Photos: Susan Strange snaps selfie; Nathan Newman shows off his ring as grads turn rings outward during commencement ceremony; Kacey Shaw is recognized; Emily Raymond recognized as Honors Program graduate; grads sing HSU anthem; Dr. Larry Brunner gives charge to graduates during morning ceremony; LeJuan Edwards graduates, an orginal Freedom Writer; Jerry (Kevin) McDonald earns Doctor of Ministry degree from Logsdon Seminary
An unexpected highlight during HSU’s December 14, 2013, morning graduation ceremony brought chuckles and outright laughter. Other highlights during the two graduation events included stand-out bachelor degree graduates Kasey Shaw and Chase Sims; Jerry (Kevin) McDonald, awarded the Doctor of Ministry degree from HSU’s Logsdon Seminary; and 28 students receiving Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees.
Lubbock native, Kasey Shaw, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in psychology and Spanish, managed to steal the academic show in the 10 a.m. ceremony as she received the prized Academic Foundation Medal. She was also applauded as one of three students graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, was recognized as one of several Honors Program graduates, and for her nomination to Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges. She also received recognition as one of 16 summa cum laude honorees.
Chase Sims, of Sweetwater, Texas, distinguished himself in the afternoon ceremony, standing to be recognized for a 4.0 GPA, a nomination to Who’s Who, and for outstanding scholarship and service to the university as he was awarded the Winnie and D.M. Wiggins Medal. Sims graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, majoring in accounting.
Amber Wessies of Abilene, Texas, earning a B.B.S. in education during the 2 p.m. ceremony, was also recognized for a perfect grade point average and as summa cum laude.
One DPT candidate, however, managed to win laughter from those gathered for the 10 a.m. ceremony as she whipped out a Smart Phone for a so-called “selfie.” Susan Strange, graduating with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree, snapped the arms-length “selfie” with her father, the Honorable Rick Strange, who was on stage to give the benediction.
As Susan’s father stood for a hug, quick-thinking Susan draws the phone, pausing just long enough to add a great deal of levity to the occasion. Rick Strange is also an HSU alum, a member of the HSU Board of Trustees, and former judge of the Texas Eleventh District Court of Appeals.
Another DPT degree candidate had the distinction of winning the coveted Graduate Dean’s Award of Excellence, one of the three special, surprise honors. A native of Arlington, Texas, this year’s recipient is Kelly Johnson.
Long-time and soon-to-retire faculty members, Dr. Larry Brunner, HSU senior professor of English; and Dr. Omer J. Hancock, director of in-service training and professor of church ministry in the Logsdon School of Theology, were asked to give the charge to the graduates.
Brunner told students they should use their degree to build for eternity. “There’s a Jewish saying, ‘If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans.’” In 1973, when I graduated with my PhD, my plan was to be an important scholar at an Ivy League university, make a big fat salary, and live in a cool rainy climate near mountains and lots of big tall trees. God smiled. In fact he smiled a lot,” said Brunner, as students and parents chuckled at the juxtaposition of his plans in regards to the climate and scenery of Abilene.
“I’m always telling God what I want to do, but he has His plan. It was not my plan to be at this institution, but it was God’s plan,” revealed Brunner. “Know that God knows what’s perfect for your life. You may not understand your journey, but you will arrive in the right place.”
After a 40 year career at HSU, Brunner will retire after the spring semester, 2014.
During the afternoon commencement, Dr. Omer Hancock asked students to consider the seasons of life. “In your season of spring, you will pursue your dreams and goals. In the summer of life, you will advance your achievements, your career. The season of autumn reveals maturity and the essence of character. It is a time to proclaim the message and maintain principles. While winter may seem devoid of opportunity, it is, instead, the time to draw upon your wisdom and your relationships. Collectively we gather today, with whatever season of life we are in, to ask God for joy and fulfillment for all of the seasons of your life.”
With 34 years of service to HSU, Hancock will retire at the end of the 2014 spring semester.
Of the 253 December candidates for graduation, there were 148 students earning bachelor’s degrees; 76 earning master’s degrees, including 23 students in the Acton MBA Entrepreneurs program; and 29 earning doctorate degrees. Dr. Tommy Brisco, HSU’s provost and chief academic officer, added that 297 doctorates have been awarded by HSU since 2004; 4,688 master’s degrees have been awarded since 1926; and 22,898 bachelor degrees have been awarded since 1895.
Of the fall graduates, 22 students were named to Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges, five students graduated from the HSU Honors Program, and 58 students were distinguished by gold honor cords indicating cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude.