The LSU College of Science has a long-standing reputation for graduating some of LSU’s
top scholars. The college continued that tradition of excellence during its spring
2015 ceremony held May 15 in the Maddox Field House.
The College of Science Class of 2015 includes 17 University Medalists, students graduating with the highest grade point average; 13 with College Honors, the highest recognition awarded jointly by the College of Science and the Honors College; and 120 students graduating with Latin Honors. The College also had two students to graduate with the Distinguished Communicator Award and one commissioned as an officer in the Armed Forces.
Dean Cynthia Peterson presided over the exercise, which included a crash course in the keys to living a successful life from Ron Neal, LSU geology alumnus, co-founder/co-owner Houston Energy L.P. and the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
“My definition of success is being able to follow your dreams and find happiness. Remember, happiness, not money, is your goal,” said Neal, who earned a Bachelor of Science in zoology from LSU in 1974 and a master’s degree in geology in 1977.
“The day I graduated 41 years ago was the most depressing day of my life,” said Neal. “I walked out of the PMAC with an undergraduate degree in zoology and nobody interested in me. For years I heard the expression that if you get a college degree, the world will be your oyster. At that moment, I though that the oyster meant for me must have not gotten the message.”
After graduation, Neal talked his way into LSU’s graduate geology program and found a professor who took him on as a student. But he admitted that the best decision he ever made occurred during the summer of 1974 when he began dating his future wife, LSU alumnus Dr. Mary Neal.
“I am here today because someone thinks I have been successful,” said Neal. “If that is true, I am successful because I have been married to the same woman for 39 years, we have three children who all live in Houston, have graduated from college and are trying to find their own oyster,” said Neal.
“Today, I am co-owner of Houston Energy L.P. We are a private oil and gas exploration company playing on the biggest stage in the U.S.,” said Neal. “We are in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico competing and winning against the largest companies in the world and I could not have done this without the encouragement and support of Mary.”
Neal noted that some of the graduates will be going further in school, others have jobs, but some may need a job. So, for those on the market, he reminded them that, “…everyone regardless of their job or position in life is in sales. The first and most important product you will sell is yourself. This never ends and this makes selling a critical life skill.”
Neal added that being smart is not enough. “Smart is common, brilliance is rare. All of you are smart.” He also urged the graduates to create opportunities on the job, show initiative, be dependable, and to know your value.
“When interviewing someone, the last question I ask is ‘Why should I hire you?’ Most people are unprepared to sell themselves and stutter while others just nail it. Take the time to think about how you would answer this question and if the interviewer doesn’t, offer it as your closing argument in favor of your case,” said Neal.
This year’s spring graduates are paving a way to a promising future with a number of them going on to graduate and professional programs and other prestigious institutions including Stanford, Yale, Columbia, MIT, Cornell, Rice, LSU School of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center and University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
The class of 2015 includes Zachary Fitzpatrick, biochemistry major and Honors College student, La-STEM scholar, Fulbright scholar and LSU’s first recipient of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Fitzpatrick will be pursuing a master’s degree in advanced immunology at Pierre and Marie Curie University and the Pasteur Institute of Paris. After completing his studies in France, he will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in clinical science at the University of Cambridge.
A number of the college’s top performing students hail from the Department of Mathematics. These graduates will be entering some of the nation’s top PhD and master’s programs like Paxton Turner who will be attending MIT in the fall, 2014 Goldwater Scholar Bruno Beltran, who will be conducting research at Yale this summer and pursuing his PhD at Stanford, and Rachael Keller, who will be participating in the Research in Industrial Programs for Students, or RIPS program, in Hong Kong this summer and will begin doctoral studies at Columbia University in the fall.
The oldest undergraduate is 35, and the youngest is 20. The oldest graduate student
is 53 and the youngest is 24.
Including our Ph.D. students who received their degrees during the main ceremony, May 14:
LSU awards the University Medal to undergraduate students graduating with the highest grade point average. The graduates listed below have maintained a 4.00 grade point average throughout their academic careers.
Students receiving College Honors have completed Honors coursework, participated in research under the direction of a faculty mentor, and have written and defended a senior thesis.
This award is the first of its kind in the nation and recipients are outstanding in four areas of communication: written, spoken, visual, and technological. Graduates earning the Distinguished Communicator award will be recognized as they cross the stage to receive their diploma.
Photo: Dean Cynthia Peterson and university medalists during spring commencement ceremony