08/08/2014 12:54 PM
BATON ROUGE – LSU alumnus Keith Comeaux, who served as flight director for the Curiosity
rover’s landing on Mars in 2012, delivered the keynote address, and 657 students received
degrees during LSU’s 284th commencement ceremony on Friday, Aug. 8.
“I’ve had the good fortune to experience this rich tradition as a student on four
different occasions,” Comeaux said. “It’s a true honor to share this experience with
Comeaux gave himself two goals for his commencement address: do a favor to the students and be memorable, and share some lessons learned from going to Mars that the class of 2014 might find useful in their careers.
For the first goal, he asked the class to Google “Five Best NASA Scientists Ever.” The result shows an article that features a GIF of “Jubilant Celebration Guy,” who is Comeaux himself celebrating Curiosity’s landing.
“Every time you see that blue-shirted blur on a documentary, a commercial, a news
reel or a spoof on NASA, you should now be able to recall that that guy was your commencement
speaker,” Comeaux joked. “While my colleagues and others may not understand, let it
be known that jubilant celebration is not an unusual sight on a Saturday night in
Comeaux shared background stories on the different aspects of the Curiosity mission to Mars and provided lessons learned from the experience. His lessons included:
Regarding shooting for the stars Comeaux said, “At worse, you might struggle a bit
during your journey, but it’s more likely that you’ll find your calling that makes
you happy, and if you get lucky, instead of stars, you may land on Mars.”
Of the 657 graduates, 359 earned bachelor’s degrees, 181 earned master’s degrees,
one received a certificate of education specialist, and 116 received doctoral degrees.
The August 2014 graduating class represented 41 Louisiana parishes, 34 U.S. states
and 28 foreign countries. Men made up 50.08 percent of the graduates, and women made
up 49.92 percent. The oldest graduate was 60 and two graduates were the youngest at
LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander presided over the ceremony, and Bobby
Yarborough, chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors, conferred degrees. Kevin L.
Cope, LSU Faculty Senate president, served as mace bearer and carried the university’s
new commencement mace, which was crafted using wood from the Steele Burden oak.
Alexander congratulated the class on the significant accomplishment of earning their
degrees. He also reminded them of the responsibility and obligation they now have
to all those in need of similar educational opportunities that could enable them to
maximize their potential both as individuals and as global citizens
“As one of the world’s most educated citizens with the greatest potential to help
others, you are now being handed a mantle enabling you to provide widespread hope
and global opportunity,” Alexander said. “In short, you are needed to make the world
a better place. You have the tools, the skills and the talent to do so.”
The “Star-Spangled Banner” and LSU alma mater were performed by Megan Barrera, who
received a Doctor of Musical Arts, and the processional and recessional music was
performed by the LSU School of Music Brass Quintet.
During the commencement ceremony, Lt. Col. Lawrence P. House III, professor of military
science, recognized the newly commissioned ROTC cadets – 2nd Lt. Garrett Lee Templet,
of Kountze, Texas, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in construction management
from the College of Engineering, and 2nd Lt. Kevin Walter Seidel, of Clearwater, Fla.,
who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in independent studies from the College of
Humanities & Social Sciences with minors in history, philosophy and professional leadership.
A separate commissioning ceremony was held on Thursday, Aug. 7.
Eight students graduated with honors, including Andrew Octavio Gutierrez who received
a University Medal for graduating with the highest undergraduate grade-point average
in the class. Gutierrez, a native of Metairie, La., received a bachelor’s degree in
psychology from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences.
Gina Kaji Wilson, a native of New Orleans who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in
general business from the E. J. Ourso College of Business, earned College Honors from
the LSU Honors College for participating in a specific honors program and successfully
completing and defending an undergraduate thesis.
Chelsea Clouatre, a native of Brusly, La., who graduated with a bachelor’s degree
in kinesiology from the College of Human Sciences & Education, received the LSU Distinguished
Communicator Award. Distinguished Communicator Awards are earned by meeting high standards
set by faculty in various colleges and by the LSU Communication across the Curriculum
program. The recipients 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.
A posthumous degree was given to the family of Colin Conn, a student in the College
of Humanities & Social Sciences from Covington, La. Conn, who died as a result of
illness in May, was a psychology major, a former football player who was a walk-on
for the LSU football team and an advocate for students with disabilities.
Seventeen LSU student-athletes graduated during summer commencement, including football’s
Robert Bolden, Karnell Hatcher, Justin Maclin, Richard Murphy, James Neighbors, and
Elliot Porter; men’s basketball’s Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer; track and field’s
Keri Emanuel-Simmons, Lynnika Pitts, Jasmine Stowers, and Toshika Sylvester; swimming
and diving’s Timothy Dasinger, Frank Greeff, Ricardo Alvarado Jimenez, and Marshall
“Rainey” White; and gymnastics’ Sarie Morrison.
Also among the summer graduates were 10 LSU employees who earned degrees, including
Melissa Barrett DeBiasse, Biological Sciences; Cory John Hutchinson, ISDS; Matthew
John Kupchik, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences – Coastal Fisheries;
Xia Liu, Marketing; Peggy Ruth Milligan, University Information Systems; Hal Needham,
Geography & Anthropology; Ashley Marie Perry, Continuing Education - Independent
And Distance Learning; Nickolas Ryan Smith, Renewable Natural Resources; Drew Alexander
Varnado, Ag Economics & Agribusiness; and Erin Coquese Vaughn, Student Services -
A complete list of graduates and honor graduates is available online at LSU’s commencement website. This site can be accessed directly at www.lsu.edu/commencement.
Posted on Friday, August 8, 2014