There are moments, milestones and memories that mark a person’s life.
For some, it’s missing a chance to compete in the Olympics by .001 of a second or professors who offer pivotal words of wisdom. For others, it’s a physical marker dedicated to something important or a personal marker like getting married or having a child. For graduates of the University of Georgia, Commencement is certainly one of those markers.
“To our graduates, we recognize your hard work and dedication, your tenacity in overcoming challenges and your commitment to the ideals of the University of Georgia,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Amid the ongoing pandemic, the challenges set before us have been great, but the resolve of the UGA community has been even greater. The past two years have been some of the most difficult in history for our university, for our nation and for the world. But today, we are reminded that anything is possible when we work together.”
Student speaker Meagan Perry, who earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, congratulated her fellow graduates, sharing how proud she was of them and to be one of them. She also encouraged them to take a moment to breathe and reflect on all they have accomplished. She reminded them of their strength and said that they can go on to change the world.
“We here at the University of Georgia define excellence in the classroom, on the field and everywhere beyond,” she said. “That is what it means to be a Georgia Bulldog.”
Jack Bauerle, the Tom Cousins Swimming and Diving Head Coach at UGA, shared with graduates how the university changed his own life, including two professors who became strong influences. He emphasized putting the interest of others first.
Life will throw you some curveballs regardless of what path you choose, but it is essential that you really go after what you want.” —Jack Bauerle
“If you take anything away from this speech today, I want to you remember that any success that you will have will be predicated on relationships that you build. You will not do this alone,” he said. “Your success in this world will not be solely driven by you.”
Bauerle, who served as the 2008 United States’ women’s team coach for the Olympics, also spoke about the power of dreams. It is important to define them and then be both persistent and consistent in pursuing them.
“Life will throw you some curveballs regardless of what path you choose, but it is essential that you really go after what you want,” he said.
During the graduate Commencement ceremony, Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives, spoke about some of the markers in her own life.
Specifically, Cook mentioned the markers dedicated earlier this fall in honor of the nine historically Black fraternity and sorority National Pan-Hellenic Council member organizations.
“Now, to the average person these are basically rectangular pieces of granite. Beautifully hewn, cut, engraved and installed. But, granite all the same. At a base level, large rocks. And yet, they signify so much more. They represent to so many students and former students the significance of what it means to be a UGA student, a Bulldog; what it means to be seen and recognized,” she said.
Cook asked the audience to consider their own markers and how they are marking the lives of others.
“What type of marker am I in the lives of the people that I meet? Taking the time to recognize life markers enables me to see the value in the smallest interaction and conversation,” she said. “My markers not only define my own life, but they also are impenetrable tethers that connect me to family, friends and community.”
Cook, too, encouraged the new graduates to mark this moment in their lives.
“I want to encourage you to not just give thought, value and credence to the large, public markers that are perfectly hewn and polished. But also, continue to consider those markers that may appear to be just simple events that mark your lives. To others they may seem insignificant, but those happenstance conversations, those everyday events, those random comments can have a remarkable impact on you as a person,” she said.
Whatever your future holds for you, your time here preparing for life and citizenship gives special meaning to the words in the university’s charter that call the young people of this state ‘the rising hope of our land.’” —Jere W. Morehead
A total of 3,286 students—1,888 undergraduates and 1,398 graduate students—met requirements to walk in the university’s fall Commencement. Of the graduate students, 372 were doctoral candidates, and 1,026 received their master’s or specialist degrees. Morehead conferred their degrees during ceremonies held Dec. 17.
“To our graduates, you represent tangible and inspiring evidence of the wisdom and foresight of those who drafted the charter of the University of Georgia and thus began in 1785 the great American tradition of public higher education,” Morehead said. “You leave here today as the next generation of leaders of our state, nation and world. Whatever your future holds for you, your time here preparing for life and citizenship gives special meaning to the words in the university’s charter that call the young people of this state ‘the rising hope of our land.’”
Twenty-six 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 done prior to or following enrollment at the university.
“The late Dr. Louise McBee, a revered UGA administrator and state representative, once said, ‘We are born obligated to pour back into the stream that nourished us—to replenish it for others. To the extent that we do that, we have lived a good and full life.’ I hope that all of you will go forward from today and live good and full lives—creating opportunities for others to succeed, just as you have,” Morehead said.