ABC News and NPR’s Cokie Roberts Speaks, 3,735 Students Receive Degrees at LSU’s 280th Commencement Exercises

05/17/2013 08:28 AM

BATON ROUGE – Cokie Roberts, a political commentator for ABC News and senior news analyst for National Public Radio, delivered the commencement address and 3,735 students received degrees at LSU’s 280th commencement exercises on Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17.


Roberts, who is originally from New Orleans, congratulated the class of 2013 and spoke to them about her ties to Louisiana and the fondness she has for LSU.


“It is a great institution,” she said. “You are so privileged to be graduating from this place.”


Roberts told the graduates about her family history in politics in the state, including her parents Hale and Lindy Boggs, and her ancestry that dates back to the first governor of Louisiana, William C.C. Claiborne.


After providing some historical context to how tough the political environment was in the mid-19th century United States leading up to the Civil War, Roberts acknowledge that times are tough today as well and urged the graduated to get involved in service.


“Right now, we are living through a bad time,” she said. “It’s a time when we need the services of talented people like you who are graduating from this fine institution, and we need you to lead the way.”


Roberts said people can’t expect things to get better if good people don’t participate. This includes by voting and running for public office. She told the graduates that “nothing binds us together as a nation except our government.”


“People who came to this country from the beginning have understood that America is an idea … and that great idea is codified in the Constitution,” she said.


“Congress means ‘bring us together,’ and as a country we need you bright graduates to remind the Congress that that is their job, to bring us together,” she added.


Roberts outlined the many ways graduates can participate in service in addition to the newly commissioned ROTC cadets “who could be called upon to surrender the ultimate service.” She said those in art and design will “enrich our lives,” those in music and dramatic arts will “enliven our lives,” those in the sciences and engineering will “enhance our lives,” those humanities and social sciences will “examine our lives,” those in human sciences and education will “edify our lives,” those in mass communication will “inform our lives,” those in agriculture and the coast & environment will “improve our lives,” those in business will “enable our lives,” and those in veterinary medicine will “do all of those things for the other creatures who share this planet.”


“So you will all serve and you will do it well with great preparation you have been afforded at this university,” Roberts said. “So as you go forward, please consider the special place of public service in the history of this nation and make some history yourselves.”


During the main ceremony, 52 students received University Medals for graduating with the highest undergraduate grade-point average in the class, doctoral candidates received their diplomas individually, and degrees were conferred for all students. Separate diploma ceremonies for each college followed at various times and locations across campus. At those ceremonies, every student was recognized individually.


Interim LSU System President and Chancellor William Jenkins presided over the main ceremony and recognized the LSU class of 1963 and the Golden Tigers, or those who graduated at least 50 years ago. LSU Board of Supervisors Chairman Garrett H. “Hank” Danos conferred degrees, and LSU Faculty Senate President and Professor of English Kevin Cope served as mace bearer.


The processional and recessional music were provided by the LSU Wind Ensemble, conducted by Donald McKinney. Ariana Wehr Harris, candidate for Doctor of Musical Arts, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the LSU alma mater. The invocation and benediction were be given by the Rev. Robert Stine of Christ the King Catholic Church and Student Center.


During the main ceremony, an honorary degree was awarded to Jenkins for his service, unwavering loyalty and dedication to LSU. Jenkins said it was truly an honor to receive the honorary doctorate.


“It’s been an honor and privilege for [my wife] Peggy and I to have served this great university and people of the state of Louisiana,” Jenkins said. “As honored as we are, and I truly, truly am by the receipt of this honorary doctorate, I want you all to know that this will always remind us of being part of you and you being part of us.”


An honorary doctorate was also presented to U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jasper Welch, who graduated from LSU in 1952 and went on to a distinguished career in the Air Force, serving as chief of theoretical physics at the Air Force Special Weapons Center. Welch talked about being on campus from age 3 to 23 with his mother working on the music faculty and his father being involved in the Boy Scout program. He said somehow he also caught the service bug.


“It’s with great pleasure that I receive honor today for a long career of trying to help,” Welch said.


The May 2013 commencement exercises were also the last to be overseen by University Registrar Robert Doolos, who is retiring. Doolos has served as university registrar since 1991 and began working at LSU as an academic counselor in the College of Arts & Sciences, now known as the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, in 1977. In addition to his career in higher education, he served his country as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and retired with the rank of major.


The May 2013 graduating class represented 59 Louisiana parishes, 45 U.S. states and 56 foreign countries. Women made up 56.52 percent of the class and men made up 43.48 percent. The oldest graduate was 78, and four graduates were the youngest at 20. The 3,735 total graduates were made up of 2,825 students who received bachelor’s degrees; 699 who received master’s degrees; four who received education specialist certificates; 115 who received a Ph.D.; 10 who received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree; and 82 who received Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. There were 416 students who graduated with honors.


A number of diploma ceremonies also had prominent speakers this year, including:

  • Jenkins, who spoke at the College of Human Sciences & Education ceremony and the College of Humanities & Social Sciences ceremony;
  • Architect R. Allen Eskew, who spoke at the College of Art & Design ceremony;
  • James Painter, executive vice president of Cobalt International Energy Inc. and division manager for the Gulf of Mexico, who spoke at the College of Science ceremony;
  • LSU Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost Stuart Bell, who spoke at the College of Agriculture ceremony;
  • Liz Lerman, choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker, and the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship and a 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellowship in Dance, who spoke at the College of Music & Dramatic Arts ceremony; and
  • Don Lemon, journalist and host of “CNN Newsroom,” who spoke at the Manship School of Mass Communication ceremony.


Among notable degree recipients this year is University Medalist Carl Frederick Sabottke, who received the nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program during his junior year. Sabottke, a native of Baton Rouge, graduated with a degree in chemical physics from the College of Science. A member of the LSU Honors College and LA-STEM Research Scholars, Sabottke hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience, conduct research in theoretical neuroscience and teach at the university level.


Other notable graduates include a pair of former LSU Student Government Presidents. Cody Allen Wells and Richmond Taylor Cox both graduated with degree from the Manship School of Mass Communication.


Commencement is always a family affair, but it was especially memorable this year for a number of graduates. Sisters Bobbie and Samantha Delahoussaye both earned degrees from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences. Sisters Jessica and Jennifer Frentress from Baton Rouge both earned bachelor’s degrees – Jessica earned a degree in psychology from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, and Jennifer earned a degree in nutrition and food sciences from the College of Agriculture. Twins Brea and Dakota Goodman both earned degrees in psychology from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, while twins Brent and Matthew Moss of Lake Charles both graduated in biological sciences with perfect grade point averages and were honored as University Medalists.


Charlotte Garman Baker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, becoming a sixth-generation LSU graduate in her family. Her family’s LSU ties began 140 years ago when her great-great-great grandfather, Judge Milton A. Strickland, graduated in May 1873.


During the main ceremony, Lt. Col. Mary “Marston” McKeon, professor of aerospace studies, recognized the newly commissioned Army, Air Force and Navy ROTC cadets. The 18 cadets – three cadets commissioned from the LSU Army ROTC program, 11 from the Air Force ROTC program and four LSU cadets commissioned from the Southern University Navy ROTC program – were officially commissioned at a separate ceremony on Thursday, May 16.


LSU honored 32 graduates with 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.


This semester, 78 Honors College students graduated with 36 students earning College Honors and three students earning Upper Division Honors Distinction from the LSU Honors College. These students participated in a specific honors program and successfully completed and defended an undergraduate thesis.


More than 550 African and African-American students were recognized in the LSU African-American Cultural Center’s 17th annual Robing Ceremony on Thursday, May 16. During the event, degree candidates received the traditional African Kente stole in LSU colors to signify the completion of their academic journey. The Robing Ceremony was sponsored by the African-American Cultural Center; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach; and the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes.


The Office of Multicultural Affairs also hosted the “Lavender Graduation” stole presentation on Tuesday, May 14, honoring and celebrating the accomplishments of LSU’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and allied/asexual, or LGBTQA, students who have successfully completed their college careers, or will successfully complete their degrees in the summer or fall of 2013, and will be receiving an undergraduate or graduate degree at LSU.


For more information on commencement, visit A complete list of graduates is available at This list includes May 2013 graduates who have authorized the release of their names.

Ernie  Ballard 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Friday, May 17, 2013