Almost 150 students were awarded bachelor’s degrees during Georgia Gwinnett College’s summer commencement ceremony, held today at the Gwinnett Center Arena. The event was attended by more than 1,500 people.
Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, presented the keynote address. She shared five key points of advice.
“First, take time every day to say thank you to the people who help you achieve your goals,” she said. She then reminded the graduates that life is not a popularity contest, that they should dress for the jobs they want and not the ones they have, and they should believe in themselves. “And fifth, learning is a lifelong activity.”
She shared a touching story about an 87-year old woman who went back to college to finish her degree, inspiring younger students with her positive attitude and belief in her dreams.
Wheelan’s career spans 40 years and includes the roles of faculty member, chief student services officer, campus provost, college president and Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is the first African American and/or woman to serve in her current role, as well as several of her previous positions. She holds a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin (1984) in educational administration with a special concentration in community college leadership, and has won many prominent awards.
Also addressing the audience was Crystal Thompson, a business major and honors graduate who spoke on behalf of her classmates in sharing her thoughts about the Georgia Gwinnett College experience.
Thompson recalled how her college education was hallmarked by “daring greatly” in pursuing experiences outside of her comfort zone, including working on the college’s technology help desk, riding a zip line and studying abroad in Ecuador.
“It is in those moments when I dared greatly that I truly began to live. Life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone,” Thompson said. “Daring greatly has created remarkable moments in my life and has transformed the way I live, learn and lead. Let daring greatly transform your life.”
GGC President Stas Preczewski noted several students who had faced adversity during their college careers.
“I never cease to be impressed by the determination and tenacity of students who face challenges that may turn away many people,” Preczewski said. “They persevere, even if they must work full-time, support families or deal with circumstances that would understandably cause one to stop going to college. Such experiences build character and strength that will better equip them for successful lives and careers.”
Georgia Gwinnett College continues its year-long celebration of its 10th anniversary. Fall semester classes begin Aug. 17.