Campus News

UGA holds fall 2011 Commencement exercises

James H. Shepherd Jr.

Athens, Ga. – Approximately 2,225 University of Georgia students were eligible to receive degrees at the 2011 fall semester Commencement ceremonies Dec. 16 in Stegeman Coliseum. Podcasts of the events are available at for the undergraduate ceremony and for the graduate ceremony.

Almost 1,720 students were eligible to participate in the ceremony for undergraduates at 9:30 a.m. James H. Shepherd Jr., chairman of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, was the speaker. A 1973 UGA business graduate, Shepherd leads the country’s largest catastrophic care hospital, which specializes in the treatment of people with spinal cord injuries, acquired brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, other neurological disorders and urological problems. A native of Atlanta, Shepherd experienced a near-fatal bodysurfing accident after graduating from UGA, which led to the founding of the Shepherd Center two years later.

Shepherd is chairman, CEO and treasurer of the Plant Improvement Co. and vice president of Shepherd Construction Co. Inc. He remains actively involved on a national level in advocating for people with disabilities.

During the ceremony, the university awarded honorary degrees to Shepherd and his parents Alana and Harold for their philanthropic commitments and contributions to UGA and the state of Georgia.

Robert “Trey” Darnell Sinyard III of Athens was the student speaker during the undergraduate exercises. Sinyard received dual bachelor’s degrees in finance and biochemistry and molecular biology.

During the undergraduate ceremony, two students were recognized as First Honor Graduates for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative grade point average in all work attempted at UGA as well as all college-level transfer work attempted prior to or following enrollment at the university. They were biology and management major Russell Eric Holzgrefe of Tucker and early childhood education major Natasha Jane Liu of Alpharetta.

An estimated 506 candidates for master’s, doctoral and specialist in education degrees were eligible to participate in the graduate ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Sylvia McCoy Hutchinson, a UGA professor emerita of reading education, addressed the graduates and guests.

Hutchinson first arrived on the UGA campus as an undergraduate student in 1960. During the next 15 years, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in elementary education, and a Ph.D. in reading education at the university. After teaching at Southwest Texas State University for three years, Hutchinson returned to UGA as an assistant professor in 1978, where she remained until her retirement in 2002. During her tenure, she served as coordinator for a number of UGA faculty support and development programs, including postdoctoral teaching and peer consulting.

Hutchinson continues to serve the university, working with the 20 Emeriti Scholars who mentor students in the Coca-Cola Foundation’s First Generation Scholarship program on campus. The mentors volunteer their time to help the first-generation students navigate the university system. In addition, she serves on boards of a variety of organizations, including the UGA Graduate Development program, the Education and Law Consortium, the Athens Tutorial Program and Georgia Voyager magazine.