you might find – this exodus idea Einstein had – gravitational waves,” Weiss said. “The discovery that was made by LIGO and the discoveries that continue to be made by LIGO are your discoveries as much as everybody else’s. They belong to you because you made that investment, and I’m forever grateful for it.”
In addition to Weiss, speakers at other diploma ceremonies include:
- A.P. Tureaud Jr., who in 1953, was the first person of color to attend the LSU undergraduate school, spoke at the College of Art & Design ceremony;
- Claire Like, a civil engineering graduate with a minor in structural engineering from Lake Charles, La., who spoke at the College of Engineering ceremony;
- Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, who spoke at the Manship School of Mass Communication ceremony on May 12.
Leah Sanders, immediate past student body vice president, also provided remarks during the main commencement ceremony.
“We all play a part in contributing to the story that is LSU,” said Sanders, a native of Jackson, Tenn. “Those that came before us laid the groundwork, and those that come after will add to it. But the class of 2018 will always be a part of the legacy of LSU.”
During the College of Science graduation ceremony, the Sean O’Keefe Leadership Award was presented to James Mickler, a microbiology major with a minor in classical guitar from New Orleans, La.
The Sean O’Keefe Leadership Award was created by LSU donors who recognized the leadership in former LSU Chancellor Sean O’Keefe during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The award is designed to recognize and reward the outstanding LSU undergraduate student leader who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in the past and possesses the character, capability, vision and motivation to be a leader in the future.
More than 550 students graduated with honors including 124 students who received University Medals for graduating with the highest undergraduate grade-point average in the class.
LSU honored 60 graduating students with the LSU Distinguished Communicator Award during a ceremony on Thursday, May 10. 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.
Also during a ceremony on May 10, LSU’s ROTC cadets were commissioned. Eight of the graduates participated in the LSU Army ROTC program and eight of the graduates participated in the LSU Air Force ROTC program. In addition, two LSU students who participated in Southern University’s Navy ROTC program were commissioned.
For the first time, LSU recognized 10 students with the LSU Engaged Citizens distinction. The Engaged Citizens Program, administered by the Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership in partnership with LSU Campus Life, seeks to support and recognize the accomplishments of undergraduate students who engage significantly with their communities to address critical community issues. The recipients of the LSU Engaged Citizen distinction have a proven track record of service through coursework, long-term volunteering, and community action.
This semester, 64 students earned College Honors and four students earned Upper Division Honors Distinction from the LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College. These students participated in a specific honors program and successfully completed and defended an undergraduate thesis.
For more information on commencement, visit www.lsu.edu/commencement.
Lists of graduates and honor graduates are being posted on LSU’s commencement website, www.lsu.edu/commencement. The lists include graduates who have authorized the release of their names.
Contact Ernie Ballard
LSU Media Relations