Society & Culture

5,625 students eligible for graduation in UGA’s 2017 spring Commencement ceremonies

Ernie Johnson Grady Alumni Award-v
Ernie Johnson

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will welcome its newest alumni on May 5 as 4,456 undergraduates and 1,169 graduate students-for a total of 5,625-have met requirements to walk in the university’s spring Commencement ceremonies.

The undergraduate ceremony will include an additional 850 summer candidates who were invited to participate this spring.

The undergraduate ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Sanford Stadium, and Ernie Johnson Jr., a UGA alumnus and host for Turner’s NBA coverage and TNT’s “Inside the NBA” studio show, will give the address.

Johnson, who has received three Sports Emmy Awards, is in his 27th year as the studio host for Turner’s NBA coverage. Johnson serves as the studio host for NBA TV’s “Fan Night” as well as Turner and CBS’ NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship coverage. He also serves as a play-by-play announcer for TBS’ coverage of the MLB postseason and for “Sunday MLB on TBS” games throughout the regular season. He provides commentary for the network’s coverage of the PGA Championship each year. Johnson called Atlanta Braves games on SportSouth from 1993-96 with his dad, Ernie Johnson Sr.

He began his career, while attending the University of Georgia, as a news and sports director for WAGQ-FM in Athens. Following graduation, Johnson joined WMAZ-TV, Macon, as a news anchor. In 1981, he served as a news reporter for WSPA-TV, Spartanburg, South Carolina, and from 1983-89 he worked for WSB-TV in Atlanta as a weekend sports anchor and reporter. He covered the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, and the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, as well as the Goodwill Games. He is a 1978 graduate of UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The student speaker for the undergraduate ceremony will be Avery Hudson, who will receive her bachelor’s degree from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Thirty-one students will be recognized as spring First Honor Graduates during the undergraduate exercises for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative grade point average in all work attempted at UGA as well as all college-level transfer work prior to or following enrollment at the university. One student will be recognized as a summer First Honor Graduate.

An estimated 242 doctoral candidates and 927 master’s and specialist degree students will be eligible to walk in the graduate ceremony at 10 a.m. in Stegeman Coliseum. Marshall Shepherd, an international expert in weather, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and director of the atmospheric sciences program at UGA, will address the graduates and guests.

Shepherd teaches in the department of geography at UGA. He is the host of The Weather Channel’s award-winning Sunday talk show “Weather Geeks” and a contributor to Forbes magazine. Shepherd was the 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society. In 2014, Ted Turner and his Captain Planet Foundation honored Shepherd with its Protector of the Earth Award. He is also the 2015 recipient of the Association of American Geographers Media Achievement Award, the Florida State University Grads Made Good Award and UGA’s Sandy Beaver Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Shepherd spent 12 years as a research meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was a deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission. President George W. Bush honored him in 2004 with the Presidential Early Career Award for pioneering scientific research. Shepherd is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and has authored nearly 100 publications.

Because Commencement falls on a Friday, a routine UGA workday, parking patterns on South Campus near the coliseum will be adjusted.

For the graduate ceremony, there is free parking for Commencement guests and graduates in the South Deck (S11), Carlton Deck (S15) and lot S14. Disability parking is available in lot S12. Lots S10 and S16 are reserved for designated participants by permit only. Free parking is available in all other lots and decks on the UGA campus.

For the undergraduate ceremony, disability parking is available at the East Deck and North Deck. An ADA accessible shuttle will be available from those areas to the stadium. The Tate Deck and lot E12 are reserved for designated participants by permit only. All other parking on campus will be free on a first-come, first-served basis.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on channel 15 of the university cable system and channel 181 of the Charter cable system and will be streamed live at

For more information on Commencement at UGA, see