Campus News

Commencement speakers share the lessons they learned

(Gallery photos by UGA photographers Andrew Davis Tucker, Dorothy Kozlowski, Peter Frey and Chad Osburn.)

Lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom are an important part of higher education, and three speakers shared their own during the University of Georgia’s fall 2018 Commencement ceremonies, held Dec. 14.

For Chandler Chittom, who received his bachelor’s degree in marketing and served as the student speaker for the undergraduate ceremony, some of those lessons were learned behind a mask as Hairy Dawg, the UGA Athletics mascot.

“I had some profound moments as Hairy Dawg. I saw people of different ages, races, cultures and backgrounds come together for one single purpose—to support our alma mater,” he said. “As I stood behind that mask, it occurred to me that not only is UGA Athletics bringing diverse people together, but the university as a whole brings individuals together to make our communities, our state and our country a better place.”

A need for involvement

The Honorable Steve C. Jones, United States district judge of the Northern District of Georgia, continued on that theme during his keynote address at the undergraduate Commencement ceremony.

“As long as there are problems in the world, there is a need for your involvement,” he said. “Therefore, my challenge to you is to find ways to make things better. If from your efforts, someone’s life is better, then you have taken us to the next level of excellence.”

Jones is a member of the executive committee of the University of Georgia Athletic Association board of directors and a trustee of the UGA Foundation, currently serving as secretary. He previously served as president of the UGA Alumni Association. He is a Double Dawg, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1978 and a law degree in 1987 from UGA.

“Being committed to do something does not always mean that your idea or your way is the only way of getting it done. Sometimes you will sacrifice yourself for what is best for all,” he said. “The greatest commitments come when you do not care who gets the credit or the glory.”

Small discoveries become big

Internationally recognized neurobiologist and geneticist Dr. Cori Bargmann spoke about the importance of sharing those lessons during her Commencement address at the graduate ceremony.

“The secret of learning is that it increases,” she said. “If people build on each other’s discoveries, then small discoveries become big discoveries.”

Bargmann, a UGA alumna, shares her own lessons and research as the Torsten N. Wiesel Professor at Rockefeller University and director of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior. In 2016, she joined the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as its first president of science, a role in which she oversees the development and execution of the scientific work of the initiative.

“I want to ask something of you all—please share your knowledge,” she said. “Share it with others in the community so that they can build on it. It may seem small to you, but it could be the exact piece that someone else is missing.”

Changing the world

President Jere W. Morehead congratulated and welcomed the 2,799 graduates as the university’s newest alumni and spoke about how they can use the lessons they’ve learned.

“Whatever your field, your UGA education has prepared you to use your knowledge to improve lives, improve communities and, indeed, change the world. That is how you carry on the land-grant tradition of this great university,” he said. “You should be proud of all you have accomplished so far, but I expect that you will go on to do much more. As UGA alumni, we do not rest on our laurels, nor do we forget the purpose of our education.”

Some 1,575 undergraduates and 1,224 graduate students met requirements to walk in the university’s fall Commencement ceremonies. Of the graduate students, 284 received doctoral degrees and 940 received their master’s or specialist degrees.

Eleven students were recognized as First Honor Graduates during the undergraduate exercises for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA in all work attempted at UGA as well as all college-level transfer work prior to or following enrollment at the university.

In addition, the university awarded posthumous degrees to Oliver Walker Woodward, a Bachelor of Business Administration in real estate, and David Michael Miklesh, a Ph.D. in marine sciences.