Higher education is marked by times of transition—from stepping foot on campus as a freshman through receiving a degree at a Commencement ceremony—and those changes are an important part of the journey.
“Change never ends,” said Regent Kessel D. Stelling Jr., member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, who delivered the University of Georgia’s fall 2019 undergraduate Commencement address. “What it means to be part of a real community never changes. This university has prepared you thoroughly to be a member of your community and an intelligent, contributing citizen.”
Stelling, who is chairman and CEO of Synovus Financial Corporation and spent more than 40 years in banking, told graduates that their UGA degrees are “a major asset on your personal balance sheet” and reminded them to be thankful for all of those who made an investment in their future by helping them along the way. Stelling said the most important investment the graduates made during their time at UGA was the “sweat equity”—the hard work they put in to getting their degrees.
“You’ve reached a goal you’ve set out to accomplish,” he said. “Now you’ll move on. You’ll set new expectations and new goals, and I have no doubt you’ll continue to succeed.”
Stelling encouraged graduates to get their foot in the door but not be afraid to try new paths.
“I strongly believe that success is not the key to happiness, rather happiness is the key to success,” he said. “If you love what you’re doing you’ll be successful.”
Taylor Maggiore, who received a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a certificate in sports media, served as the student speaker for the undergraduate ceremony and shared how their individual journeys might be different but led them to the same goal.
“All our experiences at UGA will make us better professionals in the adult world … ideal, knowledgeable members of society,” she said. “I believe we’re ready for anything.”
Maggiore also shared how her fellow graduates can help others along their own journeys. In particular, she said that being an orientation leader was one of the most significant experiences she had at UGA because she learned so much from the incoming students.
“We know that as Bulldogs, we will be productive and educated members of society,” she said. “We will shatter glass ceilings and be kind to one another. We will give others an opportunity because someone took a chance on us.”
Libby V. Morris, who delivered the address to the 327 doctoral candidates and 936 students receiving their master’s or specialist degrees, is no stranger to transition at UGA. The Zell B. Miller Distinguished Professor of Higher Education and director of UGA’s Institute of Higher Education has twice served as interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, in 2013-2014 and 2018-2019.
She left the graduates with four pieces of advice as they start the next phase of their lives: show gratitude, embrace opportunities, appreciate the people who walk the path with you and commit to taking action.
“I hope your pathway forward is filled with a sense of gratitude, valued colleagues, meaningful opportunities and responsible action,” she said. “By following your passion, you will write your life’s best story.”
UGA President Jere W. Morehead welcomed the university’s newest alumni and shared how their degrees have prepared them to make a difference in all they do.
“Whatever your field, your UGA education has prepared you to use your knowledge to improve lives, strengthen communities, and, indeed, change the world. That is how you carry on the land-grant tradition of this great university,” Morehead said. “While the degree you have earned and the opportunities you have experienced here will certainly help you achieve your personal goals, you are now equipped to become part of something larger than yourselves, to make a positive impact.”
A total of 3,062 undergraduate and graduate students met requirements to walk in the university’s fall Commencement ceremonies, held Dec. 13. Thirteen students were recognized as First Honor Graduates during the undergraduate exercises for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA in all work completed at UGA as well as all college-level transfer work prior to or following enrollment at the university.
Additionally, Sanford H. Orkin received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from UGA during the undergraduate ceremony. Orkin and his late wife, Barbara, both attended UGA. The university also awarded a posthumous degree to Kayon Joy Lindsay, a Specialist in Education degree in Educational Administration and Policy.