Today, University of Louisiana at Monroe President Nick J. Bruno, Ph.D., awarded 638 degrees to graduates of the 2012 summer and fall classes.
One of those graduates was 72-year-old Earnest Smith. Smith earned his bachelor of general studies degree alongside fellow graduate -and grandson-Preston Coleman.
Coleman, of Bastrop, earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. He is also a ULM cornerback and will play for the Warhawks in the Independence Bowl against the Ohio Bobcats on Dec. 28 in Shreveport.
When asked about his grandfather's achievements, Coleman said, "It is really special. He helped raise me, and we have been through a lot together. He is one of my best friends. To see him, at his age, go through school and get a degree is awesome. He looked at all of his grandkids, who were in school, and thought, 'I don't have anything else to do, so I am going to get my degree.' It was fun seeing him around campus with his backpack on."
President Bruno publically recognized the grandfather and grandson, and the crowd at Fant-Ewing Coliseum erupted into applause.
ULM alum and State Representative Katrina R. Jackson (B.A. '00) delivered the commencement keynote address.
Jackson gave students insight into her time at ULM and spoke about the value of time, and how managing that time could make a significant impact on one's future. She presented the students with a challenge:
"I have come to realize that over the last decade, time is one of our most valuable commodities," Jackson said. "Each second that passes is a second that we will never see again, and it can never be recaptured. Therefore, graduates, at this momentous time in your life, I challenge you with two questions: First, how have you spent your time? Second, how will you invest your time in the future?"
She encouraged students to reflect upon their time.
"After reflecting on how you have spent your time in the past, you must consider and determine how you will do so in the future," said Jackson. "You have been given a precious opportunity at this time. You stand at the gateway of a life that can be filled with accomplishments, achievement, success, and fulfillment."
Jackson spoke fondly of the support she received from both her family at home and her family at ULM.
"I am able to stand as your commencement speaker, State Representative, and attorney, because my family- including my ULM family-invested time in me, and life has taught me the importance of giving value to this precious commodity called time," she said.
Jackson continued, "My parents, your parents, and many sitting in this audience have helped you along the way... I am certain they now expect you will understand their investment and respect it enough to make wise investments of your time. I think I can speak for most of them when I say the only return of investment of their time and resources that they expect from you is to live a life that is fulfilling, honorable and happy."
She ended her speech with a powerful reminder to students to endure and move forward.
"Graduates, this is what I know to be true: none of us are as deeply wonderful as our biographies," Jackson said. "We have all struggled to maintain composure as life has sometimes dealt us bad hands. We accept that time and chance affords us all an opportunity, and it is what we do when that opportunity stares us in the face that makes the difference."
At the conclusion of Jackson's address, ULM President Bruno conferred diplomas to participants of the ceremony.
There were a total of four top graduates in the two classes who earned 4.00 grade point averages.
Top Graduate Summer 2012:
Lauren Guerriero Creekmore received a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications, from the College of Arts & Sciences. She is from Monroe and is the daughter of Jeff and Elizabeth Guerriero and the wife of Bryan Creekmore.
Top Graduates Fall 2012:
Daniel James Bonnette received a bachelor of science degree in biology, from the College Arts & Sciences. He is from Calhoun and is the son of Bruce and Anne-Louise Bonnette and the husband of Amy Crocker Bonnette.
Samantha Leslie Matherne received a bachelor of music degree in music, from the College Arts & Sciences. She is from Monroe and is the daughter of John and Crystal Matherne.
Stephani Page Stephens received a bachelor of business degree in management, from the College of Business Administration. She is from Wisner and is the daughter of Steve Stephens and the late Maebell Stephens.
Several honor graduates were recognized during the ceremonies. They are designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000), magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749).
A archived video of Fall 2012 Commencement will soon be available at: ulm.edu/commencement