Campus News

UGA to hold fall Commencement exercises Dec. 16

James H. Shepherd Jr.

James Shepherd and Sylvia Hutchinson to speak

Athens, Ga. – Approximately 2,225 University of Georgia students will be eligible to receive degrees at the 2011 fall semester Commencement ceremonies Dec. 16 in Stegeman Coliseum.

Almost 1,720 students will be eligible to participate in the ceremony for undergraduates at 9:30 a.m. James H. Shepherd Jr., chairman of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, will be 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 will award 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 will be the student speaker during the undergraduate exercises. Sinyard will receive dual bachelor’s degrees in finance and biochemistry and molecular biology.

During the undergraduate ceremony, two students will be 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 are 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 will be eligible to participate in the graduate ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Sylvia McCoy Hutchinson, a UGA professor emerita of reading education, will address 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.

Because Commencement falls on a Friday, a routine UGA workday, some of the usual parking patterns on South Campus near the coliseum will be adjusted. The South Parking Deck (zone S-11) and Carlton Street Deck (zone S-15) will be open at no charge for visitors and guests attending Commencement. The Hoke Smith lot (S-12) and the Coverdell lot (S-16) will be reserved for handicapped guests with proper handicapped placards. The McPhaul Center lot (S-10) will be reserved for members of the Commencement platform party.

Tickets will be required for attendance at the undergraduate ceremony, with six being provided to each graduating student. Both ceremonies will be broadcast live on channel 15 of the university and Charter cable systems and streamed live at

For more information on UGA graduation requirements and Commencement ceremonies, see